It’s like Christmas came early this year, and at this rate, there could be more gifts coming in May.
That’s because you can expect plenty of goals, assists, draw controls, ground ball wins, and turnovers when senior Hollie Schleicher and junior Belle Smith come to town. The cousins delivered all that and more as Westhampton Beach edged Mattituck 10-9 April 17. It was the first time the Hurricanes (7-3 overall, 5-3 in Division II) defeated the Tuckers in five years, since Smith’s older sister Caitlin was on the team as a sophomore.
Smith said her squad lived up to this season’s motto of getting up early on teams, as it scored three straight before Mattituck (5-3, 5-3) had its first possession. Smith scooped up the ball on the first draw, and assisted on Schleicher’s first goal to put the Canes on the board. The senior returned the favor by securing the ball on the ensuing draw, and passed to her cousin, who drew a shooting space penalty and capitalized on her chance for the Westhampton’s second goal in 41 seconds. Just over a minute later, Schleicher heard the whistle blow on her own call, and rocketed a free position shot that put her team up 3-0 just over four minutes into the contest.
“Mattituck is a great team, they’re very poised,” Smith said. To counter that, Westhampton played a different defense, knowing Mattituck is more of a feeding team than a driving team.
“We wanted to get a lead so it would force them to pick up the pace and play to our speed,” Smith added. “We haven’t really been in many very, very tight situations this year, whether we’re losing or winning, so to come out of a close game with a win today was really important to us.”
Schleicher said shooting space calls were also significant, saying her team is always looking for a double pass. She scored her hat trick goal on a free position race to the cage with 16:58 left in the first half, and Maureen Duffy added back-to-back goals following shooting space calls at the 3:34 and 1:30 mark of the first half to put Westhampton back in front 7-5.
“Mattituck has a great defense, so it was more strategy instead of physical talent,” Schleicher said. “It was more of a head game.”
It was a family affair for more than the Westhampton cousins. Mattituck received a balanced attack from Julie Siefert and sisters Riley and Mackenzie Hoeg, who each scored in succession to pull the Tuckers within one, 5-4, before Maddie Schmidt provided the game-tying goal. Riley also scored a first-half goal off an assist from Mackenzie before returning the favor for Mackenzie’s goal — the final one of the game — with 65 seconds left to play. Riley also handled all but one draw, with her younger sister taking the other. Mattituck controlled 13 of 22.
“We’re making the most of this year,” Riley said.
Hoeg-to-Hoeg has been a winning combination for the Tuckers going back to when their older sister, Katie, donned the blue and gold before playing for North Carolina. Their cousin, Claudia Hoeg, made three stops in goal in the loss, and the sisters’ father, James, is an assistant coach.
Each of the relatives on both teams said there’s been a special connection playing with family.
“We’ve been playing together since second grade — picked up a stick at the same time — and knowing where each other is going to be, especially on the draw, I think that helps a lot,” Schleicher said. The senior stole possession with a ground-ball scoop off the draw after Seifert’s second goal had cut Westhampton’s lead in half, 4-2. After the Canes lost control, Smith leapt in the air to intercept a Tuckers pass, and set up Kyleigh Tufano up front and center with a pass from the right side of the cage.
Schleicher said she was excited to have her cousin back, Westhampton’s first All-American and a Boston College commit, after she missed four games because of a right-ankle sprain.
“It’s like finding the missing piece to the puzzle,” she said. “Even though we’ve done so well without her, it’s really puts it all back together.”
“To come back, get that mojo back is really nice,” Smith added. “I think our team is getting better and better each game.”
Sophomore goalkeeper Casey Gallagher might be another piece the Canes didn’t know they were missing. Coming into the second half to replace Taylor Gallarello, she protected a two-goal lead by making a point-blank save on Maddie Schmidt with a little over two minutes to go. Gallagher stopped five of the eight shots she faced.
“They’re on an island by themselves,” head coach Mary Bergmann said. “It was a tough situation to put her in, going into a game where we were a man down and the other team already had six goals. She came up with some big saves in some crucial moments — we really needed them.”
Westhampton is a step closer to reaching the Suffolk County Class C championship, where the Canes fell to Mt. Sinai last season. Westhampton’s only other one-goal game came in a 5-4 loss to the Mustangs March 26. Westhampton had trailed the entire way, but held Mt. Sinai to its lowest score since April 20, 2016. Raising that trophy come May could be the cousin’s biggest gift yet.
“A win like this just builds up our confidence moving into the rest of the season,” Smith said. “We’re excited to get after it.”