Mattituck/Southold players after winning a state Class D semifinal against...

Mattituck/Southold players after winning a state Class D semifinal against Palmyra-Macedon at SUNY-Cortland on Friday. Credit: Adrian Kraus

CORTLAND, N.Y. — Mattituck/Southold girls lacrosse coach Matt Maloney trusts in his base defense, a unit that entered Friday morning’s state Class D semifinal at SUNY-Cortland allowing 6.1 goals per game.

That unit can adjust as needed, though, so mired in a back-and-forth first half, Maloney opted to adapt. He asked defender Maggie Bruer to shadow Palmyra-Macedon’s Emma Arnold, arguably the team’s top playmaker.

By denying her the ball, the Mattituck/Southold defense thrived, allowing one second-half goal in a 9-5 win. The Tuckers will defend their state Class D championship at 9 a.m. Saturday against Bronxville, the same team they defeated in last spring’s final.

“We had been doing the shadow with such premier players on Long Island that we felt like it was something we could go to,” Maloney said. “Watching the film, [Arnold] was the best playmaker on their team…Any time they went inside, we had Bruer try and deny her the ball.”

It wasn’t a true faceguard, but Bruer’s pressure held Arnold in check until there was 1:25 left in the game when she scored a free-position shot to cut Mattituck’s lead to 9-5.

“I definitely think in the second half we played with a lot more heart, and I think that vision of winning a state championship was even closer to us,” said Emily McKillop, another defender responsible for shutting down Palmyra-Macedon.

Francesca Vasile-Cozzo scored with 46 seconds left in the first half when Julie Seifert passed off a free-position attempt, giving the Tuckers a 5-4 lead. Mackenzie Hoeg (two goals, one assist) netted a free position for a 6-4 lead early in the second half, then her older sister, Riley, followed with two goals. Rachel Janis’ free position made it 9-4 with 6:39 remaining.

“I think we really picked up our energy,” Riley Hoeg said. “We knew what they were giving us, so we just had to push back and give it our all.”

Each goal came after a long, methodical possession, a strategy stressed by Maloney.

“It’s been something that we still work on,” he said. “I think it’s a very fine line. You don’t want to take the reins off these incredible athletes, but at the same time, you want to build their IQ. Up by three goals with still 10 minutes left, that’s still a game in this sport. You want to be really smart with your possessions.”

Senior goalkeeper Claudia Hoeg made two saves, the second of which was her 400th, according to Maloney.

Patient attack and smothering defense have been Mattituck’s calling cards. The Tuckers will lean on both in the title game.

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