Sports

Senior duo of Allyson Gaedje, Sam Rrutt one-two in 800-meter run; 4x800 relay places third

Kiera Hughes flies over the hurdles. File photo by Bill Landon

By Desirée Keegan

Kiera Hughes couldn’t contain her excitement as she rushed off the track toward her family and friends. It was a moment she’d worked day and night for — ensuring she could race just one more time.

The Ward Melville senior crossed the 100-meter hurdle finish line in 14.76 seconds for first place at the Suffolk County track and field individual championship/state qualifier June 2 and 3 at Comsewogue High School.

Kiera Hughes shows off her new hardware alongside head coach J.P. Dion following her state-qualifying win. Photo from Kiera Hughes

“Really, I took it even slower than that,” Hughes said. “I just wanted to live another day past the preliminary round. I wanted to do as best I could to make sure that I’d qualify to race in the finals.”

She got that and so much more.

“Running — it was so much fun,” Hughes said. “I felt so fast going over the hurdles, I felt so powerful. I was so determined because I really, really wanted to win. And to cross that finish line and see my name at the top of the leaderboard I was ecstatic. I was beyond happy.”

Head coach J.P. Dion and her teammates were cheering her on as she flew down the track. They were on the sideline to congratulate her with hugs and praise following her finish.

“Kiera Hughes has amazed me all year long,” Dion said. “When the pressure is on her she seems to rise to the top — just an amazing competitor.”

Some of the hurdler’s teammates will be taking the trip with her to the state championship at Cicero-North Syracuse High School June 8 and 9.

Seniors Allyson Gaedje (2:14.82) and Sam Rutt (2:14.93) pulled off a one-two finish in the 800 run and were a part of the 4×800 relay team that finished third.

“We planned on trying to run the race together,” said Rutt, who also came in second (4:38.02) in the 1,500 just a few seconds behind Shoreham-Wading River phenom Katherine Lee. “We do most of our workouts together, so it was relaxing to be by each other’s side in such a big race like that.”

Gaedje didn’t have the state standard in the 800, or time needed during the regular season at a sanctioned qualifying meet, to compete at states, so she needed a higher placement. Because Rutt already did, having to finish in at least second, so she eased off.

Allyson Gaedje races down the track. File photo by Bill Landon

“When you’re running with your teammate, there’s a little extra motivation to push yourself,” Gaedje said. “We’re all more focused this year, and it’s shown making our times — we’ve seen we can and have run some strong times, so we’re confident. We’re running faster than ever.”

Senior Sam Sturgess and sophomore Elizabeth Radke rounded out the relay quartet that crossed the finish line in 9:35.88. The same girls have been competing together the last couple years, placing third in the state this past indoor season and at New Balance Outdoor Nationals last June.

Dion said he’s continuously tried to get his student-athletes to believe in the process, and more importantly, in themselves. Over the years, as Gaedje pointed out, it’s led to results.

“These kids competing this weekend have been the heartbeat of Ward Melville girls track over the past four years,” he said. “This has been a very special group for us.”

And a group of seniors that, although close to graduating, are still anxious to get back on the track.

“I’m hoping that I’ll be able to race as fast as I can, and I’m hoping for a new personal record and to stay up there with all of the other girls that are competing,” Hughes said. “I’m a pretty determined person — I always was to improve myself and push myself. I’m looking to be a role model for the younger girls and race another day.”

Meaghan Tyrrell shoots and scores one of her five goals in Mount Sinai's 13-12 overtime loss to Cold Spring Habor. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Despite being down six goals at halftime, junior Emma Tyrrell said she kept repeating to herself: “we couldn’t just give up.”

Scoring five goals in four minutes, Mount Sinai’s girls lacrosse team mounted a comeback that turned a 9-3 deficit into an eventual 12-12 tie, but a Cold Spring Harbor goal late in the second period of sudden-death overtime knocked the Mustangs out of the playoffs in the Long Island Class C championship game at Islip High School June 3.

Mount Sinai’s Camryn Harloff shoots through traffic. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Knowing it was now or never, Tyrrell made a highlight-reel play when she raced past the right side of the cage and scored a behind-the-back shot that started the string of goals. She said it was a play she’d been practicing putting into effect all season.

“I had no idea I was going to do it, until it just happened,” she said. “The funny thing is that just before the game started [coach Al Bertolone] told me that he finally trusts me to take that shot. So when the time came, I had the confidence.”

She scored twice in two minutes, which bookended a Camryn Harloff goal. Both of Tyrell’s scores started with sophomore Jenny Markey (one goal, four assists) winning possession off the draw.

“We were finally getting the momentum to get back at them and be the better team,” Markey said. “I was nervous on the draw, but ready. I knew what the girl guarding me was looking to do, but once I started getting the hang of it I got more comfortable as the game went on.”

She earned more possession time on the next two faceoffs, which led to her scoring a free position goal and passing to Harloff (three goals, one assist) for a good goal on her second to pull Mount Sinai within one, 9-8, with 16:11 left in regulation.

Jenny Markey grabs possession of the ball off the draw. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Markey said seeing Tyrrell’s goal fueled her team’s fire.

“It got everyone going,” she said. “After that goal, the whole feeling changed.”

For a team that usually doesn’t celebrate after scoring, the girls lit up, shouting and jumping toward one another. Senior Meaghan Tyrrell (five goals, one assist), Emma’s older sister, said her heart skipped a beat with each goal scored. Fittingly, the team’s top offensive threat tallied the first two and final three goals of the game. She scooped up a ground ball in the eight-minute mark and forced a turnover with a stick check at the six-minute mark. Both moves led to her last two game-tying goals in what became a back-and-forth battle.

“Knowing how important each goal was to determine the rest of our season made us more excited,” she said. “With every one that went in that celebration had to be done at a more extreme level. Our team’s resiliency is unlike any other team I’ve ever seen before. Seeing our team perform how it did to get back into the game was astounding, and I’m so proud to be associated with that kind of team.”

Losing seven seniors to graduation, Emma Tyrell said the remaining players will use the loss as motivation to make the push next year.

“As sad as it is moving on from this season, I’m excited to start preparing,” she said. “Since the beginning our team has been all about hard work and grit — that was definitely shown in the second half of the game. We never have, and we never will give up.”

By Bill Landon

Garden City’s five unanswered goals to open the Long Island championship game against Harborfields were hard to counter. The Tornadoes closed within three early in the third quarter but fell 12-3 in the Class B title game at Hofstra University June 2.

“They went from being 4-3 to taking it to Garden City for the Long Island championship,” head coach Glenn Lavey said. “They won’t get perspective right now [because] it’s hard to realize that a couple of minutes after you lose a tough game, but they will eventually realize all the special things they did.”

Freshman attack Stephen Markowski scored Harborfields’ first goal with four minutes remaining in the first half, and senior midfielder Jimmy Bifulco brought the score to 5-2 at the 10:51 mark of the third quarter, but it was as close as the team would come.

The Tornadoes were swept away after Garden City score six unanswered goals from the end of the third to the beginning of the fourth.

Junior Aiden Costello caught a pass from senior midfielder P.J. Clementi for Harborfields’ final goal of the game with three minutes remaining.

“[Garden City] has great players and great coaches,” Lavey said .”But at least you can say that today, we lost to a better team.”

Harborfields ends the season with a 13-4 record, outscoring opponents 192-118, and brought home the school’s first Suffolk County championship since 1992. Clementi, who will play for Amherst College next spring, ranks fifth among Suffolk County’s leading scorers with 57 goals 40 assists for a total of 97 points.

Also continuing their lacrosse careers are Bifulco, who committed to Adelphi University; Andy Derasmo, who will compete for St. Joseph’s University; and Mike Pasquaretta, who signed to play for Assumption College. Midfielder Tommy DeVito will remain teammates with long-stick midfielder Lucas Kollmer — both will compete at SUNY Geneseo.

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Matt Grillo scores twice, Dylan Pallonetti and Liam Davenport add a goal and an assist each in Patriots' 19th Long Island championship title win

By Bill Landon

The competition to become Class A’s Long Island champion came down to a battle for the ground balls, and as Ward Melville’s defense scooped them up, with it, came the title.

Long-stick midfielder Ethan Larson grabbed five ground balls and long-stick midfielder Pat O’Neill had three in the Patriots’ 8-5 win against Massapequa at Hofstra University June 2. Defenseman Alex Mazzone took hold of two grounders and caused two turnovers. All were crucial given Massapequa (17-2) won 11 of 17 faceoffs.

Being up by just a single goal to start the second half isn’t something the Patriots are used to, minus their one-goal loss to Half Hollows Hills East April 18. Senior Matt Grillo (two goals) said he thought the team was on edge given the unfamiliarity with being in a tight game after halftime, but said one of O’Neill’s possessions gave Ward Melville the spark it needed to ignite a string of scores.

O’Neill grabbed a ground-ball win on the opening faceoff 11 seconds into the second half, darted in on Massapequa goalie Mike Venezia, who shined with 14 saves, made a stick fake and scored. The junior’s goal gave Ward Melville a 3-1 lead.

“That really gave us the energy [we needed], fired us up,” Grillo said.  “We were tired, and the sun was getting the best of us, but we hydrated, we stretched, we just got our legs loose and we came out hot. We just didn’t turn back from there.”

Liam Davenport beat Venezia with a bouncer off a feed from Dylan Pallonetti to give Ward Melville a 4-1 lead with 10:33 left in the third, but Venezia robbed Pallonetti and Grillo from close range that quarter and made a stunner of a save on Grillo early in the fourth to keep the game close.

Ward Melville head coach Jay Negus tipped his hat to Venezia, who held the Patriots to 8-for-40 on shooting.

Ryan Pallonetti, Dylan’s older brother, scored to bring the game to 7-4 with 7:14 left, but again Massapequa had an answer. Venezia initially made the stop on Dylan Pallonetti’s shot, but when he spun his stick to try to trigger a fast break, he inadvertently flicked the ball back into the box.

“To be quite honest we were real sloppy in the first half on both ends,” Negus said. “We were missing some ground balls on the defensive end, but in the second half we made the adjustment. They really attacked the ground balls — I thought our poles did an excellent job then keeping their heads up and working to move in transition. Even the short-stick guys did a great job at picking up the ground balls — they were running all over and on a hot day like this, you can wear another team out. We like to play fast.”

Ward Melville will face Section II’s Niskayuna at Adelphi University in the state semifinals Wednesday, June 6 at 6:30 p.m.

Mustangs pitcher tosses complete game shutout, smacks RBI single in 5-0 win over Carey in fourth straight try for school's first crown

By Desirée Keegan

Emma Wimmer had been on the Long Island championship stage before, but this time, she wound up with a better result.

Wimmer whiffed eight batters in a complete game shutout, 5-0 win against Carey for Mount Sinai’s first Long Island Class A championship crown. The Mustangs had been to the big dance the last three seasons, but it seems the fourth time’s a charm.

“It feels nice to get the burden off our back,” said Wimmer, who pitched in relief in Mount Sinai’s 7-0 loss to MacArthur in the LIC last year. “We wanted to get a jump early — keep putting the ball in play — and stay strong defensively.”

“It feels nice to get the burden off our back. We wanted to get a jump early — keep putting the ball in play — and stay strong defensively.”

— Emma Wimmer

Wimmer did both. The starting pitcher struck out her first two batters in the bottom of the first before giving up one of just four hits Carey could muster in the game. In the top of the second, the senior’s RBI single to left center scored the first run of the game. Sam Valenti lifted a sacrifice fly to double Mount Sinai’s lead on the next at-bat. Junior Ilexa Skulnick scored on the play.

The plan was to pitch to contact and keep the ball on the ground, according to Wimmer, but her stuff was sharp, and the swings and misses were plentiful.

“I wanted to see how they were hitting, and if they were behind I would’ve thrown more changeups, but the fastballs worked today, and I mixed it up toward the end trying to keep them off-balance,” she said. “It’s such a nice feeling — getting outs, doing it for yourself. And it felt even better standing on that mound in the seventh inning finishing it out.”

An RBI single by Skulnick following a run-scoring error extended Mount Sinai’s lead to 4-0 in the top of the third. Junior Julia Golino went 3-for-4 and drove in senior shortstop Lové Drumgole for the final run in the top of the seventh with a sharp single up the middle.

Skulnick said this year the team approached the Long Island final with a different mindset.

“We needed to believe,” she said. “So, when you’re at bat, it’s ‘I can hit this ball, I will hit the next ball,’ and when you’re in the field and it’s coming to you it’s ‘I’ve got it,’ and I think that definitely worked for us.”

“We needed to believe. So, when you’re at bat, it’s ‘I can hit this ball, I will hit the next ball…'”

— Ilexa Skulnick

She chipped in solid defense, playing a ball on a hop for a force out at second — just missing a double play — in the bottom of the fourth inning and snagged a line drive for the next out, but she pointed to Wimmer as the catalyst behind the shutout.

“It’s amazing watching her hit her spots,” Skulnick said. “But we all felt loose, wanted to stay loose.”

Drumgole, who went 2-for-3 with a walk, a run scored and a stolen base, grabbed an infield popup to retire the side in order that inning. The senior said the Mustangs hitting is contagious, but revealed she did hide how she was really feeling.

“I was nervous, but I couldn’t show that,” she said, adding that a broken glove in the seventh amplified her worry despite still making her last two catches for outs. “I had to pretend that I was 100 percent confident. But everyone remains a threat for us, especially on offense.”

Finally getting over the hump, Mount Sinai (23-4) will face the winner of Our Lady of Mercy/Iroquois at Moreau Recreational Park in Saratoga County in the state semifinals June 9 at 11:30 a.m.

Wimmer was beaming thinking of the Mustangs making their first trip upstate.

“For the longest time, I thought, ‘What is states?’” she said. “It’s crazy now to think we’re finally going to get to experience it.”

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By Bill Landon

Ward Melville’s boys lacrosse team swallowed a bitter pill April 18 when the Patriots suffered their only loss of the season, 7-6, loss to Half Hollow Hills East. The No. 1-seeded Patriots had their chance to avenge that loss going up against the No. 3 Thunderbirds in the Class A county championship Wednesday, and did so in convincing fashion.

Behind junior Dylan Pallonetti’s five goals, Ward Melville won 14-5 at Islip High School May 30.

“We remembered that feeling when we lost to them — we weren’t going to let that happen again,” Pallonetti said. “We came out with some fire, put some goals in and never really let them take the game away. For now, we’ll practice hard, study Massapequa and keep the train rolling.”

Ward Melville (18-1) will face Massapequa (17-1) in the Long Island championship at 12:30 p.m. June 2 at Hofstra University.

Pallonetti said finding out that Ward Melville moved up to No. 1 in the nation, according to Inside Lacrosse, gave the Patriots a little extra juice.

It gave him some extra motivation, too, scoring a hat trick in the first half to turn a 5-4 first quarter advantage into a 7-4 halftime lead.

Half Hollow Hills East’s Mike Gomez found the back of the cage early in the third to close within two, but it was as close as the Thunderbirds would come the rest of the way. Ward Melville goalkeeper Collin Krieg (5 saves) said even with a nine-goal lead you can never get too comfortable in the game of lacrosse.

“Obviously we came out with more intensity today thinking we [shouldn’t have lost to them] in the first place,” Krieg said. “Yeah, we were ahead by nine, but to be honest you never know — that team can easily put up a bunch of points. I never like to count my chickens before they hatch.”

Having a potent Patriots offense on the other side of the field though didn’t hurt.

Eight different Ward Melville players scored, five finding the cage over a 4:30 span in the first quarter alone for a 5-1 lead before Half Hollow Hills East responded with three straight. Senior Matt Grillo added three on the day and seniors Zach Hobbes and Michael Giaquinto tacked on a goal and an assist apiece.

Ward Melville, which has now outscored opponents 204-75 this season, bring home the school’s third straight county crown and 26th overall in 40 appearances in the title game.

“We knew it was going to be a tough game — they played us hard the first time — but tonight we wanted revenge,” Grillo said. “It’s always nice to get another win, add some more hardware to the Ward Melville legacy.”

By Bill Landon

P.J. Clementi couldn’t believe his eyes. Racing between two defenders for a loose ball just out of reach on the left side of the cage, along came Andy Derasmo, who was rounding behind it. Derasmo flicked the ball to Clementi, who caught it on its third bounce as he crouched and swiveled to his right. He scored on a no-look shot around the defender to his left while falling to the floor.

It was the final goal of the game with five minutes left, and put it out of reach in No. 1-seeded Harborfields boys lacrosse team’s 8-4 win over No. 3 East Islip in the Class B county championship.

“It rolled right to me, and I was just thinking, ‘No way,’” Clementi said. “So I scooped it up. I knew where the net was and I just flung it. Then, I saw the net move.”

His three goal, two assist afternoon helped Harborfields to its first county crown since 1992.

The Tornadoes (14-3) will face Garden City (15-3) in the Long Island championship at 3 p.m. Saturday, June 2 at Hofstra University.

Head coach Glenn Lavey said the boys, besides wanting the win for themselves, took extra pride in bringing home the title to all three of the team’s assistant coaches, who were on the last championship-winning team 26 years ago.

“We’ve been waiting for so long, so for those kids on the team and for all the guys that have played, this team really brought everybody together,” Lavey said. “It means a lot. I love these guys and in this town — everybody shares in this win.”

The Tornadoes also relished showing off the many weapons in Harborfields’ arsenal.

Clementi, who started the scoring for his team with a goal after a dodge to tie the game 1-1 in the early going, dished the ball to Derasmo to give the team a 2-1 lead. Harborfields never trailed after that, but didn’t pull away until the fourth quarter. East Islip tied the game 4-4 midway through the third.

Jimmy Bifulco, Stephen Markowski, Aiden Costello and M.J. Buckholtz also scored.

Goalkeeper Zack Yorio (17 saves) did his part to keep the game close early. He made a high stop in the final seconds of the first half to preserve Harborfields’ 3-2 lead, and robbed Sidorski of a goal in the game’s final seconds. The East Islip threat ranks third in Suffolk with 102 points and tops in assists with 57 and was held without a point.

“When they tied it [4-4] we just kept our foot on the gas pedal,” Clementi said. “We kept pounding. We tried to convert in transition, but we had some luck on our side, too.”

Bifulco said his senior season’s crowning achievement was something years in the works.

“I’ve been dreaming about this since I was little,” he said. “I’ve played with these kids my entire life — it’s just a dream come true. It’s all I ever wanted for us.”

Mount Sinai scores two wins over Sayville in double-elimination series to win fourth county title

The Mustangs have been on a mission since letting a four-run lead slip away in a second-round playoff loss to Sayville.

While the path the Mount Sinai softball team took this season may have been different from previous years, the outcome was the same. With a 10-3 win against Sayville Tuesday, May 29, the Mustangs earned their fourth straight Class A title with another chance for the Mustangs to grab the elusive Long Island crown.

Mount Sinai’s softball team hoists up its fourth straight Suffolk County championship plaque. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Mount Sinai (22-4) faces Nassau champ Carey (15-7) at 3:30 p.m. Friday, June 1 at Hofstra University.

“This is what I’ve been working for since my freshman year — a four-peat,” short stop Lové Drumgole said. “I was looking to keep everyone’s energy up because I knew we could do it, and I needed to make sure everyone believed in themselves as much as I did.”

It’s hard not to love the senior with love in her name.

She went 4-for-5 with two runs, two RBIs and two stolen bases and accounted for two of the Mustangs’ outs in the bottom of the fourth, one in the fifth and threw out a Sayville runner at the plate to end the game.

“We had to keep the pedal to the metal,” Drumgole said. “I knew the title was ours. They had to take it from us, and I wasn’t  letting go.”

Starting pitcher Julia Golino said she felt like she redeemed herself after her seventh-inning showing in the May 23 8-7 loss that sent Mount Sinai into the double-elimination bracket.

Mount Sinai’s softball team has won three more Suffolk County titles since earning the program’s first in 2015. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“We knew we had to fight back, and we also knew we weren’t going to go down easy,” the junior said. “I wanted to show what I had, because I felt like I let the team down a little bit. This time I wasn’t going to give it up easy.”

Golino scattered 10 hits, allowed three runs with two strikeouts and one walk. She even made several catches on come-backers to help her own cause, like when Sayville threatened in the bottom of the sixth with the bases loaded and two outs. She’d made the first out of the inning, grabbing the ball as it passed her right ear before completing the play at first. A two-run double right after gave the Mustangs a scare of falling victim to the same late-game comeback, but Golino said she quickly shook it off.

“We have big bats,” she said, smiling. “And we make amazing plays in the field.”

The dual threat right-hander also went 3-for-4 with a single, double and triple and two RBIs at the plate.

Mount Sinai’s softball team huddles around Julia Golino after Mount Sinai’s fourth straight Suffolk County championship win. Photo by Desirée Keegan

After Mount Sinai entered the losers bracket, the team beat East Islip, Kings Park and Miller Place to make it back to Sayville. The Mustangs edged the Golden Flashes 3-2 in the first double-elimination game a day prior to force the winner-take-all final.

Holly McNair went 2-for-4 with two RBIs and Ilexa Skulnick finished 3-for-4 with a double, but no one got the crowd going as much as Alaina Reilly. The freshman left fielder smashed a two-run home run in the top of the third to give the Mustangs a 7-1 lead. She said she hesitated for a moment, wondering if she’d really just knocked the ball that deep into right center.

“I felt so proud, and hearing them chant ‘She’s a freshman,’ it’s indescribable,” Reilly said. “We’ve worked really well together, and I’ve felt so welcomed this season — they really are just a great bunch of girls. We were so pumped because this was anyone’s game. Who cares what the stats say, it’s what you do in moments like this that make an impact.”

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Eagles fire on all cylinders to sweep Shoreham-Wading River for first Suffolk County championship title

By Bill Landon & Desirée Keegan

John Rosman was ready and eager to take home Rocky Point baseball’s first Suffolk County title.

The senior, who hit an RBI-double in the bottom of the second inning to start off the scoring, took a big lead off third two innings later on a grounder, and hesitated, freezing Shoreham-Wading River’s second baseman before darting home.

Rocky Point’s John Rosman dives for the plate and scores. Photo by Bill Landon

He squeezed his head-first slide in just in time to avoid the tag to give No. 2-seeded Rocky Point an early 4-1 lead in its 7-3 home win over No. 1 Shoreham-Wading River in game 2 of a best-of-three series Class A baseball championship May 29.

With his aggressive base running Rosman helped Rocky Point rake in its first ever county crown. The Eagles had topped the Wildcats 10-1 the day before, where the senior went 2-for-3 with two doubles.

“I’ve been running the bases aggressively all series — I had the confidence that I could get there and just let it happen,” said Rosman, who finished the day 1-for-2 with two runs, a walk and a stolen base. “You can’t make the game bigger than what it is. It’s just a baseball game; you’ve got to stay focused.”

Junior Rob Milopsky pitched a complete game, allowed six hits, one walk, two earned runs and struck out six to earn the win. The starter remained composed even with danger lurking, like when Shoreham-Wading River juniors Michael Smith and Mason Kelly crushed back-to-back home runs in the top of the sixth to bring the Wildcats within two. Milopsky fanned the next two batters to retire the side.

“It was everything I thought it was going to be,” the starting pitcher said of the game. “But I trusted my defense and threw my pitches. Just commanded the zone, gave it everything I had.”

“[You’ve got to give] credit to Shoreham, they can break out at any moment; they’re a dangerous team,” Rocky Point assistant coach Eric Strovink said. “You can’t be too comfortable.”

Eagles starting pitcher Rob Milopsky throws a pitch. Photo by Bill Landon

The offense backed up their starter in the bottom of that sixth inning with two more runs to re-extend the lead. Joe Grillo hit the ball through a gap to bring home Dillon Cassidy and Mike Gunning’s ground-rule double sent Grillo across the plate.

“Words can’t even describe [this], it feels great,” Grillo said. “I’ve been here a few times and never won, and now, we’re champions.”

Ryan Callahan also contributed an RBI-double in the first, and Ryan Maciaszek laid down a bunt that brought home Alex Bonacci for a 5-1 lead in the bottom of the fifth.

Bonacci said he trusted Milopsky to get the job done even when the Wildcats (18-5) closed in.

“I knew he had it in him to go all the way — he looked great from the start,” the senior said. “I honestly had no worries. I knew we were going to get it done, and when it happened, it was awesome.”

The Eagles (20-5) will face Wantagh in the Long Island Class A championship Saturday, June 2, at 4 p.m. at St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue.

“They work harder than anybody out there — they deserved this, they’re an extraordinary group of kids and I’m so happy for them,” said Rocky Point Head Coach Andrew Aschettino. “It’s special.”

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Sean Kennedy, Richie Lacalandra score three goals each to knot the game at 7-7

A Warriors run from the end of the second quarter to the middle of the fourth turned a 6-1 deficit into a 7-7 tie, but a final faceoff loss proved costly for the No. 3-seeded Comsewogue boys lacrosse team, as it fell 8-7 to No. 3 East Islip in the Class B semifinals May 23.

“I think the team was just a little nervous at first because of how big of a game it was,” said junior Sean Kennedy, who scored three goals in the contest. “Because usually we’re a really good first-half team.”

The Warriors defense struggled to clear the ball early, going 0-5 on first-half attempts, with the Redmen scoring on three of those turnovers.

But by the end of the second quarter Comsewogue started to figure it out.

“I felt good to be out there — we were chipping away at the score. If we didn’t come out slow at first I think there would’ve been a different outcome.”

— Richie Lacalandra

“Once we settled down and we figured out the clear, we came storming back,” Comsewogue head coach Pete Mitchell said. “A lot of these kids have been through a lot of hard things in their lives and to see them come out and compete the way they did is tremendous. Especially the seniors, they’re a wonderful group of kids.”

Senior Richie Lacalandra scored the final goal of the first half to break East Islip’s six goal scoring streak and start a 4-0 Warriors scoring spurt. Junior Thomas Heyder scored on an over-the-shoulder and behind-the-back shot to start the second half, and Kennedy found the cage before Lacalandra’s goal that pulled the Warriors within one, 6-5, to end scoring for the third.

After an East Islip goal, Kennedy scored from 30 yards out for his third of the game, and Lacalandra added his hat trick goal from the same spot to tie it 7-7 with 7:10 left to play.

“On that play I just thought to myself, ‘I had the short stick on me, and there was a lane to shoot,’ so I stepped in and let it go,” Lacalandra said. “It felt good to be out there — we were chipping away at the score. If we didn’t come out slow at first I think there would’ve been a different outcome.”

Goalkeeper Thomas Heller said a halftime pep talk lifted his team’s spirits. He added he spoke to his defense about shaking off the nerves and looking at the second half like a new game. The junior said Kennedy and Lacalandra’s burst of power propelled the team.

“I think for my team to come back and score six goals shows a lot of heart and hustle, It shows we fight to the end.”

— Thomas Heller

“Those two kids never quit on themselves,” he said. “And in big situations, they excel.”

The goalkeeper made two saves within a minute to keep the teams in a stalemate, but East Islip did the same on the other end.

“I was seeing the ball well and my defense was giving me good looks,” Heller said. “Our plan against East Islip was to keep our heads on a swivel, stop transitions and keep our sticks in the passing lane, because we knew they liked to feed the cutter, so we tried to eliminate that as much as possible.”

John Sidorski scored his fourth goal of the game with 47 seconds left for East Islip, which won the final faceoff. Comsewogue called timeout and pulled Heller for another man on the field to pressure the Redmen, but came up short, getting the ball back and into East Islip’s zone just as time expired.

“I think for my team to come back and score six goals shows a lot of heart and hustle,” Heller said. “It shows we fight to the end.”

Mitchell said he was proud to say that no matter how many curveballs were thrown at his team, and through all the doubt this season, his Warriors showed why they bear the name.

“You get bad bounces in life, you’ve got to deal with it and you’ve got to bounce back — and if I taught them that one thing then I’ve done my job,” Mitchell said. “We had a shot at the end, but their goalie made a great save. It shows a lot of character, and it’s why we call ourselves the Warriors – we never give up.”

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