Hicksville's boys soccer team has a simple but effective philosophy: The Comets think inside the box.
Because that's where their star player, center forward Matt Sloan, takes up residence and uses his 6-1, 185-pound frame to great advantage.
"He's got strength and he's got skill. He's a handful in the box," Hicksville coach Scott Starkey said Tuesday after Sloan scored two goals and assisted on the other in the host Comets' 3-0 victory over Oceanside in the Nassau AA-II opener for both teams.
Sloan, a junior who is already being widely recruited to play college soccer, scored on a header off a crossing pass from Nick Scaraglio with 3:15 remaining in the first half. Up until then, the Comets had dominated play but Sailors goalie Alec Somerstein made seven of his 10 saves to keep his team in the game. Connor McPartland made five saves for the shutout, made easier by his team's dominant offense that limited scoring chances.
"In the first half, we had opportunities but didn't finish. We were more determined in the second half," Sloan said.
That was evident halfway through the second half when Sloan used his strength to outmaneuver a pair of defenders in front of the net, took a pass from Storm Strongin, and converted after his initial header deflected off an Oceanside player and Sloan deftly used his right foot to slip the ball past Somerstein.
With five minutes remaining, Sloan was in attack mode again, but this time he saw Scaraglio cutting to the middle, found him with a neat pass which Scaraglio right-footed home.
"Working with him is great. He's one of a kind. One of the best players in the state," Scaraglio said. "I tried to use my speed and we linked up."
Scaraglio played outside midfield in the first half, but was moved to forward in the second half and the strategy, which he said will be common this season, led to two Hicksville goals.
"I start out wide and try to set the pace in the first half, running all over the field," Scaraglio said. "Then I'll move up and look to score."
Sloan, who said his scoring connections with Scaraglio validated a summer of working out together to learn each other's moves, provides the Comets with the ultimate safety net, according to his coach.
"Even if we're not clicking, we've got him," Starkey said. "He'll get open somehow."
Usually in the box.