The event, a series of four high school girls lacrosse games at Rocky Point High School, was called Rumble for a Cure, a fundraiser in the fight against breast cancer. It could have been called Freeze for a Cure, given the bone-chilling weather conditions, biting wind and all.
Of course, that didn’t stop Mattituck/Greenport/Southold coach Matt Maloney, whose team played in the second of those games Saturday afternoon, from adhering to his custom of wearing shorts. “No, you got to go with shorts every game,” he said.
What Maloney saw from his Suffolk County Division II team in its 12-5 defeat of Division I Riverhead, however, had to warm his heart. He had a lot to like, including more good work from a defense that has allowed only nine goals in two games and an encouraging performance by Francesca Vasile-Cozzo. The sophomore attack struck for her first career hat trick from four shots.
“Francesca blew me away,” Mattituck midfielder Chelsea Marlborough said. “I’m so proud of her. She really is stepping up and showing that she is like as big of a threat on this team as anyone else is.”
Maloney said of Vasile-Cozzo: “Today we needed her. Teams are going to key in on Mackenzie [Hoeg], Riley [Hoeg], Chelsea, Jane [DiGregorio].”
On a team composed mostly of underclassmen, Vasile-Cozzo can be seen as bridge between the new players and the veterans. In her first varsity season last year she scored 14 goals but was more prone to pass than to shoot and take defenses on.
Maloney called Saturday’s game a “confidence-builder” for Vasile-Cozzo. “I think she can be great,” he said. “She’s worked a lot on her speed, her ability to get past people. Last year she was primarily a feeder, a passer. … Now, if she can couple that with attacking the defenses, I think she can play at the next level, for sure.”
Vasile-Cozzo, who was shown a yellow card for a stick to the body in the second half, said she is looking to become more of an offensive threat.
“I love this team,” she said. “It’s so much fun just being a part of all of this.”
Mattituck (3-1, 2-1) received offensive production from familiar suspects as well. Mackenzie Hoeg rang up three goals and three assists to go with six ground balls. Her sister, Riley Hoeg, was good for two goals and three assists. Marlborough had three goals and four ground balls while DiGregorio added a goal and two assists. Mattituck goalie Claudia Hoeg was credited with six saves.
Some courageous goaltending by freshman Sofia Salgado (seven saves) prevented Mattituck from scoring more.
Successive goals by Christine Thomas (one goal, three assists) and Delu Rizzo (two goals, one assist) gave Riverhead (1-2, 1-1) its only lead at 2-1. But Mackenzie Hoeg, a skillful freshman who scored Mattituck’s first two goals off assists from Riley Hoeg, set up Riley Hoeg’s tiebreaking tally 6 minutes, 59 seconds into the game. Vasile-Cozzo and Mackenzie Hoeg then extended that lead to 5-2. The score was 8-4 by halftime.
Riverhead, which also received goals from Emma Panciocco and Kayla Kielbasa (6-for-9 on draw controls), was outshot, 24-13. The Blue Waves had to work hard to advance the ball out of their end. “I thought our attackers really worked to not let them have easy clears, and that was probably the difference today,” said Maloney.
Vasile-Cozzo said, “We’re finding our way.”
Photo caption: Riverhead goalie Sofia Salgado tries to collect a loose ball before Mattituck/Greenport/Southold’s Chelsea Marlborough and Mackenzie Hoeg (12) can get to it. (Credit: Daniel De Mato)