Chelsea Marlborough tried and tried again. The Mattituck High School sweeper launched a variety of shots from a variety of angles on the field and each time came away empty-handed. After a while, the senior could only look toward her team bench following a miss and smile.
In a sentimental gesture, Marlborough was moved to the front line in the second half in an effort to get her a goal in her final regular-season soccer game Thursday at Bishop McGann-Mercy Diocesan High School. She was saved by goalkeeper Olivia Maxwell once, but missed the mark on her five other attempts. The final one of those shots bounced off the top of the crossbar.
“Sometimes it doesn’t roll your way, I guess, but she definitely played a great game,” said Mattituck coach Stephen LiRosi.
The ball just refused to go in for her.
“Sometimes it goes in, sometimes it doesn’t, and that’s the name of the game,” said Marlborough, chuckling over the thought of those near goals. “You miss all the shots you don’t take, so you might as well take them and see what happens.”
Fortunately for Mattituck, five of Marlborough’s teammates did score — all in the second half — as the Tuckers closed out their regular season with a 5-0 thrashing of Mercy. “I’m not disappointed because someone else got it if it wasn’t me,” said Marlborough, who did set up two goals.
Claire Gatz was involved in three Mattituck goals, scoring one and assisting on two others in what amounted to a playoff tuneup for Mattituck (12-4 overall and in Suffolk County League VII).
Ironically, the two goals Marlborough has scored this season both came from the sweeper position. She has a strong leg and isn’t afraid to shoot from long distance. But Marlborough is especially valued for the good work she does as a sweeper, nipping trouble in the bud. “Maybe I’m meant to be there,” said Marlborough, who started on defense along with Brianna Fox, Jordyn Maichin and Lauren Zuhoski.
LiRosi said Marlborough is “vital” to the team’s defense. “She’s just so important at that sweeper position that we can’t really experiment with it too much,” he said.
Mercy (2-11-2, 2-11-2) has a fine senior sweeper itself in Melina Santacroce. The four-year varsity player was kept busy cutting out passes and clearing balls out of danger in the first half as scrappy Mercy kept the game scoreless through the first half.
“That’s what we’re taking away,” Mercy coach Meaghan Macarthur said. “We’re remembering the first half of this game.”
But Mattituck has a way of wearing teams down. The second half was only 26 seconds old when Gatz broke the ice. Marlborough played a ball down the right side for Frenchi Vasile-Cozzo. She then pushed it to Gatz, whose high shot scrapped off the top of Maxwell’s gloves.
Gatz assisted the next two goals. The sophomore’s through ball sent Elvira Puluc in for a goal 5:13 into the half and Halle Foster connected on a deep shot that found the far right side of the net with 18:47 left in the game.
Maggie Bruer was the beneficiary of Marlborough’s assist with 13:18 to go.
Vasile-Cozzo picked up her second assist when Alex Beebe hammered home a right-wing cross with 1.2 seconds left. Vasile-Cozzo nearly had a goal herself in the first half, following up a rebound of a Bruer shot, but skied it over the top.
Mattituck outshot Mercy, 29-1.
“They’re a really, really skilled team and I think it was an accomplishment to hold them to 0-0 in the first half, but we ran out of steam,” said Macarthur.
Mercy seniors were presented with flowers before their final home game. Abby Coniglio, Olivia Kneski, Caryn Nabrizny, Madison Willmott, Maxwell and Santacroce are the team’s seniors.
Next year Santacroce will be gone and someone else will be playing sweeper for Mercy.
“She really does clean up everything in the back,” Macarthur said. “We’re going to miss her. She’s super aggressive and understands how to play the ball and recovers well and hard. Her work ethic is crazy.”
Santacroce said, “It was pretty sad just knowing that it’s the last time I’m going to be playing soccer on this field.”
Mercy has one game remaining, Tuesday at Pierson/Bridgehampton.
Mattituck’s next game will be in the postseason. Are the Tuckers ready for the playoffs?
“Listen, I’m always ready,” LiRosi said. “I’m always ready for the next game, and that’s the next game so I’m definitely ready.”
Photo caption: Senior sweeper Melina Santacroce playing her final home game for Bishop McGann-Mercy. (Credit: Bob Liepa)