With high-scoring Tuckers, defense is a top priority

Bishop McGann-Mercy’s Patrick Derenze, left, tried to round Mattituck’s Brenden Andersen in the first half.

MEDFORD — Clichà s become clichà s for a reason: They contain a good deal of truth.

Whenever the Mattituck boys soccer team is told that defense wins championships, it only needs to look at its assistant coach, Steve Cook, for living, breathing proof of that. Cook was a senior defender for the Tuckers when they won their second state championship in 2003, and he has an affinity for good defense.

That may be why when the point was made that the Tuckers have been scoring a lot of goals in the Town of Brookhaven Summer League (25 in eight games, to be exact), Cook talked about how he liked clean sheets, soccer parlance for shutouts.

The Tuckers did both on Monday evening. They scored a lot of goals and turned in a shutout, 6-0 over Bishop McGann-Mercy at the Patchogue-Medford Youth Soccer League Complex. With the result, McGann-Mercy joins The Stony Brook School, Mount Sinai, Kings Park and Southold as teams that have failed to pierce Mattituck’s tight defense. It was the fifth shutout of the summer for the Tuckers (6-2), who have given up six goals this season.

“You have to have a good defense,” said Shawn Smiley, a junior who scored the first goal and assisted on the third.

Goalkeeper Cody Huntley, well protected by sweeper Matt Waggoner and fellow defenders Joe Pfaff, Richard Koch and Brenden Andersen, did not need to make a single save.

“We definitely got a bunch of guys who can play” on defense, said Alex Scalia, a senior forward/midfielder who agrees that defense has to be a priority.

But these Tuckers know how to put a ball in the net, too, as they proved once again, this time at McGann-Mercy’s expense.

A lethal left-footed shot by Smiley opened the scoring before Scalia, Andres Aldaz and Austin Scoggin made it 4-0 by halftime. Scoggin’s goal was a thing of beauty. After controlling a centering pass from John Hamilton, Scoggin drilled a shot to the upper-right corner.

Then, in the second half, the Tuckers tacked on two more goals for good measure. Pfaff lofted a shot off goalkeeper Roger Young’s fingertips, and Waggoner pounced on a shot after the Monarchs were unable to clear the ball following a corner kick.

“We’ve been doing O.K.,” Smiley said. “We need to improve some more. Everybody’s just getting better.”

The Tuckers dominated play, outshooting the Monarchs, 22-1, and forcing nine saves from Young. Winless McGann-Mercy (0-8), which is only in its second year in the summer league, is dealing with a number of inexperienced players and has yet to score a goal this summer while conceding 51.

Mattituck, with more than a handful of players from last year’s school team, which went 9-7-1, losing to Center Moriches in the Suffolk County Class B semifinals, has high hopes for the coming school season.

One of the players who should help them is Smiley, a versatile left-footed player who transferred from William Floyd two years ago before making his varsity debut with the Tuckers last year.

“He’s coming into his own right now,” Cook said. “He’s working well with the rest of the team. We’re working on some things with him about attacking space and he’s really doing well. It’s up to him now. It’s all about the players, what kind of a season they’re going to have.”

Smiley, who believes the best position for him is as a midfielder, is focused on raising his game. “You always want to get better,” he said.

Improvement has also been seen in others such as Koch and Andersen, who have filled some big holes in the outside back positions. That has made a difference on defense, and you know what they say about defense and championships. “That’s our dream,” said Scalia.

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