John Amato can only hope that history repeats itself.

During his post-game talk, the Mattituck/Greenport/Southold boys lacrosse head coach told his players not to get down on themselves after dropping an 8-3 home decision Tuesday.

It was the Suffolk County Class D defending champions’ season-opener, a non-league match against a much larger school that competes in Class A on a blustery afternoon at Southold High.

“The big thing is to not let them think that this is doomsday,” Amato said. “It’s our first game. We’re just getting started. We ended up getting it together and putting it all together and had a really good run [last season]. Same outlook this year. We’re going to get better from here.”

Last year, the Tuckers lost six of their opening seven games, including an early 7-4 defeat to Longwood, before finding themselves.

So, playing Longwood again wasn’t such a bad idea.

“They’re tough. They’re strong. They’re a big school,” Amato said. “It’s just a good test to see where we’re at and what we need to work on. I think that really exposed a lot of the things that we need to focus on and improve, which I expected.”

There is plenty to work on, particularly on the attack. The hosts went the final 28 minutes and 18 seconds without scoring.

“Offensively, we just got to build our chemistry,” Amato said “We just got to develop. We’ve got to work on some of the skills that are necessary to score more goals.”

Junior goaltender and co-captain Andrew McKenzie saw plenty of room for improvement.

“We can improve everywhere on the field,” he said. “I can improve myself. There’s a goal that I should have saved. On defense, we’ve got to slide better and offensively put the ball in the back of the net.”

Things were looking up for the Tuckers as they grabbed a 3-1 lead with 4:18 remaining in the second quarter on goals by Shane Psaltis, Rocco Horton and Tanner Vaccarella.

The Lions struck twice behind Colin Fitzgerald (two goals, one assist) and Justin Silon (three goals, three assists) for a 3-3 halftime tie. Their goals started a 7-0 run.

“We had a really good start,” McKenzie said. “I was really confident. I was making good saves. The defense was playing good hard defense and at that point offense played well. But then we started slowing down at halftime. That’s just when the ages [young players] started coming into play. We’ve got a lot of young people on the team and as the season goes on, we’ll be able to finish out those close games.”

The Tuckers graduated seven players.

Still, there were some things to smile about.

On the top of the list was McKenzie’s superb performance (12 saves).

“He was lights out,” Amato said. “Him and our whole defensive unit. They’re going to be really strong. Having Andrew is huge for our team. He’s going to keep us in a lot of games. He played phenomenal.”

Amato also singled out junior defenseman Dylan Cifarelli.

“He had a really hard matchup and handled it really well,” he said. “I was proud of how he just kept with it, did a great job for the most part. He really locked down one of their best attackmen.”

Vaccarella ran track last year before returning to lacrosse. Following a team tradition, Amato gave the junior midfielder the game ball for scoring his first varsity goal. He beat goalie Jayden Messina from close range for Mattituck’s final tally.

“It was great, especially in the first game,” Vaccarella said.

Asked why he decided to return to lacrosse, Vaccarella replied, “Just the love I have for this sport, my friends. I grew up playing with them since kindergarten, and just never lost the love for the sport.”

If any player was downcast, it was difficult to ascertain afterwards.

“I just believe that we’ll be able to go on a good run again,” McKenzie said.

Added Vaccarella: “It’s going to be a fun season. Super excited. Hopefully, we can go pretty far.”

Amato wanted to see improvement from now through May.

“I just expect that we will come together to work hard every time we can,” he said. “Every day we can and get better. In the end, if that means getting back to another championship game, then that’s what it is.”

It certainly worked last year.

We’ll just have to wait to see if history can repeat itself.

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