CLASS B PLAYOFFS | TUCKERS 3, MONARCHS 2
Mattituck coach Malynda Nichol presented freshman Jane DiGregorio two options early this season.
One would be to stay on the junior varsity, where as a quick, talented forward, she would undoubtedly score plenty of goals. The second option was to join the varsity, where her playing time would be limited, but she could experience the big club.
DiGregorio chose the challenge and accepted a role on the varsity.
Neither Nichol nor DiGregorio could have imagined two months later, in the team’s first-round playoff game, it would be the freshman that delivered two goals, including a game-winner in overtime.
“I was expecting to barely play,” Digregorio said. “To score two goals is above everything I thought.”
DiGregorio scored in the 100th minute to lift the Tuckers to a 3-2 win over McGann-Mercy Saturday afternoon in a fiercely competitive, back-and-forth playoff game at Mattituck High School. She broke through two defenders with the ball, freeing a lane toward the goal and got just enough on a shot to sneak it past Mercy’s outstanding goalkeeper, Juliana Cintron-Leonardo.
DiGregorio said her instinct was to pass.
“Then I thought about what my dad always tells me — to try to go to goal, so that’s what I did,” she said. “And it ended up working out.”
The two goals doubled her season total for the player nicknamed the “Energizer Bunny.”
“She constantly has it and she constantly brings it,” Nichol said. “She puts it all out there and it was fantastic to see her get in there and make an impact.”
The Tuckers (9-5-2) advance to play top-seeded Port Jefferson Wednesday in the Class B semifinals.
For the Monarchs, the loss was a stinging end to what was a magnificent season. The playoffs were such an unknown to Mercy (8-8-1) that when the team won Thursday, clinching a spot in the tournament, the players didn’t even realize they were about to play another game.
“I don’t think they ever felt the game the way they felt it today,” said Mercy coach Mary Jackson.
The Monarchs showed plenty of resiliency against Mattituck, coming back from 1-0 and 2-1 holes to tie the game. Dayna Young scored both goals, the second one coming on a deep free kick that was at least 35 yards out. Young lofted a perfect shot that sailed just over the defense and past Mattituck goalkeeper Emma Fasolino.
“What a beautiful kick,” Jackson said. “Couldn’t have asked for anything better.”
Young’s goal tied the game one minute after the Tuckers had regained the lead on DiGregorio’s first goal. DiGregorio scored off a feed in transition from Alex Beebe, another freshman in the 73rd minute. Young answered in the 74th minute.
Coming back from a deficit hasn’t been a theme for Mercy this season. Usually, they play best when taking a lead, Jackson said.
“Coming from behind and battling back is very new for us,” she said. “This was the first time I’ve ever really seen them battle back.”
“Two teams that never give up,” Nichol added.
Both teams were scoreless through the first half until Mattituck broke through in the 54th minute on a goal by sophomore Corinne Reda. The Monarchs netted an equalizer with a bit of luck. Young took a free kick from the left side and lofted a high-arching shot into the box. The ball deflected into the goal off a Mattituck player to tie the game at 1. Young was credited with the goal.
Jackson said Young contributed in a lot of ways for Mercy, but hasn’t necessarily been a goal scorer this season.
“She’s extremely fast and her speed was helpful all season on defense,” Jackson said.
Both teams controlled play at times during the game. The Tuckers hit a post early in the game and were negated by several tough, diving stops by Cintron-Leonardo.
In the second overtime period, Reda nearly put the Tuckers ahead when she got the ball in front with an open net after Cintron-Leonardo got caught away from the goal as she made a save. Reda’s shot was stopped by Mercy defenseman Katrina Thomson, who was able to clear it out.
It was the third meeting between the two teams this year. Mattituck won the rubber match after losing the most recent game. It was the second time the teams played into overtime and it ended in similar fashion with Mattituck a one-goal winner.
After Saturday’s game, as senior Madison Kent walked off the field, she walked up to her coach to say thanks.
“We could not get to this point without you,” she said. “This is amazing.”