Mattituck goalkeeper Stephen Ostrowski spent the majority of the summer performing an advanced exercise routine in an effort to improve his strength, agility and flexibility. He said he even dropped 10 pounds.
The workouts, which combined weightlifting and speed drills, seemingly paid dividends for him Wednesday when he made seven saves, many from close range, in a 1-0 Suffolk League VII win over longtime rival Center Moriches.
"Oh, yeah, my body has totally evolved and I'm so much better at getting to balls and clearing them," Ostrowski said after the rematch of last year's Suffolk Class B final, which Mattituck won at Center Moriches.
Ostrowski's improved physique and skill were evident about 12 minutes into the second half when he saved a shot from point-blank range. During a scramble for the ball near where he made the save, however, an official called an indirect kick for Center Moriches (2-1-1). Yet a CM player misinterpreted the call, played on instead, and nailed the ball through the net. The goal didn't count, of course, and afterward, a red card was issued, forcing Center Moriches to play one man down.
"That was a turning point for us," Center Moriches coach Chris O'Brien said. "Our emotions changed and got the best of us after that. It totally changed our feelings."
Junior forward Mario Arreola, an elusive playmaker, scored the game's lone goal for Mattituck (5-0) midway through the first half. Arreola was in the right place at the perfect time. On an attempted shot, the ball hit the crossbar and landed inches between him and the net. "I think it was a lucky play," Arreola said. "All I had to do was kick it in."
In an extremely physical game, defense became essential. Mattituck's Paul Hayes won nearly every ball in the air that he challenged for, which helped control the pace.
Ostrowski, who made a handful of pretty saves on free kicks in the first half, also spent a great deal of time during the summer thinking about battling with Center Moriches, which Mattituck also defeated in 2011 for the Suffolk "B" title.
"I knew it was going to be a crazy one," he said. "But we'll see them again and then maybe in the final."