Parker Has Hot Hands

Desirée Keegan
Parker Sheppard finished 19 for 26 on faceoffs.

Parker Sheppard’s goal was to get Mattituck/Southold back to the state semifinals.

It wasn’t an impossible one, but heck, he made it look easy.

The junior faceoff specialist was red hot at the “X,” going 19-for-26, scooping up 13 ground balls, and scoring a goal to help the Tuckers to a 16-6 Class D Long Island championship win over Oyster Bay at Hofstra University June 1. It’s the second straight title for Mattituck (10-8), after the program recorded its first-ever last season. The victory sends the team back to the state semifinals, where the Tuckers will face Westchester-Briarcliff Wednesday June 7, at Adelphi University at 6:30 PM.

“I felt good — it kept going my way,” Sheppard said. “We want to keep the ball for the longest amount of time possible, and winning possession is a big part of that. I just try to do my job.”

After Oyster Bay (4-12), the only Class D team in Nassau, opened the scoring on a goal from John Tiberia early in the first quarter, the Baymen were in pursuit of Parker.

He was on a roll, securing possession after possession, which led to five straight goals and a 5-1 Mattituck lead after 12 minutes.

“It’s something that a whole lot of people don’t really talk about — having him go out there and winning 90-95% of the faceoffs — getting those possessions is huge,” said senior Max Kruszeski, who finished with a game-high four goals and three assists, and scooped up four ground balls. “It keeps the defense fresh, and helped make it that much easier for us to get the ball rolling, get some goals under our belts, and give us some confidence. When we get off to a hot start everyone can take a deep breath, relax — the tension isn’t as high.”

Dane Reda (three goals) equalized the score on an empty-netter, Kruszeski scored twice, and Ethan Schmidt (three goals) and Ryan Seifert (two goals) also scored to round out the first-quarter scoring. Luke Wojtas finished with six saves on 10 shots.

Seifert also credited Kruszeski for setting the tempo.

“He helps so strongly on defense and on offense,” the senior midfielder said. “This was one of our better games today. We played quick, we played together, and our plays worked. It was fun.”

Kruszeski, who has been on the team since he was in eighth grade, said he was willing to do whatever it takes for his Tuckers.

“Every day I tell myself, ‘I’ve got to do whatever I can to help this team win,’” he said. “If I’ve got to score, I’ll score. If I have to scoop ground balls, I’ll scoop ground balls. If I’ve got to play defense the entire game, I’ll play defense. Heck, I’ll stand in front of the net.”

Head coach John Amato said now it’s about taking the next step — getting to the finals — and Seifert said while it’s not a given, the team’s worked for it. Kruszeski felt similarly.

“We knew there were expectations, and we knew we could do it, it’s just a matter of if we can execute, and today we did,” Kruszeski said. “We’re picking up ground balls, moving the ball up the field, pushing transition — all around we’ve been playing our game. It feels great to get another shot at the state championship title. We’ve worked all year for this. And everything is clicking at the right time.”

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