The Mattituck boys soccer team is headed to the county championship Saturday after shutting out Southampton 3-0 this afternoon.
From beginning to end of the B bracket playoff game against No. 4 Southampton, you could hear Mattituck boys soccer head coach Mat Litchhult from a mile away — maybe even further. After 13 years of coaching, he’s developed a habit of correcting things right then and there.
“I would say that I’m a perfectionist,” Litchhult said. “There were things that we weren’t doing correctly and I was intense in the match to say the least.”
Even in a match that seemed like Southampton (8-7) had no business playing in. The game was more a practice for Mattituck than an actual competitive affair.
Forty seconds into the game, No. 1 Mattituck was instantly ahead thanks to a head. Joe Tardiff ripped a cross over into the penalty box and it was headed in by forward Mario Arreola.
Mattituck (14-2) never looked back. They kept the pressure on the entire game. Kevin Williams set up a second score as he sent in a ball off of a free kick into the box connecting with Paul Hayes who headed it in. Arreola then scored his second goal of the game and twelfth of the season heading in a corner kick to put the Mariners away just 16 minutes into the game.
I guess you could say Mattituck used their heads.
The final score was 3-0 but it easily could have been 7-0.
Kaan Ilgin had around six clear opportunities to score. Southampton’s goalie Garrett Pike had a sensational game, diving to his left and right, preventing any more shots getting by him. Ilgin, who will attend the University of Albany next year to play soccer, leads the team in points with 21. He had 12 goals on the season coming into the game.
“When you can’t score, it gets frustrating,” Ilgin said. “You put it in your head that ‘I’m going to score, I’m going to score’ and then it gets too deep into your head and you can’t score.”
When Mattituck failed to capitalize on opportunities, it brought memories from last year’s playoff run which ended in the Long Island championship against Carle Place. That game went into double overtime tied at 0-0.
“We had a rough day that day finishing the ball,” Litchhult said. “We had a few chances in that game to win. Chances that you have to have.”
Losing that game left a bad taste in their mouth. Each of them remember it. So the theme this year is to finish.
“That game was intense,” Arreola said. “I had my chances to score. After they scored on us in the second overtime, I still remember how bad I felt. I never want to feel that feeling again. I just want to go upstate and try to win the whole thing.”
“Sometimes you can be playing so good but keep missing your chances to finish and end up losing in the final minutes,” he continued. “We have to finish.”
Winning has become the regular for Mattituck boys soccer over the years. They won the state championship in 2003 under Litchhult and have been perennial contenders ever since. Arreola and Ilgin were members of the Mattituck team that lost in the state semifinals two years ago as sophomores.
“The county championship should have been circled on my players’ calendars a long time ago,” Litchhult said. “This is our fifth in a row.”
Following the game, Litchhult made it clear that this was just the beginning.
“No celebrations,” he said. “We’re shaking hands and leaving. We still have a lot of work to do.”
Ilgin seconded that notion and took it a step further.
“We’re going to go to the state championship,” he said. “No. Actually, we’re going to win the state championship.”
Up next for Mattituck is the winner of Hampton Bays vs. Center Moriches. The county championship will be played at Diamond in the Pines. The game starts at 5 p.m on Saturday. Admission is $6.
Top photo caption: Senior Kaan Ilgin had 12 goals this season coming into today’s game but came up empty against Southampton.
SoutholdLOCAL photos by Kyle Breitenbach.