Twelve. That’s the number of times goalkeeper James Jacobs had to dive, slide, punch, spin, and leap to make a save. Unfortunately, his efforts were not enough, as Babylon’s Louis Ferrigno, unmarked, scored on a volley inside the 18-yard box in Mattituck’s 1-0 road loss October 5.
“It’s unfortunate that the ball bounced the wrong way and they capitalized,” Tuckers head coach Will Hayes said. “The game, as a whole, came down to who was going to make a mistake first. They made a mistake and we didn’t capitalize, and we made our mistake and they did.”
Jacobs opened the first half making what some would think were some risky plays, coming far out of the box to challenge forwards, leading to him diving on the ball to make one save, and pushing the ball up the field to make another. He said he knew it was going to be an even matchup, and he was ready for the challenge.
“I was always on my toes. I was ready for anything,” he said. “I stopped all that I could. Unfortunately, the one goal that went in — the kid was wide open and he blasted it home.”
He was also comfortable with his strategy, and his coach was confident in the senior’s abilities — even when he batted the ball above the net after an indirect kick and leapt up to make a save on the corner kick that followed. A minute after, with no help from his defense, he came out to challenge two forwards heading toward him, and knocked the ball out of bounds.
“I love playing off my line — I think you have to as a goalkeeper,” Jacobs said. “Say I didn’t come out of the box for all of those, they would have been 1-v-1 with me at the goal, so you have to come off your line.”
Regardless of the outcome, Hayes thought his team — No. 2 in League VII (7-3) behind undefeated Babylon (9-0) — did what it set out to do.
“We were looking to get the ball wide behind their center backs,” the coach said. “The few times we did we didn’t capitalize, and we didn’t move the ball as well as I’d hoped, but we pressed the midfield, and credit to Babylon, they controlled the middle of the field today.”
Regardless of how many times the ball came his way, Jacobs said he felt secure not just in his chances to make a save, but with the talents of his defensive line in front of him.
“All of the backs, especially Bryce Grathwol and Chris Nicholson, played their butts off the whole time,” the goalkeeper said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better line.”
Senior right back Jake Catalano was also racing to every ball, taking the throw-ins to try to move the ball up the field.
“Compared to last time we faced Babylon, we’ve evolved,” he said. “We used to kick the ball up the field and now we’re distributing it through midfield. We’re the best at winning headers. But the defense was solid. James was able to stop everything. Up to a certain point, he can’t stop much more than that.”
Jacobs said he hopes the two teams meet again soon.
“It’s definitely different this year compared to my last three years on the team,” he said. “I feel different with these guys, great. I definitely want to play Babylon again, because I think we can do it — I think it’s a very, very winnable game. We just have to bring our game. Some games like today we’re strong defensively but we lack on offense, others we bring the offense but struggle on defense, so we have to come with everything we have.”