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Girls’ lacrosse brings the heat en route to third straight win

The connection between Mackenzie Heldberg and Natalia Lynch goes as far back as kindergarten, so when one of the junior midfielders gets the ball, the other is confident that her best friend can finish the job, the girls said.

“When I look up, I know she’ll be there cutting and I know she does the same for me, so I think that’s the best friend thing,” Heldberg said of the connection. “We knew we were going to have to play hard, so it feels really good to take away the win.”

Smithtown West head coach Carie Bodo started off by addressing her previously 5-2 team before the game and telling them that it was a game of possession.

“Win the draw and take smart shots,” she said.

Her team did just that, as the Bulls topped the previously second-ranked North Babylon, 16-9.

In the first 10 minutes of the first half, Smithtown West rattled off six unanswered goals, with Heldberg tallying a hat trick and an assist, and Lynch adding a goal and an assist, before North Babylon scored its first goal.

“I think my team really came out with a lot of fire and we really wanted this, so it feels great to win,” Lynch said. “We knew that this game was really important to us, so once we got that lead, it really helped us.”

North Babylon managed to score just two goals before the halftime break, while the Bulls scored four more to break out to a 10-3 lead.

Heldberg remained strong on the draws, and gaining that possession at midfield proved to be the game-changer for Smithtown West.

“I think it’s a big aspect for possession and I think everyone is good at getting the loose ball of the draws, even in the air like Natalia [Lynch] did a few times,” Heldberg said. “I put them up to her and I know she’s going to get them, and having [Addie Stapleton] behind me helps, too.”

North Babylon scored the first two goals of the second half, but Smithtown West countered with another six-goal tare, with Heldberg and Lynch connecting for two of them, to bring the score to 16-5.

“We played together since second grade and ever since our first year together, we would always look for each other,” Lynch said. “She’s amazing on the draws and always knows where to put it to get it to me and sees me when I’m open, and I think that helps a lot with the connection that we have.”

North Babylon went on a 4-0 run to end the game, but the team’s comeback effort fell short.

Heldberg lead the team with five goals and two assists, while Lynch finished with two goals and four assists.

“I like passing it to my players,” Lynch said. “I have a lot of confidence in them when they get opened.”

Senior attack Kaitlin Unser and sophomore midfielder Kayla Kosubinsky finished with two goals and two assists apiece, and sophomore attack Chelsea Witteck tallied a hat trick in the win.

“We did exactly what we said we wanted to do,” Bodo said. “We wanted to fast break to them and we’re definitely a fast break team, so as soon as we win the center draw, we book it and it goes in.”

Once Smithtown West realized that North Babylon’s Ally Kennedy was the team’s scorer, after she scored the first six of her seven goals, the Bulls were able to isolate her and protect their lead.

One of the Bull’s greatest benefits came from multiple girls getting their names on the score sheet, with seven girls tallying goals and nine getting at least a point.

“If one of our girls get hurt or someone is having an off-game, someone else can step up, because everyone can score,” Lynch said. “There’s not one girl that is a weakness on the field and I think that’s a great thing.”

Girls’ lacrosse team hits 7-0 atop Division II standings

Mount Sinai's Sydney Pirreca fires a shot at the net with Huntington defenders on her back. Photo by Desirée Keegan

In a battle for first place, Mount Sinai outlasted Huntington, 14-9, Tuesday evening, under its home lights, to remain the only undefeated girls’ lacrosse team in Division II.

“It’s a great feeling to still be undefeated and it’s so much fun playing with everyone,” Mount Sinai freshman attack Meaghan Tyrrell said. “I think we did come out really hot. We came out wanting to win.”

Mount Sinai’s Kasey Mitchell maintains possession as she heads toward the cage with Huntington’s Ryann Gaffney at her hip. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Mount Sinai’s Kasey Mitchell maintains possession as she heads toward the cage with Huntington’s Ryann Gaffney at her hip. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Although Huntington’s senior attack Alyssa Amorison scored first at the 23:31 mark, off an assist from junior attack Katie Reilly, Mount Sinai was quick to counter with four straight goals. Senior attack and co-captain Sydney Pirreca scored the first and fourth, with Tyrell adding an assist on the first, to help the team to a 4-1 advantage.

The two teams traded goals, the goalkeepers traded saves and then traded two more goals. With the score 6-3, Huntington called a timeout to regroup.

“We need the draw,” Huntington head coach Kathy Wright told her players. “We need to get on those ground balls.”

Huntington moved senior midfielder Samantha Lynch to the faceoff in place of senior defender Heather Forster, and the switch proved to be successful.

The Blue Devils won the draw and with 6:55 remaining in the first half, sophomore midfielder Ryann Gaffney circled around the cage and passed to Lynch, who stood undefended at the front of the cage and knocked it into the right corner. A minute later, Lynch scored again off an assist from Reilly to pull within one, 6-5.

Thirty seconds later, Pirreca scored her hat trick goal. After a scrum at midfield for the ground ball off the draw, the senior attack was fouled, and jetted downfield for the score and a 7-5 lead heading into halftime.

“To me it’s not so much about being undefeated, it’s about the girls getting better every game,” Mount Sinai head coach Al Bertolone said. “Our mantra is one game at a time, to win the day, and today we did a great job. I thought it was a back and forth game early and I think we’ve really been a great second-half team, locking them down.”

Mount Sinai junior midfielder Rebecca Lynch scored the first two goals of the half within a minute of each other to put her team up 9-5. Huntington’s Gaffney scored next, unassisted, after gaining possession at midfield.

The teams continued to trade possession of the 50/50 balls, and Tyrrell added another assist when she passed the ball from behind the net to freshman attack Camryn Harloff in front of the net for a 10-6 advantage.

Mount Sinai's Meaghan Tyrrell looks up the field to make a play. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Mount Sinai’s Meaghan Tyrrell looks up the field to make a play. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“I feel pretty confident when I pass for shots,” Tyrrell said. “Even though I didn’t start off so well, I moved forward and got better as the game progressed.”

The Mustangs scored the next three goals, with Tyrrell having a part in all three, and Huntington called another timeout. During the break, Bertolone addressed his girls: “We need five seconds of focus to win the draw and get to goal, and don’t take any lapses down there on defense.”

The Blue Devils scored after the timeout, and Tyrrell scored her second goal of the game before Huntington junior attack Emma DeGennaro sent a shot off a foul into the right corner of the net for the next score. Amorison tacked on the final point of the game at 6:38. After that, the teams exchanged the ball as the defense stood strong on both ends to bring the final score to 14-9.

“I just think our older kids are bringing these younger kids along,” Bertolone said. “We’re coming together. We have a lot of babies out here that are really growing up fast, and this is a great group with great
senior leadership.”

One of the youngest on the team, Tyrrell finished the game with two goals and five assists; Lynch and Pirreca each tacked on a hat trick; and Harloff and senior midfielder Mary Ellen Carron added two goals apiece.

“Meaghan Tyrrell is a very good player,” Bertolone said. “I’ve got two [younger players] — her and Camryn Harloff down low, and I’ve got nothing but good things to say about them. They’re hardworking kids, so I’m happy for their success.”

Moving forward, he wants his team to improve in all facets of the game and to grow stronger as the season progresses. He said he believes his girls are doing all the little things necessary to be successful.
Tyrrell echoed her coach’s sentiments.

“We just have to keep getting better and keep improving,” she said. “We have a great team, we’re going to keep working together and do our best to keep moving forward and hopefully continue to win. There’s no stopping for us.”

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Middle Country’s Zach Harned puts on the breaks as he looks for an opening in front of East Islip’s net, in the Mad Dogs’ 8-5 win over the Redmen Saturday. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

The Middle Country boys’ lacrosse team scored four quick goals in less than three minutes and continued to fire off shots and find the back of the cage to claim an 8-5 victory over East Islip, Saturday.

Less than a minute into the game, junior midfielder Kyle Stemke scored first for the Mad Dogs, and senior midfielder Brandon Thomas followed with a goal of his own a minute later to jump out to a 2-0 lead.

Middle Country’s bobby Emerson cuts around East Islip defenders as he makes his way up the field in the Mad Dogs’ 8-5 win over East Islip Saturday. Photo by Bill Landon
Middle Country’s bobby Emerson cuts around East Islip defenders as he makes his way up the field in the Mad Dogs’ 8-5 win over East Islip Saturday. Photo by Bill Landon

“We played a solid team with a solid defense today who have a lot of offensive power,” Stemke said, as his team made eight of its 21 attempts at a goal. “We made some goals when we had to and we were able to shut them down defensively at the end.”

Middle Country head coach Kenneth Budd said his team has struggled at the faceoff position lately, but that wasn’t the case for the Mad Dogs in this matchup.

Junior midfielder Declan Canevari won his third possession of the game and dished the ball to senior attack Bobby Emerson, and Canevari followed with his fourth faceoff win, and took the ball down the right sideline, cut to the inside and buried his shot between the pipes to give Middle Country a four-goal advantage.

Budd said his faceoff specialist was the difference-maker in the contest.

“Declan was phenomenal at the ‘X’ today,” Budd said. “When you control ‘X’ you get possession, and that’s how you win games.”

Middle Country senior attack Zach Harned assisted in his team’s first goal of the second quarter when he fed the ball to junior midfielder Cole Demaille, who found the back of the cage. Stemke crossed the ball over to Emerson next, who sent home his second goal of the game to take a commanding 6-0 lead.

“We knew their goalie was good, but we came out firing and we were really amped when we went up 6-0,” Harned said. “We came out clean, we maintained possession and we played hard.”

East Islip wouldn’t go quietly though, and rattled off three unanswered goals in less than three minutes late in the half, to keep Middle Country’s defense on its toes.

Harned halted the Redmen’s scoring spree, and blasted a shot to the back of the cage to bring the halftime score to 7-3.

Middle Country’s Kyle Stemke races downfield and winds up to fire a shot at the cage in the Mad Dogs’ 8-5 nonleague victory over East Islip Saturday. Photo by Bill Landon
Middle Country’s Kyle Stemke races downfield and winds up to fire a shot at the cage in the Mad Dogs’ 8-5 nonleague victory over East Islip Saturday. Photo by Bill Landon

East Islip found the cage late in the third to trim the deficit to three, and Middle Country failed to find the cage until halfway through the final quarter when Stemke moved down the right sideline, crossed to midfield and scored his second goal of the game to double East Islip’s score to lead 8-4.

East Islip tallied one more goal with three minutes left to play, and despite Middle Country being a man down off a penalty with 2:45 left to play, the Mad Dogs defense stood its ground.

“We stepped it up on offense and then our goalie made a big defensive stop at the end of the game,” Emerson saidå.

With the nonleague win, Middle Country ended its five-game losing streak and improved to 3-5 overall, while maintaining a 2-4 League I record.

The Mad Dogs will host Lindenhurst next, on Wednesday, at 7 p.m., where the team looks to continue its success to move up in the league ranking.

“The key to the game was us getting out to a 4-0 lead in the first quarter,” Canevari said. “Even though they came back, we gave ourselves a sizable margin that we could work with. I just focused on getting possession at the X; we haven’t been doing that lately — to get possession, get the ball to our attacker’s sticks to win the game.”

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Comsewogue’s David Nodeland takes a cut in the Warriors’ 9-4 victory at Sayville Thursday, to win the series 2-3. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

These Warriors are still the superior League VI team.

Despite giving up a 1-0 lead to trail 4-1 in the fifth inning, the Comsewogue baseball team put together an eight-run rally in the top of the seventh to claim a 9-4 victory over Sayville Thursday and take the series by winning two of out three games.

Dan Colasanto crossed the plate first courtesy of Mike Stiles’ stand-up double to take an early lead, but both teams struggled to bring runners home over the next three innings.

Comsewogue pitcher Dan Colasanto hurls a pitch from the mound in the Warriors’ 9-4 comeback win over Sayville Thursday. Photo by Bill Landon
Comsewogue pitcher Dan Colasanto hurls a pitch from the mound in the Warriors’ 9-4 comeback win over Sayville Thursday. Photo by Bill Landon

“We were all scrappy in the beginning — we had a couple of errors, a couple of bad plays,” Stiles said. “[We just needed] to get a couple of hits, a couple of walks together, and that’s just what we did in that last inning.”

Sayville’s bats came alive in the bottom of the fifth with a four-run rally to take its first lead of the game, which stood until the final inning.

Comsewogue head coach Mike Bonura told his team it’s just a three-run deficit, and to keep their composure.

“Let’s have some quality at bats,” he said to his athletes. “It’s just three runs. We just got to get to first base.”

Despite the deficit, Colasanto went back to work in the sixth inning and retired three in a row.

“We just had to keep our heads in the game and I knew my job was to throw strikes,” Colasanto said. “I knew if I could keep it in the strike zone we’d have a chance, because I have a great field behind me.”

Bonura was pleased with his player’s efforts.

“Dan didn’t get rattled after he gave up three runs in the fifth,” Bonura said. “He just stayed the course and didn’t let anyone’s mistakes in the field effect the way he pitched, and everyone feeds off of that. Dan’s been with me four years — he had a great game, he’s a senior captain who’s a team leader.”

In the top of the seventh, Comsewogue’s Vin Velazquez chopped an infield hit that fell into no man’s land to get him to first in time to load the bases with no outs.

James Mimnaugh followed with single that drove home Ryan Szalay to cut the deficit to two, and teammate John Braun smacked the ball into shallow right field for a two-run hit that drove in Robert Dattoma and Jake Sardinia, to even the score at 4-4.

David Nodeland helped the Warriors claim the lead after Braun and Sardinia crossed the plate off of his deep hit, to give his team a 6-4 advantage.

Comsewogue’s Ryan Szalay makes a grab at the warning track in the Warriors 9-4 comeback win over Sayville Thursday. Photo by Bill Landon
Comsewogue’s Ryan Szalay makes a grab at the warning track in the Warriors 9-4 comeback win over Sayville Thursday. Photo by Bill Landon

“We all just stayed in it,” Nodeland said. “Everyone stayed alive on the bench and kept it going. Once the hits started coming they just kept rolling, so it was a nice little rally we had.”

Trying to stop the Warriors in their tracks, Sayville made its fourth pitching change of the game, but to no avail.

Colasanto ripped one deep for a stand-up double, driving in Nodeland, and after scoring a run earlier in the inning, Szalay helped Colasanto earn a run of his own with a short fly ball in the gap,

With a full count against him, Velazquez drew a walk with the bases loaded for the final run of the game and the 9-4 win.

“[We didn’t want to do] anything big, just make sure you get on base, and that’s what we did,” Braun said.

On Sayville’s last at-bat, Bonura said Colasanto wanted to close the game out, but was pulled after his pitch count reached 100, to prevent the risk of injury.

Szalay took the mound in place of Colasanto, and finished the job his teammate started,

With the win, Comsewogue improves to 8-1 atop the League VI leaderboard. The team will travel to Westhampton Beach on Tuesday to take on the No. 2 Hurricanes, at 7-2 in the standings, at 4 p.m.

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Smithtown East’s varsity kickline team poses for a group photo after winning its second consecutive national championship title. Photo from Smithtown Central School District
Jackie Gallery placed sixth in the 3,000-meter run. Photo from the Smithtown Central School District
Jackie Gallery placed sixth in the 3,000-meter run. Photo from the Smithtown Central School District

East kickline team is national champion, again
Once again the Smithtown East varsity kickline team came away victorious at the Contest of Champions National Competition in Orlando, Fla.

Under the direction of head coach Sarahbeth Cook, the team won first place in the Small High Kick, third place in the Extra Small Contemporary and fourth place in Extra Small Jazz. The team was also awarded an Outstanding Choreography Award in High Kick.

Senior Christina Montesano was awarded for placing in the top 10 in the Junior Soloists category as well. This is the 16th time that the Whisperettes were named national champions.

East track and field stars place at states

Dan Claxton took second in the high jump at the state championship. Photo from the Smithtown Central School District
Dan Claxton took second in the high jump at the state championship. Photo from the Smithtown Central School District

Smithtown High School East winter track and field competitors Dan Claxton and Jackie Gallery impressed at the New York State Championships held at Cornell University.

Claxton, the Smithtown East record-holder for the high jump, placed second in the state with a leap of 6 feet, 8 inches.

Gallery, a sophomore, placed sixth in the state in the 3,000-meter run with a time of 10 minutes, 10.08 seconds, improving upon her previous school record.

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Ward Melville’s freshmen ice hockey team poses for a group photo after winning its second consecutive Suffolk County title. Photo from Billy Williams

The Ward Melville freshman ice hockey team capped off an undefeated season by winning the Suffolk County  Hockey League championship on March 3- with a win over Sachem.

The team finished the season with a record of 31-0, and has not lost a game in two years, with a record of 62-0.

This is back-to-back titles for the freshman team that had a dominant lineup led by Matthew Crasa, who was named the most valuable player of the playoffs, and sniper Jason Ruszkowski.

The team was led by head coach Mark Devlin, and assistant coaches Frank Catalina, Bobby Gazura and George Rainer.

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Smithtown West’s Jimmy Caddigan makes a diving shot outside the crease in the Bulls’ 17-0 win over Deer Park. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

After a sluggish first quarter, the Smithtown West boys’ lacrosse team shook off the cobwebs and went on a scoring frenzy, shutting out Deer Park 17-0 on their home turf, to keep the Bulls atop the League II leaderboard at 6-0.

Scoring two goals in the first quarter, Smithtown West junior midfielder Dan Caroussos was on fire for his team, and scored his hat trick goal off an assist from junior attack Joe Zara with 7:14 left to play in the first half, to bring the sore to 5-0.

From there, it was a Bulls scoring clinic.

Smithtown West’s Danny Caroussos receives a pass in traffic. Photo by  Bill Landon
Smithtown West’s Danny Caroussos receives a pass in traffic. Photo by Bill Landon

Freshman attack Kyle Zawadzki banked two goals, and Zara, sophomore midfielder Danny Riley and senior attack R.J. Ehli tacked on a goal apiece to end the second quarter leading 9-0.

Smithtown West head coach Bob Moltisanti said his team lacked focus when opportunity came knocking in the first quarter.

“We had our chances to score, but a dropped pass or a feed that was a little bit off or deflected by a stick and then we missed the cage,” he said. “We did a much better job in the second quarter. The kids did a nice job — they’re aggressive and they’re playing fundamentally sound defense.”

Caroussos was absent in the second half, after playing the first with a heavy heart. Just a day before he was to celebrate his birthday, he instead suffered the passing of his grandfather. He left the game at halftime to attend the wake.

Just seconds into the third quarter, Zawadzki found the cage to join Caroussos with a hat trick, to edge ahead 10-0.

The freshman attack continued to pick up where Caroussos left off, and found the cage a fourth and fifth time, to close out the third quarter leading by a score of 15-0.

From there, Moltisanti rotated his bench players to give the non-starters some playing time.

Junior midfielder Danny Varello owned the faceoff, winning almost all attempts at the “X,” which put the Deer Park defense to work.

“Danny’s faceoff performance has been tremendous this season,” Moltisanti said.
Zawadzki added that early in the game his team made mistakes, but made the proper adjustment to come away with the dominant win.

Smithtown West’s R.J. Ehli cuts outside past a Deer Park defender, maintains possession and heads toward the cage in the Bulls’ 17-0 win Tuesday. Photo by  Bill Landon
Smithtown West’s R.J. Ehli cuts outside past a Deer Park defender, maintains possession and heads toward the cage in the Bulls’ 17-0 win Tuesday. Photo by Bill Landon

“We telegraphed our passes early in the game, but we got better reads and better feeds.” Zawadzki said. “Coach told us after the first quarter that we’d better pick it up because we’re not looking good.”

The Bulls held the ball for most of the fourth, and scored two goals while running out the clock, to bring the final score to 17-0.

According to Varello, teams like Deer Park, who have yet to find their first win, are always teams to be wary of.

“They may not be on the leaderboard, but they’ve got athletes and you’ve got to expect a team like that is going to hit you,” Varello said. “So against a team as athletic as they are, I know I’m going in with the mind-set that I can’t miss any faceoffs because if I do, we’re going to lose it.”

Moltisanti said his Bulls’ real test will be on Thursday, when they square off against Half Hollow Hills East on the road for a battle of two undefeated teams.

The opening faceoff is scheduled for 5 p.m.

Smithtown West is atop the leaderboard with crosstown rivals Smithtown East at 6-0, while Half Hollow Hills East and West Islip are also undefeated at 5-0 and 4-0, respectively.

Harborfields’ Mikayla Bergin reaches over an East Islip defender and rockets the ball toward the cage in the Tornadoes’ 14-13 win Tuesday. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Down 3-0 five minutes into the game, the Harborfields girls’ lacrosse team may have been down but not out, battling back to edge out host East Islip 14-13 Tuesday to continue a four-game winning streak.

“They left everything out on the field and as a coach, win or lose, when your girls play with heart and pride and never give up, that’s the greatest moment,” Harborfields head coach Kerri McGinty said. “You’re always going to have lulls in a game, but it’s about perseverance, being resilient and coming out on top.”

With 18:07 left to play in the first half, after junior midfielder and attack Angela Deren intercepted a pass, she sent the ball to junior attack Caitlin Schaefer, who dumped it in up high in front of the net for the Tornadoes’ first point.

Harborfields began winning possession of the ground balls off the draw, and four minutes after her first goal, Schaefer came through with another goal off a pass after a foul call to pull within one, 3-2.

Harborfields’ Caitlin Schaefer, who finished the game with six goals, scoops up a ground ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Harborfields’ Caitlin Schaefer, who finished the game with six goals, scoops up a ground ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

After two East Islip goals, the Tornadoes answered with two of their own to pull within a goal again, and after winning the next draw, junior midfielder Ella Simkins pushed her way up to the front of the net and sent a straight shot to the back of the cage. Her goal tied the game 5-5 with 5:49 left in the half, but a minute later, East Islip countered to maintain the lead.

“We really worked as a team today,” Simkins said. “Every game we play, we play with so much heart. It’s amazing to see everyone get each other’s back. Even if they score a goal we’re back and scoring even more.”

And Simkins did.

The junior midfielder opened the scoring of the second half with another goal to yet again tie the game, and Schaefer scored her hat trick goal on the next play less than a minute later off an assist from senior midfielder, attack and co-captain Nicole Bifulco, to give the Tornadoes their first lead of the game, 7-6.

“We knew we had to prepare for this game and the last few practices it’s been all about preparing for East Islip and it was so awesome as a coach to see everything we practiced come to fruition,” McGinty said. “You get down, but you have to stay up and that’s something we talk about in practice.”

The teams continued to trade the lead until sophomore midfielder Falyn Dwyer scooped up a ground ball and rushed to an open front of the net and, from the right side, knocked it into the opposite corner for a 13-11 advantage with 6:42 left to play.

East Islip countered at 5:20, and after possession flip-flopped to both sides of the field, Bifulco netted a goal of her own before East Islip again made it a one-goal game.

Harborfields’ Nicole Bifulco maintains possession of the ball with two East Islip players at her hip. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Harborfields’ Nicole Bifulco maintains possession of the ball with two East Islip players at her hip. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The Tornadoes’ defense held it down with a minute left, and with two ticks on the clock, the team forced a turnover to seal the deal.

“It’s such an adrenaline rush; my heart’s beating out of my chest — to storm the field with everybody is amazing,” Schaefer said following the win. “Our hard work paid off, and it’s important for us to stick together as a family and keep our effort and consistency up.”

McGinty said she always believes that her team will come through in the end.

“I think my defense did a hell of a job,” she said. “Defense really never gets the recognition attack gets, but coming down to the draw controls, the doubles, that last few minutes holding them off. Every single component on the field came together.”

Schaefer finished with six goals, Simkins tallied two goals and three assists and Deren tacked on a goal and three assists to lead Harborfields in points.

With the win, the Tornadoes improve to 5-1 in Division II and look to extend their winning streak when they travel to Westhampton on Thursday at 4 p.m.

“No game is ever perfect, you can always get better,” McGinty said. “You can always improve, so we go into the rest of the schedule, it’s pretty tough, but we hope we can keep rolling with the wins.”

Nikki Ortega grabs the ball off the draw and crosses into Ward Melville’s zone. Photo by Desirée Keegan

These Mad Dogs are showing their teeth.

In a dogfight between two of the top teams in Division I Monday, visiting Ward Melville dominated the beginning of the first half, edging ahead to a 4-1 lead, but the Middle Country girls’ lacrosse team found its groove and bounced back to prove why it’s undefeated.

With the 17-12 comeback win, the Mad Dogs improved to 6-0 to remain in sole possession of first place, while the Patriots dropped to 4-2.

“We have a big week ahead of us so to get one out of the way is a good feeling,” Middle Country head coach Lindsay Dolson said. “We kept our calm. We knew that we could score. We had a bunch of pipes in the first couple of minutes so that took a little wind out of our sails, but they did a great job coming back.”

Amanda Masullo races toward the cage for Middle Country. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Amanda Masullo races toward the cage for Middle Country. Photo by Desirée Keegan

After Ward Melville jumped out to a 3-0 lead, Middle Country senior midfielder and attack Nikki Ortega scored off a foul for the team’s first point with 15:21 left in the first half.

The Patriots tacked on another goal before Ortega’s younger sister, Jamie, a sophomore midfielder, netted back-to-back goals to pull within one, 4-3.

“We knew that we were down, but we always tell each other not to freak out; to talk to each other,” Jamie Ortega said. “I was frustrated because I knew we were the better team, so us down got me motivated.”

The teams traded goals, and after being down 5-4, Middle Country tied it up 5-5 with 4:39 left until the halftime break.

With the offensive sides strong on both ends of the field, the two teams traded another goal apiece to bring the score to 6-6 at the end of the first, and continued to trade goals until the game was tied 9-9.
From there, the Mad Dogs raced ahead to a 14-9 lead before Ward Melville senior attack Alex Vignona scored from 10 yards out, and followed her showing with an assist, as she passed the ball to sophomore attack Kaitlin Thornton who scored overhead in front of the net to close the gap to 14-11.

Jamie Ortega netted one next, taking the ball all the way up the field and, from the right side, crossing the ball in front of the net and into the left corner with 4:08 remaining in the game. Middle Country scored again, and Ward Melville sophomore midfielder Madison Hobbes scored her team’s final point before Nikki Ortega passed the ball to eighth-grade defender Sophie Alois off a shooting space foul with 16 seconds on the clock, for the final goal of the game.

Jamie Ortega maintains possession of the ball with a Ward Melville defender on her back. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Jamie Ortega maintains possession of the ball with a Ward Melville defender on her back. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“We knew this was our time, this was our game and we had to step it up, and that’s what we did,” Middle Country junior defender Jordynn Aiello said. “I knew stepping on this field today we were going to come out with this win no matter what. One thing I love about my team is that we stay calm under pressure; we don’t break.”

While the team ran into trouble winning possession off the draw and the defense struggled with the slides, defenders, like Aiello, forced some crucial turnovers.

Vignona, Nemirov, Thornton, Hobbes and junior attack Holly Regan scored two goals apiece for the Patriots, while sophomore midfielder Hannah Hobbes and senior midfielder Cat Smith rounded out the scoring with a goal each.

“I never thought we’d get this far and I knew that they were going to give us a hard game,” Jamie Ortega said of Ward Melville. “I knew that if we came back and played how we usually play we’d end up on top.”

The sophomore midfielder led the Mad Dogs with six goals while her older sister Nikki finished with four.  Sophomore midfielder Amanda Masullo tacked on three goals, while her twin sister Rachel, Alois, senior midfielder Allison DiPaola and sophomore attack Ava Barry added a goal apiece.

“She did a great job,” Dolson said of Jamie Ortega. “I spoke to her before the game and I said ‘Jamie, I feel it. You’re going to have a day today.’ And she did.”

Ortega said her team works well to pass each other the ball and stay connected, and Aiello said Middle Country’s ability to work together should take them far.

“There are no individuals on this field, it’s a team, and everybody has a job on this team and we get it done,” she said.  “I have a lot of faith in my team, I believe in us and I believe that if we continue to work on enhancing and perfecting our game, we’ll be unstoppable.”

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Port Jefferson’s Corey Carnahan makes a catch at the plate before firing the ball to second base for a pickoff attempt in the Royals’ eighth inning, 6-5 loss to Southold Monday. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Fresh off their three-game sweep of Greenport last week, the Port Jefferson baseball team, at 6-0 in League IX, looked to keep their winning ways when they hosted Southold (5-1) Monday afternoon.

The Royals struck first and led by four runs before Southold rallied late to tie the game at 5-5 and force an extra inning. Southold scored the go-ahead run in the top of the eighth, and the team’s defense held it down to win 6-5 and hand Port Jefferson its first loss of the season.

Port Jefferson’s Kristopher Cheslock fields a throw from catcher Corey Carnahan in the Royals’ 6-5 extra-inning loss to Southold Monday. Photo by Bill Landon
Port Jefferson’s Kristopher Cheslock fields a throw from catcher Corey Carnahan in the Royals’ 6-5 extra-inning loss to Southold Monday. Photo by Bill Landon

“We stayed in the game,” Kluender said. “We had a couple of errors, but we got over those. They have a couple of guys who can hit the ball and they can field the plays.”

With the game only a few pitches old, play was stopped as the trainers examined Royals starting pitcher Benjamin Kluender. With a back strain, he remained in the game only to take a line drive to his foot in the next inning. Hobbling around the mound, Kluender shook it off and got back to the business at hand and retired the side.

Port Jefferson senior James Murphy crossed the plate first on a Southold error at the bottom of the inning, for the first run of the game.

“We both came in with the mentality that we’d fight to the end, and that’s what happened,” Murphy said. “We expected them to be tough. We played well and everyone did their part.”

Southold drove in a run in the top of the second to tie the game with the go-ahead runner on first. On the next pitch, Southold’s base runner took off to steal second, as senior catcher Corey Carnahan threw a bullet to the second baseman for the pickoff play, retiring the side.

“Southold is certainly a strong team in this league — they played a very clean baseball game today,” Port Jefferson head coach Jesse Rosen said. “They were pretty much what I expected in terms of their talent level.”

Port Jefferson sophomore Ryan Walsh punched a line drive to right field to load the bases in the bottom of the third, and sophomore Sean Griffin showed patience at the plate as he drew the walk. His RBI brought home Matthew Keresztes for the lead, and Kluender smacked a sacrifice fly to right field to give his team a 3-1 advantage, leaving runners on second and third.

With two outs, sophomore Kristopher Cheslock battled at the plate, looking to keep the inning alive. He ripped one deep to left center that almost went out, but both runners were able to run home standing up for a two-run double. With the scores, the Royals broke out to a 5-1 lead.

“I thought we hit the ball pretty well today and we had strong pitching and good cuts at the ball,” Cheslock said. “But I thought we could’ve cleaned up our infield today.”

Port Jefferson pitcher Benjamin Kluender, who threw all seven regular innings, hurls the ball from the mound in the Royals’ first loss of the season, an extra-inning 6-5 loss to Southold at home, Monday. Photo by Bill Landon
Port Jefferson pitcher Benjamin Kluender, who threw all seven regular innings, hurls the ball from the mound in the Royals’ first loss of the season, an extra-inning 6-5 loss to Southold at home, Monday. Photo by Bill Landon

Southold answered back in the top of the fourth inning by driving in three runs to draw within one, 5-4, and on an overthrow to home plate, a Southold runner scored from third to tie the game at 5-5.

Port Jefferson followed with a missed opportunity at the plate with a runner in scoring position, and with the batter caught looking, the go-ahead run on second was stranded.

Rosen said Southold is the team’s strongest opponent in the league, and he thought his team could keep pace even though it was the first time the Royals have seen the Settlers this season.

“Moving forward, I think we can certainly hang with them,” he said.

Neither team threatened in the seventh to force an extra inning.

Port Jefferson relief pitcher Neil Alvarez, a lefty, took over at the mound, and Southold opened the inning with a deep hit to centerfield for a double. A sacrifice fly advanced the runner to third, who scored on another passed ball at the plate for a 6-5 advantage.

Still trailing by a run with two outs in the bottom of the eighth, the Royals had their backs against the wall. Kluender battled in the box, and was hit by a pitch. Stealing second base proved too risky, so Kluender didn’t venture far from the bag.

Port Jefferson’s final batter struck out and the Royals were handed their first loss of the season. Although Kluender was left stranded on base, his coach was impressed with his performance overall, and especially from the mound.

“He tweaked his back a little bit, he gets hit with a come-back and yet he’s willing to battle back and throw 88 pitches today,” Rosen aid. “Ben had an awesome performance today.”

Port Jefferson is now tied with Southold and Pierson/Bridgehampton for first place in the league at 6-1. The Royals will take to the diamond Wednesday on the road and finish up at home on Thursday with first pitches for both games slated for 4:30 p.m.

“Often you look at the immediacy of the game — winning or losing as to whether it’s a success or not,” Rosen said. “A loss in a close game isn’t the worst thing because you can learn from it.”

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