When you're the only sophomore in the starting lineup, it doesn't matter how good you are. You are going to be teased.
Matt Hirdt is no exception.
Before Miller Place's Class A Suffolk VI boys soccer matchup against four-time defending league champion East Hampton (2-5-1), senior defender Doug Minogue and other players said of Hirdt, "Matt steps up at home games because he likes the girls coming."
Hirdt could only roll his eyes in the background and wait for his chance to defend himself.
"Well, this is my first goal in a home game," Hirdt said, "so that's not 100 percent accurate."
Regardless, those who showed up to Miller Place High School Wednesday saw Hirdt score his seventh goal of the season to give the Panthers a 1-0 victory. Hirdt recovered a loose ball about 30 yards from the goal. He immediately put a shot on net and beat the diving East Hampton keeper to the left side of the net. kicking a line drive with 10:50 remaining in the first half.
"After I saw it go in, I knew we were going to win the game," Hirdt said.
Miller Place coach Kenny Lake said of Hirdt: "For a sophomore, I think people watching the game wouldn't even know the difference."
Minogue, who has plenty of experience since being called up to varsity in eighth grade, was a pivotal member of a defensive line that gave the Panthers their third shutout victory in a row. He refused to take any individual credit, saying the defensive dominance was a team effort, but Minogue's timely clears made goalkeeper Tristan Verdone's afternoon much easier.
"When you put up a shutout, it's about a team effort," Lake said. "Goals will eventually come with our style of play but shutouts mean for 80 minutes, we were focused and the better team."
After missing the playoffs by one point last season, Minogue said the Panthers, who were ranked No. 1 in preseason coaching rankings, learned from the mistakes they made last year.
"We went into last year with high expectations," Minogue said. "We went into the season a little too arrogant about ourselves and this year we are just taking it game by game, not looking ahead too much."
Hirdt's presence has certainly made a big difference for Miller Place (6-2-1). He said he didn't even know if he'd be a starter entering the season, but called being a top scorer on the team "amazing."
Maybe some of the ladies will begin to take notice.