Over the past four years or so, Milan Moraga has shown an innate ability to jump, consistently winning medals in the long and triple jumps for the Hampton Bays indoor and outdoor track teams in the winter and spring.
On September 10, the senior captain of the boys soccer team put his leaping ability to the test and scored the game-winning goal in a 1-0 victory over Mattituck in what was the home opener for the Baymen.
A foul called on Mattituck with about 15 minutes remaining gave Hampton Bays a free kick from about 40 yards out. Junior Cris Vasquez sent a deep ball from the sideline to the top of Mattituck’s goal box and Moraga beat his defender to the ball, leaped and the headed the ball into the top right corner of the goal to break the scoreless tie.
Moraga admitted after the game that he didn’t necessarily try to direct the ball into the goal — it just kind of happened. He was more worried about getting to the correct spot and then timing his jump.
Just before the play, “I looked up,” Moraga explained. “Cris gave me a nod, I looked back, I kept my run and I ran through on time. It was just the perfect ball. I opened my eyes in the last second and saw it go into the far corner.
“I have friends from Center Moriches, and they talked about Mattituck and how difficult they were, so it felt pretty good,” to score the game-winning goal, he added. “It shows that our team is looking good this year.”
Hampton Bays head coach Scott Garofola said that earlier in the game he saw his players not running at full speed during a similar play and it led to a missed opportunity. This time, everything was executed well.
“With Milan at full pace on a jump, you’re not going to out-jump him, so the timing was right, the spot was right. Cris hit the spot and Milan finished it,” he said. “Cris hits a good long ball. We know he can put a dangerous ball in from there, that’s why we use him, and he put it in the right spot.”
Mattituck certainly had its opportunities to score throughout the game, including just minutes after Moraga’s goal. The Tuckers had a solid shot go just wide right of the goal, then, with about 10 minutes remaining in the game, Hampton Bays junior goalie Matt Arroyo had come out of his box to play a ball and was down on the ground, leaving what was thought to be a wide-open net. Mattituck sent what looked to be the game-tying goal, but Hampton Bays senior defender Diego Vivar was there to boot the chance aside.
From that point on, the Baymen pretty much controlled the rest of the game and even had more opportunities to score, but settled with the 1-0 victory.
“They’re well coached, the players are well trained, they know what they’re doing. So to get a win against one of the good teams in the league early, it helps, not only in the standings, but it helps boost the morale of the team going forward. And that piece is important in terms of mindset,” Garofola said.
The Baymen (2-2 League VII) followed up the victory over Mattituck with a 2-1 loss at Babylon on Thursday, September 12, and a 5-0 loss at home to Southampton on Monday night. Garofola said last week that things needed to improve despite the solid win over Mattituck.
“I think it’s something where you can’t get complacent. We have to use it as building, because today was far from perfect,” he said. “They did outplay us to begin the game, we were flat. But again, it also speaks to some perseverance there and pushing through that and coming out the other side.
“Sometimes we’re going to need to grind, and this was one,” Garofola said. “If it has to be one play, we need to make that one play, and today we did.”