Sports

In the final stretch of the season, the Huntington girls’ track and field team enjoyed another sensational performance, winning numerous medals at the Suffolk Freshman Sophomore Championships at Longwood.

Betty Huitt throws shot put for Huntington. Photo by Mike Connell
Betty Huitt throws shot put for Huntington. Photo by Mike Connell

“It was a solid showing on a windy and cool evening,” Huntington head coach Shawn Anderson said. “It puts us in a positive position for next week.”

The Blue Devils followed by competing in the Section XI divisional championships on Tuesday, May 26, and today, May 28, at Northport.

At the Suffolk Freshman Sophomore Championships, Huntington tenth-grader Betty Huitt won the sophomore shot put title with a toss of 32-10.25 feet on her last attempt.

Jeannie Clerveaux finished 13th with a throw of 27-01.25 feet.

Nicole Abbondandelo finished first among all freshmen in the 3,000-meter run, crossing the line in a new personal best time of 10 minutes, 44 seconds.

“She ran very even splits, even in a tough headwind and chilly temps,” Anderson said.

Anna Gulizio enjoyed a big day.

She finished second in a field of 35 in the sophomore 400 dash in a time of 1:01.26. The teenager was also second out of 24 competitors in the sophomore triple jump, leaping 33 feet 6 inches on her final attempt.

Gulizio placed 10th out of 30 competitors in the sophomore long jump, cracking the 16-foot barrier by soaring 16-00.50. It marked a new personal best distance.

The top three steeplers in the county squared off this year, including Huntington’s Suzie Petryk, Ward Melville’s Molly Drearie and Miller Place’s Laura Nolan.

Anna Gulizio takes a big leap for Huntington track. Photo by Mike Connell
Anna Gulizio takes a big leap for Huntington track. Photo by Mike Connell

“It was a windy day and tight race and the three of them ran away from the competition,” Anderson said.
In the end, Petryk ran her own race and held off her opponents, dictating the pace from the starting gun and winning wire to wire in 7:02.21.

“It’s another confidence booster heading into next week’s divisional meet and state qualifier,” Anderson said.

In other action for the Blue Devils:

Alexis Pastorelli (5:12.40), Louise Koepele (5.27.81) and Niamh Condon (5:37) all hung tough in the windy conditions in the 1,500-meter. Pastorelli’s time placed her ninth overall out of 33 runners in the sophomore race.

With the wind at their back, Christina Reinersten (14.38 seconds) and Lianna Dechairo (14.70 seconds) both enjoyed fast races in the 100 dash, and Christina Reinersten (30.50 seconds), Gabriella DeLuca (30.92 seconds) and Lianna Dechairo (31.20 seconds) turned in strong performances to conclude their seasons on a high note in the 200 dash.

Betty Huitt (88 feet 8 inches) placed sixth overall, just two feet off her best in discus, and Jeannie Clerveaux threw 78 feet 5 inches.

The team of Pastorelli, Koepele, Condon and Abbondandelo ran strong, finishing in 10:26.40, which was good enough for third place in the 4-by-800 relay.

This year’s Class A playoff game looked a lot like last season’s semifinal matchup, as the Middle Country girls’ lacrosse team and West Islip remained tied nearing the end of regulation. However, this time the game went into overtime, but the result was still the same: West Islip came out on top.

“It’s a little bittersweet now that the seniors are gone and to end it like this,” Middle Country head coach Lindsay Dolson said. “We knew what we had to do, and unfortunately we came up a little bit short. They were the better team today.”

Last season, the Mad Dogs went 12-6 overall with a 10-4 mark in Division I, and lost to the Lions, 12-11, with one second left in regulation. This year, the girls improved those records to 18-1 and 14-0, but little did they know they’d be squaring off against the same Lions squad. This time around, the stakes were that much higher, as Middle Country was just one goal away from winning the school’s first Suffolk County title with minutes left in regulation.

“They’re a great group of kids,” Dolson said of her team. “I know they wouldn’t quit on us, and they fought until the bitter end.”

West Islip dominated the draw early and rattled off three unanswered goals in the first three minutes of play before Middle Country won its first draw, and converted that possession into points.

With 21:51 remaining, senior midfielder and attack Nikki Ortega dumped the ball in front off an assist from sophomore midfielder Rachel Masullo, but the Lions won the next possession and grabbed an offensive rebound for a goal and a 4-1 advantage.

West Islip tacked on another goal before sophomore midfielder Jamie Ortega scored to cut the deficit, 5-2.
Rachel Masullo’s twin sister Amanda, also a sophomore midfielder, scored next off a free position goal, and Nikki Ortega found the back of the net after receiving a backwards pass that caused some confusion in front of the net, to pull her team within one, 5-4.

With 7:12 remaining in the first half, Nikki Ortega passed the ball from the left goalside to sophomore attack Ava Barry, whose goal tied the game, 5-5.

Two minutes later, West Islip broke the tie, and the teams traded goals once more, with Nikki Ortega tallying her hat trick goal off a free position shot to tie the game. But, West Islip maintained the advantage, 7-6, heading into the halftime break.

Jamie Ortega scored two goals in the second half, while Rachel Masullo added another off an assist from Barry to tie the game 9-9 with 7:17 left to play, but neither team was able to score from there, forcing two three-minute overtime periods with no sudden-death victory.

Senior midfielder Christine Gironda won the first draw in overtime, which led to Jamie Ortega’s fourth goal of the game off another assist by Barry to give the Mad Dogs their first and only lead of the game.

With 20.8 seconds left in the first overtime session, West Islip scored to tie it up 10-10, and with 2:18 left in the second three-minute span, scored again, to take the lead, which it preserved despite several Middle Country attempts at an equalizer.

While the team looses six seniors to graduation — with Nikki Ortega, Gironda, and goalkeeper Ashley Miller being impactful players on the three sections of the field — the Mad Dogs will return a significant amount of its goal-scorers next season. They will look to continue the progression in the hopes of taking its postseason game another step further and claim the county title.

“It’s been great,” Dolson said of working with the departing seniors. “They work hard and they gave it everything that they’ve got. They’ll be tough to replace next year, but I’m positive that we’re going to come back the same strong Middle Country team.”

They waited nearly 365 days for this moment, and the redemption was sweet.

The Mount Sinai girls’ lacrosse team rattled off four unanswered goals in the first half en route to a 7-4 win over Bayport-Blue Point Tuesday to claim the Suffolk County Class C title.

After going undefeated at 14-0 in Division II last season, the girls made it to the same spot on the same Dowling College field and lost, 11-9, to the same Phantoms team.

This year, after that loss, and especially after falling to St. Anthony’s just weeks before the big game by one point, for their second loss in the last three seasons, the girls had a different mind-set.

“Since we never lost, a lot of our girls didn’t think it was possible for us to lose — losing opened a lot of the eyes of the younger girls,” senior attack and midfielder Kasey Mitchell said. “Our most important thing was to come back this year more confident than cocky.”

Still, Mitchell was not going to let her team fall to the Phantoms again.

“We couldn’t lose,” she said, laughing through her smile as she thought about the redemption win. “I was not leaving here if we lost; it wasn’t happening.”

Sophomore goalkeeper Hannah Van Middelem opened the first with a big stop before freshman attack Meaghan Tyrrell scored off an assist from Mitchell, for the team’s first goal with the game less than five minutes old.

Van Middelem came through with another save, and on the next scoring play, Tyrrell passed the ball from behind the net to senior midfielder and co-captain Sydney Pirreca, who charged her way up centerfield for the score and a 2-0 advantage.

“We used that motivation from losing last year — that hurt, that pain — and we used it for this game today, for sure,” Pirreca said. “From the start, I was saying that we had to come out fast, we had to come out strong … That scares any team, and that keeps our confidence up.”

Freshman attack Camryn Harloff was next to score for the Mustangs, and Mitchell followed with a free position shot past the keeper for a 4-0 lead.

Minutes later, Van Middelem made another save.

“I felt confident in net, and everyone else played great, so it helps with the confidence,” said the goalkeeper, who made five of her six saves in the first half. “Our defense played great today.”

With 1:42 left to play in the half, Bayport-Blue Point scored its first goal of the game, and with 9.7 seconds left, Van Middelem made another stop to keep the score 4-1 heading into the halftime break.

“We went 365 days and 360 degrees,” Mount Sinai head coach Al Bertolone said. “I left my heart out on this field last year and it’s been a long year. You have to get back here and you have to redeem yourself a little, and I thought they did a great job.”

The Mustangs opened the second by adding onto their advantage, when Pirreca passed the ball to junior midfielder Rebecca Lynch for the good goal.

The game then went scoreless for over 10 minutes, until senior co-captain Mary Ellen Carron broke the ice for the Mustangs when, after getting double-teamed behind the cage, the midfielder raced around the net and fired her shot straight into an empty net.

Mitchell followed with another free position goal into a still empty net, as the Phantoms pulled the goaltender out to midfield.

“Everything we’ve done the last 365 days was to get back here,” Mitchell said. “We had so many underclassmen step up and we changed a lot as a team. We’re not the same team as last year and that’s why the outcome was different.”

Despite a small letdown where the Phantoms tallied three unanswered goals to end the scoring for the game, the Mustangs had already built up a 7-1 advantage to seal the win.

Mount Sinai will travel to Adelphi University on Saturday to take on Cold Spring Harbor in the Long Island Championship game, at 2:30 p.m.

“This is definitely a confidence booster,” Pirreca said. “We have a lot of respect for the Nassau teams, but if we come out and play our game, we’re going to come out strong; just as we always do.”

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Max Neilsen hurls a pitch from the mound in a Ward Melville baseball game earlier this season. File photo by Bill Landon
Max Neilsen hurls a pitch from the mound in a Ward Melville baseball game earlier this season. File photo by Bill Landon
Max Neilsen hurls a pitch from the mound in a Ward Melville baseball game earlier this season. File photo by Bill Landon

After completing the regular season with a 19-2 overall record and 16-2 mark in League I play, the No. 2 Ward Melville baseball team is hoping to power past East Islip, to take on the winner of the Connetquot/Smithtown East series in the Suffolk County Class AA finals.

After bypassing the qualifying round, the Patriots, with the help of starting pitcher Joe Barbieri, edged out and shut out No. 6 East Islip, 1-0, in the first of a three-game series.

The team traveled to its opponent on Wednesday. Should Ward Melville lose, the team will host East Islip on Thursday, at home at 4 p.m.

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Comsewogue’s Dan Colasanto slides into third base ahead of the ball in the Warriors’ extra-inning 6-5 loss to Bayport-Blue Point on May 23, which forces a decisive game three in the Class A playoffs. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Having beaten No. 3 Bayport-Blue Point at home the day before, the No. 2-seeded Comsewogue baseball team looked to put the three-game series away on the road Saturday to advance to the Class A finals, but with the game tied 5-5 in extra innings, Bayport-Blue Point drove home the winning run in the bottom of the ninth to win the game 6-5 and force a decisive game three.

Comsewogue’s David Nodeland hurls a pitch from the mound in the Warriors’ playoff game loss to Bayport-Blue Point on May 23, which forces a game three in the Class A playoffs. Photo by Bill Landon
Comsewogue’s David Nodeland hurls a pitch from the mound in the Warriors’ playoff game loss to Bayport-Blue Point on May 23, which forces a game three in the Class A playoffs. Photo by Bill Landon

“We put ourselves in a situation where now we have to play a third game, but we’ve been resilient all year and we’ve got to stay positive,” Comsewogue head coach Mike Bonura said. “We’ve just got to play good baseball and I have all the confidence in the world in them.”

Comsewogue pitcher David Nodeland found himself in trouble in the top of the second inning when he loaded the bases with one out. The Phantoms’ next batter drew a walk, and put his team on the scoreboard, 1-0.

Nodeland struck the next batter out before Bayport-Blue Point lobbed the ball into shallow center field, which drove home a run for the 2-0 lead. The Warriors’ opponent finished the inning with a two-run RBI hit to right field to break out to a 4-0 advantage before Nodeland was able to stop the damage.

Picking up the bat for Comsewogue in the top of the third was Rob Dattoma, who homered deep over the left center fence to put the Warriors on the board.

That was all the team could muster though, and Nodeland, with runners on the corners, pitched his way out of a jam to keep the score 4-1 heading into the top of the fifth.

Senior third baseman Dan Colasanto’s bat spoke next with a base clearing, two-run RBI stand-up double, to help the Warriors draw within one run, 4-3. On a base hit to right field, Colasanto scored from second to tie the game, 4-4, and Jordan Lisco continued the rally when he cracked a deep shot to left field for an RBI-double. With an overthrown pass to second, Lisco was able to make his way to third base, where he would be left stranded.

“We just needed to hit with runners on base and make our plays on the field with no errors,” Lisco said. “The reason we lost today was because of errors, but we’ll come back Tuesday and we’ll win if we can play like we have all season.”

Comsewogue’s Rob Dattoma runs the bases after his home run in the top of the third inning, in the Warriors’ 6-5 loss to Bayport-Blue Point on May 23, which forces a game three in the Class A playoffs. Photo by Bill Landon
Comsewogue’s Rob Dattoma runs the bases after his home run in the top of the third inning, in the Warriors’ 6-5 loss to Bayport-Blue Point on May 23, which forces a game three in the Class A playoffs. Photo by Bill Landon

Comsewogue made a pitching change and Justin Virga took over at the mound to begin the bottom of the fifth, where Bayport-Blue Point made the Warriors suffer for it. A stand-up double and two base hits loaded the bases, and Virga walked the next batter to retie the game, at 5-5, but was able to pitch his way out of the inning without giving his opponent the go-ahead run.

Unable to manufacture any runs in the top of the next two innings, the Warriors were again in trouble in the bottom of the seventh when Bayport –Blue Point ripped a base hit to right field to put the winning run on first base with one out.

Comsewogue’s Matt Bohenck came in to pitch the rest of the way, and the next batter grounded the ball to infield, where John Braun was able to make the tag at second and turn the double play to retire the side.

With runners on first and second, the Warriors threatened in the top of the ninth when Colasanto knocked down a bunt and dove to the bag to load the bases.

Bayport was able to hold on though, as Comsewogue stranded all three runners as the game headed into extra innings.

Bayport-Blue Point led off the ninth with a ground ball up the middle for a base hit. The situation grew desperate as the Phantoms loaded the bases, and on the next pitch, a base hit drove in the winning run to put the game away, 6-5, and force a decisive third.

The Warriors will host the Phantoms on Tuesday, with the first pitch scheduled for 4 p.m.

“We let up,” Colasanto said. “We had a couple of walks and there’s really not much you can do about that. For Tuesday’s game, we can’t get too hyped because that’s when people get over anxious. We know we can beat them, so we just have to stay within ourselves.”

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Bulls will play Ward Melville in the Suffolk County Class A finals on Wednesday at Stony Brook University

Smithtown West’s Jarrod Wilkom moves the ball up the field while Smithtown East’s Connor Desimone defends. East topped its crosstown rival 17-11 in the Division I semifinals on May 22. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

The No. 2-seeded Smithtown East boys’ lacrosse team collided with No. 6 Smithtown West in a battle of the Bulls Division I semifinal playoff matchup Friday, and while West was able to close within two goals late in the third quarter, East outscored its crosstown rival to claim a 17-11 victory and move on to play in the Suffolk County Class A finals.

Smithtown West’s Garrett Brunsvold winds up to shoot in his team’s 17-11 Division I semifinals playoff loss to Smithtown East on May 22. Photo by Bill Landon
Smithtown West’s Garrett Brunsvold winds up to shoot in his team’s 17-11 Division I semifinals playoff loss to Smithtown East on May 22. Photo by Bill Landon

East scored the first four goals of the game with senior attack and co-captain Brian Willetts netting two, and junior attack Dan Rooney and sophomore midfielder Connor Desimone adding a goal apiece. Sophomore attack Sean Barry assisted in three out of four scores.

With his two goals and an assist later in the game, Willetts tallied his 311th career point to put his name in the Smithtown East record books as the top scorer in program history.

The senior attack said it wasn’t so much a personal achievement as it was a team record, adding that it wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for the teammates he’s had over the years, and the support from his family.

“I owe a lot to my parents — my mom getting me doctor appointments whenever I needed them,” Willetts said. “She’s the reason I stay off the sideline as far as injuries are concerned, and I really appreciate everything she does for me.”

Six minutes into the contest, West sophomore attack Jimmy Caddigan’s solo shot broke the ice to get his team on the scoreboard.

East sophomore attack Michael Latini answered back after grabbing a rebound off the pipes, and pushed the ball to the back of the cage wit 49 seconds left in the quarter, to help his team jump out to a 5-1 advantage.

Caddigan dished one off to junior midfielder Dan Caroussos, who drove the ball home two minutes into the second quarter, and after winning the ensuing face off, West’s junior midfielder Danny Varello took the ball from midfield all the way to the net, and with the good goal, helped his team close the gap, 5-3.

Both teams traded scores, with East’s Barry receiving a feed from Desimone, followed by West senior midfielder Jarrod Wilkom’s unassisted goal that split the pipes to bring the score to 6-4.

Smithtown East’s John Daniggelis shoots the ball while Smithtown West’s Zach Lamberti hoists his stick up to defend in the Division I semifinal game on May 22 where East topped it crosstown rival 17-11. Photo by Bill Landon
Smithtown East’s John Daniggelis shoots the ball while Smithtown West’s Zach Lamberti hoists his stick up to defend in the Division I semifinal game on May 22 where East topped it crosstown rival 17-11. Photo by Bill Landon

East continued to pepper the scoreboard with senior midfielder and co-captain John Daniggelis scoring twice, and Barry tallying another goal, to give East a 9-4 lead with 4:36 left to play in the second quarter.

East and West traded goals once more, to give the game a 10-5 halftime score.

“I feel like we moved the ball well today and we didn’t make too many stupid errors, and then we tightened it up on defense,” Barry said. “Coach told us to come out in the second half like the game was 0-0, and don’t let these guys get back in it.”

With the game slipping away, West took to the cage with three unanswered goals to open the scoring in the third. First, freshman attack Kyle Zawadzki’s shot found its mark, followed by Wilkom and sophomore midfielder Danny Riley, to trim the deficit to 10-8.

“I’m extremely proud of my players,” Smithtown West head coach Bob Moltisanti said. “I just told them that they have nothing to be ashamed of; they played their tails off. I told my seniors they can look themselves in the mirror and be proud of how they performed all season long.”

Unfazed by the scoring run, East retaliated with five unanswered goals of their own to bring the score to 15-8 heading into the final quarter.

“We know they’re a high-powered offense,” West’s Wilkom said. “We tried falling into a zone, but it wasn’t working for us in the first quarter, so we switched to man-to-man coverage in the second. We played well, but they got on some runs. It got away from us here and there, but we played well as a team.”

Desperate to stop the scoring frenzy, West leaned on Caroussos first, and then senior midfielder Garrett Brunsvold to make it a 15-10 game.

Smithtown East’s Dan Rooney elbows his opponent as he makes his way downfield in East’s 17-11 Division I semifinal playoff win over Smithtown West on May 22. Photo by Bill Landon
Smithtown East’s Dan Rooney elbows his opponent as he makes his way downfield in East’s 17-11 Division I semifinal playoff win over Smithtown West on May 22. Photo by Bill Landon

As the clock wound down, East hit the scoreboard twice more, while West’s final goal came from freshman attack Matt Miller off an assist from Caroussos.

“I thought we played pretty well, but they’re a great team,” Caddigan said of East. “They’re county champs two years in a row. They put up 17 on us. We put up 11, but it just wasn’t enough today.”

East head coach Jason Lambert said Smithtown West is also a great opponent that continues to get better, even with a younger roster.

“They graduated nine seniors last year and to make it this far is a testament to them and their coaching staff,” Lambert said. “We’re very fortunate. We’ve got a lot of kids who can move the ball around and they play unselfishly. We do a good job of sharing the wealth and we’ve done a good job at finishing all year long.”

East will face Ward Melville on Wednesday at Stony Brook University for the Suffolk County Class A title. The opening faceoff is scheduled for 5:30 p.m.

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Comsewogue goalkeeper Jake MacGregor scoops up the ball amid a scrum in the Warriors’ zone during Comsewogue’s 6-5 win at Hauppauge April 7. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Comsewogue boys’ lacrosse head coach Pete Mitchell had made the playoffs for 24 straight years.

Although that streak was broken this season, as the Warriors finished 7-8 in League III, Mitchell is proud to see how far his younger, less experienced squad has come, and is looking forward to what he sees as a promising future.

“This is the youngest team I’ve ever had, so I think we grew; I think we gained a lot of experience and I’ll have almost every person back next year,” he said. “Some of the kids started this season for the first time ever — I started a ninth-grader and four 10th-graders, so hopefully it’ll generate positive things next year.”

During regular season play, Comsewogue topped three of the teams that made the playoffs — Sayville, Eastport-South Manor and Mount Sinai. The Warriors also came within two goals of edging out Islip, and three goals of beating Harborfields and Miller Place. However, they lost to the seventh playoff team, top-seed Shoreham-Wading River.

What hurt the team, according to Mitchell, was the mid-season loss of senior faceoff specialist Zack Deutsch to injury. During the midfielder’s absence, the team lost three of its last six games.

Comsewogue's Trevor Kennedy squeezes between two Hauppauge players in a match on April 7. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Comsewogue’s Trevor Kennedy squeezes between two Hauppauge players in a match on April 7. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“Where we were beating teams at the beginning of the season, we were struggling because we weren’t winning any faceoffs,” the head coach said. “But I’ve got my young faceoff guy now, [Kevin Tiedemann], who has a lot of experience. He’s only a sophomore, and he’s working hard every day.”

Along with Deutsch, the Warriors will lose a handful of seniors next year, including midfielders Dan Creta and Chris Pedone, both of whom the coach said played well this season.

Other important players included junior goalkeeper Jake MacGregor, and junior defenders Matt Spahr and Steven Reed.

“Jake MacGregor, he’s one of the best kids out there; one of the best in the division, in my opinion, and he really had a great season for us,” Mitchell said. “Defensively, Matt Spahr and Steven Reed also really stood out.”

The Warriors will have plenty of senior leadership next year, something the head coach thinks was lacking this season. He’s hoping three returning seniors on offense, along with more returning seniors on defense, will help Comsewogue reach heights it couldn’t this season.

Mitchell will also look to sophomore lefty attack Will Snelders, who started on the team last season, to continue to extend his progression into his junior year. As a new addition to the team, Snelders scored 20 goals and added four assists. This time around, he recorded 23 goals and 10 assists.

“Will Snelders scored a lot of goals,” Mitchell said, “but teams figured out he was our go-to guy and locked him off most games, so next year as the kids start to get better — and they will because they’re a very hard-working group — we hope to be able to create other options.”

While the Warriors’ early exit this season left a bad taste in their mouths, Mitchell is ready to prepare for 2016.

“I think we’re getting bigger and stronger, and it will bring them to the next level,” Mitchell said. “It depends on how hard they want to work, but I think they’ll get there next year. The future is bright.”

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Middle Country's Jamie Ortega beats out the Sachem East goalkeeper for a goal. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

After not playing for a week and a half, the Middle Country girls’ lacrosse team showed no signs of cobwebs. After a bye week, the top-seeded team in Division I easily outscored Sachem East, 16-4, Tuesday.

Middle Country's Amanda Masullo shoots through Sachem East traffic. Photo by Bill Landon
Middle Country’s Amanda Masullo shoots through Sachem East traffic. Photo by Bill Landon

“Considering we haven’t played in a week and a half, we came out and played the best game we’ve played so far,” Amanda Masullo said. “We played two complete halves today. Sometimes we get tired in the second half, but today we just kept going.”

Middle Country took command of the game from the opening draw, and the Mad Dogs broke out to an 8-0 lead midway through the first half, with the Ortega sisters, Nikki and Jamie, leading the way with two goals each. Sophomores Amanda Masullo and her twin sister Rachel, Ava Barry and senior Alison DiPaola added a goal apiece.

Sachem East lit up the scoreboard for the first time at the 4:41 mark, but midfielder Jamie Ortega scored again two minutes later, for her hat trick goal.

By the halftime break, Middle Country had tacked on four more goals for a 12-1 advantage.

“With the bye week, we had to stay consistent,” senior goalkeeper Ashley Miller said. “We practiced at game level and at game speed, so we could handle whatever they threw at us today. We played well in the second half, we kept up our intensity and we stayed focused because it’s easy to sit back and relax, but we didn’t.”

The scoring fest continued in the second half when Barry served one to Nikki Ortega for her hat trick goal, to break out to a 13-1 advantage. Soon after, the senior struck again, this time off a feed from Rachel Masullo.

Alison DiPaola moves the ball up the field for Middle Country. Photo by Bill Landon
Alison DiPaola moves the ball up the field for Middle Country. Photo by Bill Landon

“We had a harder schedule towards the end [of the regular season], so the bye week really helped us, because we definitely needed a rest,” Nikki Ortega said.

Middle Country passed the ball crisply and cleanly as they circled the cage looking for an opening. Amanda Masullo found one, and passed to Jamie Ortega on the cut. She drilled home her shot to give her team a 15-1 advantage.

Sachem East still had some life left in them, and managed three unanswered goals in the last 10 minutes of the game. The clock continued to run uninterrupted, and Nikki Ortega drove home the last goal of the afternoon, to put the playoff win into the record books.

“I thought we did an awesome job on our draw control today and when you control the draw, you control the game,” Middle Country head coach Lindsay Dolson said. “Our defense did an outstanding job to hold that team to only four goals. “We’ll work hard, stay focused and watch film to get ready for Smithtown West.”

After crosstown rival and No. 5-seed Smithtown West topped No. 4 Smithtown East Tuesday, the Bulls will get a rematch to avenge a loss at the hands of Middle Country in the Mad Dogs’ last game of the regular season. The semifinal playoff match will take place Friday at Newfield, at 4 p.m.

“We’ll need to be mentally prepared for the next round and forget that we’re undefeated,” Nikki Ortega said. “This is the playoffs. There are no second chances, so our next game is our whole season and we can’t let up.”

The Tigers fought tooth and nail to top Sachem North, 14-12, on Tuesday afternoon.

Despite being down early, the Northport boys’ lacrosse team battled back to grind out another victory, to take a 16-0 win streak into the postseason, after going 11-0 in League I to earn the No. 1 seed.

“It’s very satisfying because the boys showed the traits they’ve had all season,” Northport head coach George Searing said of the win over Sachem. “They met some adversity, but the nice thing was that they didn’t fold. They persevered and they came back the way we were expecting them to.”

Northport scored an early goal, but Sachem countered a minute later, scored again, and didn’t trail thereafter until midway through the third quarter.

“It’s sort of been their trademark all year,” Searing said. “They don’t let this stuff bother them because they work real hard in practice and we prepare for situations, so it didn’t surprise me one bit that even though we got down and things were going against us, we still persevered and found a way to stick with the program, move forward and find a way to score those winning goals.”

Senior attack and co-captain Rocco Sutherland scored to tie the game at 2-2, and after two Sachem goals, one with 40 seconds left in the quarter, scored again with five ticks left on the clock to pull the team within one, 4-3.

Sachem pulled out to a 6-3 lead after Northport turned the ball over several times, and after a few key saves by senior goalkeeper and co-captain Scott Hatch, junior defender Finn Goonan recovered the ball at midfield and took it all the way for the score with 31 seconds left in the halftime, to close the gap 6-4.

The coaches pumped up their players in the huddle before they took to the field for the third time, shouting: “Take a look around you. I want to see people who are ready to go. Take it one play at a time. Focus. Who cares what they think is going to happen out there. We know what’s going to happen out there.”

Senior midfielder Nick Roros said something clicked for his team that the Tigers were able to pull it together.

“Our communication was weak in the beginning, but after halftime, we really communicated very well together and we understood what had to happen,” he said. “And we made it happen.”

Senior midfielder, faceoff specialist and co-captain Austin Henningsen also thought things changed for his team after halftime.

“We were down in the beginning, which was tough for us, but something really happened at halftime,” he said. “Coach got us fired up and we scored two goals in the first minute or minute and half, and we took off from there.”

Roros received a pass after a ground ball scoop up off the center draw, and rocketed a shot in at the 11:47 mark to pull his team within one goal, 6-5.

Two minutes later, senior attack Jake Carroll scored his second goal of the game while Sachem was a man down, to retie the game, 6-6.

After senior goalkeeper and co-captain Billy Kelly made a save in goal for the Tigers, Roros scored off an assist from sophomore Ryan Magnuson to give the Tigers their first lead since the first goal of the game.

Sachem tied the game and continued the pattern of last-second goals, scoring with nine seconds remaining in the third to pull ahead 8-7, but after Henningsen won the faceoff, senior attack Jack Sullivan answered with a buzzer-beater to tie the game, again.

Henningsen, who won 24 of 29 faceoffs, opened the fourth winning another, and faked a pass he took all the way to goal for the score and a 9-8 lead.

“I love throwing a fake pass, it’s a great play. I was running down off the faceoff, threw the fake pass to Roros and the guy fell for it, I kept going straight down and put it in the back of the net. But they have a great goalkeeper — he’s outstanding. I was even surprised it went in,” he said with a laugh.

Carroll and Magnuson connected for a goal for the second time in the game, this time to give the team its first advantage of the game, 10-8.

Kelly made another save, but Sachem grabbed the rebound and found the back of the net. The Tigers scored again, but Sachem countered with two goals to tie the game, 11-11.

Northport wouldn’t let Sachem take the lead again, and Henningsen won the ensuing faceoff and passed the ball to Roros in front for his hat trick goal.

“I think we all just realized that this could be our last game playing together,” Roros said. “We’ve all played together since we were little kids; we all love playing together and we didn’t want this to be our last time.”

Henningsen continued his dominating performance at midfield, leading to Sutherland’s third and fourth goal, as the Tigers pounced out in front, 14-11.

With 29 seconds left on the clock, Sachem gained possession after the ball rolled out of bounds, and scored with 11 seconds remaining in the game. Sachem called two timeouts in a row, but turned the ball over, and Northport held on for the 14-12 win.

“The biggest thing was Austin Henningsen on the faceoffs,” Searing said. “No matter what they did, we knew we would get the ball back, and that’s a very big confidence booster for a lot of our guys, because even if we make a mistake and we give up a goal, we know we’re going to get the ball back.”

Henningsen admits he started off a little shaky, but found his rhythm.

“They had some good defensive tactics on the faceoff today, but I figured it out toward the end,” he said of the team’s three-player lineup he was not accustomed to. “I knew what I was doing and I got comfortable with it, and kept winning. And the wing guys were phenomenal — boxing out so I could scoop it up.”

Searing continued to credit Henningsen, adding that because the team can continue to win possession after a score, as long as they don’t make too many mistakes and turn the ball over, teams don’t get on a scoring run against the Tigers, while, if Northport remains mistake-free, the team will continue to win faceoffs and score goals for runs of their own.

“He’s a very special player.” Searing said of Henningsen. “He’s got the heart of a lion and he was exhausted getting fouled and slashed, and he still persevered and sacrificed so the team could win this game.”

No. 1 Northport will host No. 4 Ward Melville at Veterans Park Friday at 4:15 p.m. in the Class A semifinal match, where the team hopes to keep its streak alive.

“We’re confident that we’re going to come out and play just the way we have been,” Searing said. “ It’s been a winning formula so far, so we’re hoping it can continue.”

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Eddie Munoz celebrates a goal. Photo by Clayton Collier

By Clayton Collier

With 13 goals in the first half, the No. 4-seeded Ward Melville boys’ lacrosse team made quick work of No. 5 Half Hollow Hills East in a 17-1 routing Tuesday in the Suffolk County Class A quarterfinals.

Ward Melville head coach Jay Negus stressed to his team the need for a full 48 minutes of quality play to best their opponent.

“I’m very, very happy with the team’s effort today,” he said. “All year long I’ve been on them to play four quarters of Ward Melville lacrosse together, and today was it. … We put it all together today and at the perfect time. This is a very dangerous team when we can do that.”

Hills East head coach Gordie Hodgson said the Patriots were in control of the game the whole way through.

“I thought Ward Melville dominated in every aspect of the game,” he said. “They dominated on the faceoff and counter possession, and we weren’t able to generate offense because of it.”

Dan Bucaro maintains possession with Half Hollow Hills East players racing to stop him. Photo by Clayton Collier
Dan Bucaro maintains possession with Half Hollow Hills East players racing to stop him. Photo by Clayton Collier

In retrospect, all the Patriots needed was a 10-minute stretch to put the game out of reach for the Thunderbirds.

Ward Melville senior attack Dan Bucaro notched the first goal of the afternoon with just over five minutes remaining in the first quarter, muscling past a pair of Hills East defenders to sneak one past Thunderbirds goaltender Jordan Eichholz on the left side of the net. The goal was Bucaro’s first of four on the day.

“I came out fast and ready to go — the team really got me going,” he said. “Everyone came together today.”

The Georgetown University-bound senior said his work isn’t done with Ward Melville, and his goal opened the floodgates for the Patriots, as they tacked on an additional eight goals over the next 10 minutes of play.

Sophomore midfielder Eddie Munoz, who was responsible for two of those eight goals, said Negus told the team at halftime that the kind of offensive output the Patriots had has always been possible for the team.

“He said this was one of our first games this year that we played a full half,” Munoz said of Negus’ message to the team, while up 13-1. “We started off slow this season, so he said it was the first time that we started a first half well, and told us to just keep going.”

Senior attack Billy McGinley had a trio of goals, while classmates and midfielders Jake McCulloch, James Kickel and John Burgdoerfer each scored twice as well.

The lone Thunderbirds goal came on a deflection from Ward Melville junior goaltender D.J. Kellerman.

“He had a goal,” Bucaro said, with a laugh. “He played great, really. He’s just got to keep it up.”

Kellerman made eight saves on the day.

The Patriots will head to Northport Friday for the semifinals, taking on the No. 1-seeded Tigers at 4:15 p.m. at Veterans Park. Ward Melville will enter the game with a chip on their collective shoulder. The last time the two teams matched up, Northport scored four goals in the final quarter to edge out the Patriots, 7-6. Bucaro said his team is hungry to get the win the second time around.

“I’m expecting a really tough game,” he said. “They’re a very good team. We’ve got to get payback; we’ve got to get angry and be ready to play.”

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