Girls lacrosse: Tuckers look to get back in stride

The defending Suffolk County Class D girls lacrosse champions are in a slump. After winning four of their opening five matches this season, Mattituck/Greenport/Southold has come back down to earth, losing four straight contests.

The Tuckers are trying to figure out how to get back on a winning track after dropping a 17-6 decision to Islip in a Division II encounter in Southold Tuesday evening.

“We’ve run into [four] powerhouse schools,” head coach Logan McGinn said. “Islip is a very good team. But I didn’t walk away thinking they were that differential better than us. I definitely think there’s room for improvement.”

Starting the season, Mattituck looked unbeatable, outscoring its foes, 53-16.

Whatever magic the Tuckers (4-5, 2-5) had, it has disappeared. They have conceded a minimum of 14 goals in each of those four defeats and have scored 21 goals.

“We don’t want to hit the panic button,” McGinn said. “We are playing bigger schools. But we want to be a part of that conversation. We’re readjusting some things. We’re looking at all facets — [including] coaching perspective. I see what I could have done better.

“These were the toughest teams that we have to play this year,” McGinn added. “Our schedule definitely lightens up a little bit.”

Junior defenseman Leah Weir said, “We just have to work harder and communicate more. I think there’s a big disconnect in our communication. We’re working on our communication on defense and attack, maybe slowing down the attack a little bit more and not forcing it.”

The Buccaneers (6-4, 5-3) set the tone early, striking five times in the opening four minutes and 28 seconds. Sophomore Caitlin Barnes had accrued a hat-trick by then, en route to a six-goal performance.

“It was really hard for us to keep our heads up,” said sophomore Gianna Calise, who scored twice.

It was the fourth time this season that Barnes had tallied at least five goals. She scored eight goals in an 11-10 win over Sachem North on March 22.

“Barnes is a monster,” McGinn said. “We knew coming into this game she was tough. We were hoping that we would be able to slow it down a little bit. We did a little, but we still had a little bit of disconnect.”

 Calise scored with 1:45 remaining in the first quarter to cut the lead to 7-1.

Facing a 10-2 halftime deficit, the Tuckers had a better second half. Sophomore Page Kellershon and junior Ruby Villani contributed a goal and an assist apiece. Senior Sofia Knudsen and Olivia Zehill each scored a goal. Sophomore Claire McKenzie added two assists.

“As time went on, we had each other’s backs,” Calise said. “We were there for each other even if it meant that we weren’t going to win the game. We were there as a team to build up our spirit. I’m fired up more just because our enthusiasm rose to the standard that we were hoping for.”

Senior goaltender Aiko Fujita, who backstopped the Tuckers to the county crown, was in tears afterward. She was consoled by her teammates.

“I try to raise everyone up and be as much a leader as I can,” Fujita said. “It’s hard to do that without helping myself, boosting myself up. I just need to get it out of my own head.”

McGinn has given his standout goalie some advice.

“She puts a lot of pressure on herself,” he said. “She wants to do something as a leader and she was beating herself up thinking that she’s not playing as well, being a leader. I explained to her [that] Derek Jeter wasn’t the best baseball player, but he was the best leader. There’s a difference. It’s all about how you handle yourself and handle adversity.”

Teagan Rao led Islip with four goals and one assist, Reese Wallace tallied three goals and two assists, and Taylor Reising, Carley Mullins, Hailey Zambrana and Kathryn Lettieri scored one goal each.

The Tuckers hope to start turning things around at West Babylon on Thursday, April 18 at 4 p.m. That is the start of a three-game away swing, followed by Deer Park on Saturday, April 20, and Glenn on Friday, April 26. They will finish up the regular season with four consecutive home games, starting with Hampton Bays April 29. Then come the playoffs.

“I definitely think we’ll click out of it,” McGinn said. “We’ll hit our stride and we’ll be able to go.”

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