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Ryan Bray dives and shoots for Shoreham. Photo from Rob Bray

By Clayton Collier

Having the opportunity to participate in college athletics is a rare opportunity all its own. Having your pick of some of your sport’s best collegiate programs in the country? That’s a chance few athletes ever get.

Shoreham-Wading River’s Ryan Bray, who will attend Cornell University this fall, had such an opportunity, with nearly half of the lacrosse programs on this season’s Warrior Division I Men’s Lacrosse Top 20 Poll giving him looks.

“I’m really excited to start at such a prestigious school that has a great lacrosse program,” Bray said. “I chose Cornell because it’s a beautiful area and had everything I wanted in a college, and more.”

Shoreham's Ryan Bray races around a Mount Sinai defender in a previous contest. Photo from Rob Bray
Shoreham’s Ryan Bray races around a Mount Sinai defender in a previous contest. Photo from Rob Bray

His father, Rob, said his family is proud of his son’s accomplishment.

“As a parent, you never expect this from your kid,” he said. “But when it happens, it’s so surreal. It’s remarkable. He got himself into [Cornell] through his work ethic.”

The U.S. Lacrosse and Under Armour All-American attack saw interest from schools such as Georgetown University, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Maryland, Duke University, the University of Notre Dame and Yale University, among others.

Bray had initially verbally committed to Ohio State University as a sophomore, but once his SAT scores reached Ivy League standards, Bray reneged on the Buckeyes’ offer a year later in favor of the Big Red. Bray’s father said the situation was a “growing experience” for his son.

“It was a very stressful time for Ryan,” he said. “But it’s kind of a no-brainer when you go from an Ohio State to an Ivy League school, and he handled it as maturely as possible.”

Cornell head coach Matt Kerwick said his program goes through the recruiting process somewhat slower in comparison to other schools, as he tends to research athletes more in-depth to see who is right for his team.

Although Kerwick said Bray will have a great opportunity to get playing time early, nothing is guaranteed. The two-time All-County selectee will have to earn his minutes; nonetheless, Kerwick said he is pleased to have Bray aboard.

Ryan Bray will be trading in his Shoreham-Wading River Wildcats uniform when he heads to Cornell University this fall. Photo from Rob Bray
Ryan Bray will be trading in his Shoreham-Wading River Wildcats uniform when he heads to Cornell University this fall. Photo from Rob Bray

“We thought he was a heck of a player,” he said. “We liked the way he played, he fit with the way we do things here at Cornell in terms of his intensity level and the way he looks at the game.”

Bray credits much of his development to former Shoreham-Wading River lacrosse coach Tom Rotanz, who he said helped him immensely as an athlete. Rotanz, who Rob Bray described as a phenomenal coach, was at the helm during the 2012 Suffolk County Rookie of the Year’s freshman and sophomore seasons, bringing Bray up to varsity as a ninth grader.

“He just held me to extremely high expectations, which helped me develop,” Bray said. “He stressed teamwork a lot.”

Bray also said his current coach, Mike Taylor, was helpful in understanding different offenses, which he believes will benefit him at the NCAA level.

Bray’s final high school game was a 12-11 overtime loss to Sayville in the Suffolk County B semifinals. Although an upsetting way to end it, Bray said he can look back and appreciate his career as a Wildcat, as he moves on to the next stage of his career.

“It was a little depressing, coming to realization that an era had come to an end,” he said. “But it also made me realize how close-knit I was with the kids I’ve played lacrosse with for so long.”

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Paul Fick, center, poses for a group photo after the coin flip for the Major League Soccer game at Yankee Stadium. Photo from Liz Zarins

By Clayton Collier

Kings Park native Paul Fick has helped hundreds get “back in the game.”

This past Saturday, Fick had the opportunity to help 22 Major League Soccer soccer players get their game started with the coin flip at Yankee Stadium prior to the match between the New York City Football Club and the Montreal Impact.

Before a crowd of more than 27,000, Fick was selected for the honor by Coco Joy in recognition for his work with Back in the Game, an organization he co-founded that helps young cancer patients regain strength, balance, flexibility, and confidence in an effort to return the children to a condition where they can participate in sports and physical activities again.

“It’s really not about me at all,” he said. “I just have been the beneficiary of working with these children and getting to watch them progress through their treatment. It’s about the program; it’s not about one individual. I was the representative, but it was great to see Back in the Game get more awareness so we can help more kids throughout the area.”

Fick was also recently nominated as the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Man of the Year. Gilbert Salon, a volunteer for Back in the Game for the last five years, said the recognition is well-deserved.

“He’s been running that program for nearly 10 years,” he said. “His dedication, year after year, all the work he puts in, it’s really amazing.”

The program is run through Professional Physical Therapy in Garden City and is funded by the Miracle Foundation.

The idea for Back in the Game was started by Rob Panariello, a Professional Physical Therapy founding partner, and his friend Peter Menges. The inspiration for the program began when Menges’ son, Bobby, broke his leg on a relatively mild slope while skiing after doctors deemed him to be in remission from cancer. It wasn’t until after the fact that they realized that, while his son had responded to the treatment in getting rid of the cancer, his body had not fully recovered.

“His body wasn’t ready to go back to physical activities yet,” Fick said.

Paul Fick, a co-founder of Back in the Game, which helps pediatric cancer patients regain their strength, balance and flexibility, exercises with some of his young patients. Photo from Fick
Paul Fick, a co-founder of Back in the Game, which helps pediatric cancer patients regain their strength, balance and flexibility, exercises with some of his young patients.
Photo from Fick

Menges said at the time of his son’s injury, he realized that there needed to be a heightened focus on post-treatment life for children like Bobby.

“I think the disconnect was that the physicians were encouraged because the kids were responding favorably to the treatment and wasn’t that great, but what they weren’t seeing was a kid that used to participate in soccer or lacrosse or football, can’t even participate in gym class,” Menges said of his experiences following his son’s cancer treatment. “So yeah, they’re doing fine from a treatment standpoint, but they’re not doing well from a physical participation life standpoint.”

Menges said once the concept was organized, Fick was brought in to structure the program into what it is today.

“He was a real catalyst for taking the idea, figuring out how to make it work and bringing it to life,” he said.

To make the idea of Back in the Game a successful reality, the men presented the idea to Dr. Mark Weinblatt at Winthrop-University Hospital. Weinblatt’s endorsement was crucial to the program getting off the ground.

“Doctor Weinblatt was very supportive in recognizing the need for the program and referring the kids to us,” Fick said. “The trust that he had in Rob and myself enabled us to work with the kids. If we didn’t have that, it would have been very difficult.”

Nine years later, Weinblatt said the program is a terrific success.

“A lot of our patients, who really had a lot of difficulty in getting back to their usual routine, found it an immense help, not just in sports but in feeling good about themselves in day-to-day activities,” he said. “Walking around, going up stairs; the things we take for granted have been helped a lot by the program. They really do a terrific job with our patients.”

Through their work with the Miracle Foundation, the services provided by Back in the Game come at no cost to the families of the children recovering from cancer.

Though Fick doesn’t like to take any credit, Menges said the program, like Saturday’s game at Yankee Stadium, couldn’t have occurred without Fick getting things started.

“Paul has embraced the concept and program from the beginning, and transformed it from an idea into a highly organized and professional program,” he said. “He is great with the kids and parents, and has continuously worked to grow and improve the program. His dedication and passion is incredible.”

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Jim Smoot tees off for Huntington last fall. Photo by Mike Connell

Tyler Gerbavsits has used his summer vacation to sharpen his golf play. Already one of the best young players on the links in Suffolk County, the Huntington sophomore is gearing up and looking ready for the fall season with the Blue Devils.

Gerbavsits is a member of a talented group of Huntington golfers. At the Long Island Golf Association’s Junior Championship at the Garden City Country Club, the athlete was joined by teammate and state tournament qualifier Jim Smoot. The duo both posted first-round scores of eight over par 78, with Gerbavsits finishing second in the boys’ division, which was based on one day’s play.

The twin rounds of 78 qualified the two Huntington stars for the junior division match play championship the following day. Finishing tied for seventh in the standings, Gerbavsits and Smoot drew each other in the first round of match play.

The pair battled it out through the front nine, with Gerbavsits being one-up after four holes and then Smoot turning it around and taking a two-up lead after seven holes. However, Gerbavsits won the eighth and ninth holes, bringing the match to even after the first nine holes.

The back nine was, again, a battle. Gerbavsits took a one-up lead after 11, but Smoot again responded by bringing it back to all-square after the 12th hole. Smoot took a one-up lead after the 13th hole. Gerbavsits won the 15th, bringing the match back to all even.

Both Huntington golfers made par on 16 before Smoot won the 17th hole with a par on the par-three, giving him the advantage with a one-up lead going to the 18th hole. With both of them making par on the final hole, Smoot won the match one-up, posting a score of 77 to Gerbavsits’ 78.

At the Long Island Amateur Championship, hosted by the LIGA at Southward Ho Country Club in Bay Shore, Gerbavsits was among 141 players competing for 31 qualifying spots on the first day.

With plenty on the line, Gerbavsits posted a round of one-under par 70, one of the lowest scores of any qualifier. The cut was made at 74.

The Huntington sophomore recorded an eagle on the par four 15th hole, where he holed out from 130 yards with a nine iron. Gerbavsits also tallied four birdies, eight pars and five bogeys over the round. Match play for the 32 participants followed later in the week, with Gerbavsits facing Cold Spring Harbor graduate Steven Tanen, a college senior and a member of McDaniel College’s golf team. Gerbavsits lost on the 17th hole after a great match, shooting a 75 to Tanen’s 73.

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Back row: Chris Gordon, Jon Castellano, Mackenzie Gordon, Liam Stamm-Walsh, Matt De Libero, Kyle Cassidy, Stephen Lydon, Scotty Matovich, Derek Sager, Sean Gordon, Zach Restucci, Henry Amster and Fred Musumeci; front row: Nick Musumeci, Liam Gordon, Matt Peterson after winning the 18U Wood Bat Division championship. Missing from the team photo are Nick Pisano and Dan DaCastro. Photo from Chris Gordon

The Three Village Pirates 18U Wood Bat Division baseball team ended the regular season on a hot streak and used that momentum to best the No. 1-ranked team, Elite, 2-1, in the championship game on Aug. 10.

“I’m really proud of all of these guys,” co-coach Chris Gordon said. “This was a great season for our seniors to finish with before going off to college. Many have been playing together since they were 8 or 9 years old. They couldn’t have written a better ending to our season.”

After finishing the regular season 12-8, and ending on a three-game winning streak, the Pirates topped the Patchogue-Medford Raiders, 3-1, in the second round of playoffs after earning the first-round bye as the No. 2 seed.

In a tightly contested matchup, the Three Village team edged out the New York Nationals Central Select team, 2-1, to earn a spot in the championship game.

The Pirates had lost to Elite twice during the regular season, 5-4 and 6-1, and came into the matchup as the underdog, being a local team made up of 16- to 18-year-old Three Village athletes and one player from Port Jefferson Station, while Elite was a travel team made up of players from around the Island.

The Pirates’ No. 1 pitcher, Zach Restucci, had pitched just a few days earlier and was only able to give the team a couple of innings if needed, so the team elected to start Sean Gordon, who gave up just one run over 5 2/3 innings and struck out four while his strong pitching also led to nine ground-ball outs. Four of those groundouts went to shortstop Steven Lydon, four went to second baseman Liam Gordon and the final rolled back to the mound.

The team was also without one of its top players in Liam Stamm-Walsh, who had  foot surgery midway through the season but was on the sidelines of every playoff game in a walking boot to cheer on his team.

Neither team showed much offensively through the first three innings, and Elite threatened in the bottom of the fourth with two outs and the go-ahead run on second base.

With a high-flying ball coming his way, centerfielder Matt Peterson dove to catch what would have been a run scoring, extra-base hit, to end the inning and give the Pirates a much-needed momentum booster heading into the top of the fifth.

In that inning, Derek Sager hit a double and moved the third on a wild pitch. Sean Gordon hit a single up the middle, just out of the reach of the second baseman, to score Sager, and after the side was retired, Elite went down quietly in the bottom of the fifth, to leave the Pirates with the 1-0 lead.

The ball was flying again for Three Village in the top of the sixth, when Mackenzie Gordon lined a single to right field with one out and moved to second base when the pitcher threw a wild pick-off attempt to first base.

Up to bat next, Restucci hit a bouncer up the middle that the second baseman was unable to keep a hold of, and as the ball deflected off his glove into short center, Mackenzie Gordon hustled around third and scored the would-be game-winning run.

Elite rallied in the bottom of the sixth to load the bases and score a run after Sean Gordon struck out the first two batters. The Pirates brought out Restucci to end the threat, and a ground ball to Lydon ended the inning.

The Pirates went down one-two-three in the top of the seventh, and Restucci returned to the mound, striking out the final two batters he faced to earn the save.

“This was a great team win,”co- coach Fred Musumeci said. “The guys got on a roll to end the regular season and we kept that momentum right through the championship game. This is a great feeling to win against this team. It’s very sweet.”

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Kings Park's Liam Winwood makes his way around a defender in a previous game against Shoreham-Wading River. File photo by Desirée Keegan

By Alex Petroski

The 2015 season didn’t go as Kings Park boys’ lacrosse head coach J.M. Simpson would have wanted, as his team struggled to a 2-14 record, but a silver lining was the development of senior attack and team captain Liam Winwood, who will go on to play at the college level next year.

Winwood recorded 19 goals and 10 assists in his senior season, his third with the varsity team, including five goals and four assists in Kings Park’s two wins this season. He will be trading in the maroon and gold of the Kings Park Kingsmen for the red and blue of the Division II Florida Southern College Moccasins of the Sunshine State Conference.

“Liam is a gifted playmaker with a great knack for finding the open man in tight spots,” Florida Southern head coach Marty Ward said. “His stick work is excellent and as he continues to mature as a player, he will be a great addition to our program.”

Winwood agreed with his future coach’s assessment of his skills, and credited his playmaking ability and vision as his greatest assets.

Kings Park's Liam Winwood makes a pass. File photo by Desirée Keegan
Kings Park’s Liam Winwood makes a pass. File photo by Desirée Keegan

“I also rely on my high lacrosse IQ and my understanding of how my teammates interact with each other allows me to predict how everything goes down,” Winwood said. “I’m hoping in college I can continue to grow as a player by becoming stronger, faster, fine-tuning my skills and pushing myself to the limit every day.”

Kings Park will be losing a valuable member of their team next season, but its not just for his contributions on the field.

“Liam was a great leader for us all season,” Simpson said of his now former player, who received the academic scholar award following all three of his varsity seasons, for maintaining an average above 90 while playing a sport. “He was constantly putting guys in the right place and was an extension of the coaching staff.”

Winwood said he will miss Kings Park, and reflected on what his time there meant to him.

“I can’t believe it’s already over,” he said. “I’m going to miss my coaches, teammates and of course my two biggest and loudest fans in the stands, my parents.”

Family support is a big part of Winwood’s Kings Park lacrosse experience, and pointed to a family member as being one to look our for.

“Keep an eye out for Dylan Winwood next year,” he said, calling his brother a “straight playmaker.” Liam and Dylan’s older brother Andrew also played for the Kingsmen.

As Liam Winwood moves on to play at the next level, Simpson is eager to see what the future holds for his former captain.

“He really grew as a dodger and playmaker as the season progressed, which was a role he was not used to,” he said. “He should be a guy that goes on to do great things at the next level if he puts the work in. I am excited to watch him continue to grow as a player and a person.”

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Ward Melville fencers pose for a group photo. Photo from Jeff Salmon

By Clayton Collier

Ward Melville fencing, long-established as the powerhouse program of Long Island, is evidently a fast track to some of the nation’s best colleges as well.

Five members of the Patriots’ fencing programs will continue their playing careers at the collegiate level this fall.

Angela Zhang, Carly Weber-Levine, Michael Skolnick, Ilana Solomon and Michael Antipas will attend Cornell University, Stanford University, Vassar College, Columbia University and the University of Notre Dame, respectively, as members of their schools’ fencing programs.

Ward Melville head coach Jeff Salmon, who has brought the program to eight-straight undefeated seasons, County and Long Island Championships, said the five were the most he’s had recruited in an individual year since he started the program in 1999.

“Athletes come in waves and we happened to have a number of stars graduate this year,” he said. “But I am very proud of how the program has developed and extremely proud of the commitment we’ve seen from our athletes.”

Solomon, who will join the 2015 NCAA Champion Columbia fencing squad, said the winning culture of Ward Melville has prepared her for the challenge ahead, come this winter at Columbia.

“The fencing team provides a unique athletic experience, as it is an individual sport, but we need to win as a team,” said Solomon, a two-time All Long Island sabreuse. “This fosters great support from our peers on the fencing team who get to know how each athlete works under pressure, and the best way to help each individual person do the best she or he can in order to win as a team.”

Antipas, a two-time County Champion foiler, who sports a career 117-1 record, said Salmon, as well as his wife Jennie, who recently retired from coaching, have been instrumental in helping him reach this point.

“They’ve pushed me every step of the way, and made sure at practice I made myself better and gave me advice whenever I wanted it and needed it,” he said. “We have worked on technique together and strategies together and even mental toughness and sharpness.”

Saying goodbye to this bunch will be no easy task for Salmon or girl’s coach Alyssa Lombardi. In addition to Antipas and Solomon. Skolnick, Zhang and Weber-Levine also had plenty on their high-school résumés worth writing home about. Zhang, a foiler, sported a career 128-14 record — a program record — while picking up four First Team All-Long Island selections. Weber-Levine, a saber competitor, was 94-4 in her high school career, a two-time All-County selectee and a 2014 Division 1A National Champion. Skolnick, a foiler, described by Salmon as “clutch” and “strategic,” was All-County his senior year and sported a 27-25 record.

Moving forward without these five will be tough for Salmon, but he said there is still plenty of talent left to fill in the gaps.

“I have a few stars, but they’re younger — some of my best fencers aren’t even my seniors,” he said. “I wouldn’t call it a rebuilding year next year because we’re prepared, but we’re definitely young next year.”

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After placing at nationals, Port Jefferson residents Garrett Thibodeau and Sandi Woodhead earn spots on Team USA

Sandi Woodhead with her Smith Point teammates. Photo by Steven Sobel

By Clayton Collier

Smith Point lifeguards are known as some of the nation’s best. The beach has not had a drowning within the protected area since the beach officially opened in 1959.

Now two of their squad have a chance to prove they are among the best in the world, competing in the International Surf Rescue Challenge in Australia. Lifeguards Sandi Woodhead and Garrett Thibodeau, both Port Jefferson residents, will be among the competitors representing Team USA at the games in September.

“It means everything,” Thibodeau said. “I’m so honored to be able to represent the United States and compete against the best competitors in the world.”

Garrett Thibodeau, of Port Jefferson, will compete for Team USA in the international lifeguard games. Photo by Steven Sobel
Garrett Thibodeau, of Port Jefferson, will compete for Team USA in the international lifeguard games. Photo by Steven Sobel

Both Woodhead and Thibodeau will compete in the beach sprint, taplin relay, rescue race and beach flags events. The pair qualified for the international contest after participating on Smith Point’s team in the 2015 Nautica/Brown and Brown USLA National Lifeguard Championships in Daytona Beach, Fla., this past weekend.

Smith Point, an eight-time national champion, finished second at the national games for small beaches. Individually, Woodhead finished second in beach flags, while Thibodeau came in fifth. Woodhead also came in first place in the landline rescue event.

She was pleased with how she finished.

“I would have liked to have done better, because I always challenge myself,” Woodhead said. “But I am happy with how I performed and I am definitely proud of how well my team did.”

Their coach and longtime teammate, Mike Barrows, said the Port Jefferson pair both performed well but he expects an even better performance from Thibodeau in the future.

“Garrett was a bit disappointed in his performance,” he said. “However, he did not rest [before] USLA nationals and trained right through it. With proper rest, I’m
assured he could have won a national beach flags title. They will both be ready and race really well in Australia.”

Making it to nationals is no easy task. Woodhead said that out of the 98 lifeguards employed at Smith Point, about two dozen are chosen for the competition. Each morning, the lifeguards must run a 5K in soft sand and perform workouts when they are off the tower.

Sandi Woodhead, of Port Jefferson, will compete for Team USA in the international lifeguard games. Photo by Steven Sobel
Sandi Woodhead, of Port Jefferson, will compete for Team USA in the international lifeguard games. Photo by Steven Sobel

“If you show that you are excelling in these workouts, the captains and chiefs will take notice, and bring you if they believe you will do well on a national level against thousands of other ocean lifeguards,” Woodhead said.

Thibodeau, who is in his 13th year competing, said he has noticed an increase in attention to the games. The beach flags finals occurred at 8 p.m. under floodlights before a large crowd and was streamed live online. Thibodeau said the growing interest helps to pump him up before his events.

“While I always take my events seriously, knowing that there’s going to be more people watching heightens the energy level, and I feed off of that,” he said. “Imagine playing any sport in an empty stadium compared to a packed stadium with fans cheering. The level of play is going to rise.”

Open and Youth National teams coordinator Skip Prosser said the growing attention to the sport is the result of the hard work and effort of a number of people.

“Any excitement or progression in the level of popularity of the sport is surely the work of all those who have ever been involved, specifically those individuals who have worked for many years on the promotion of the sport and continue to do so, without any official USLA title,” he said. “It is with great hope that when my appointment ends, that I can look back and say that I made a difference.”

As a result of the increased interest, Thibodeau has noticed a higher level of competition at the events. As he heads off to Australia with Team USA next month, however, he said the international games have always been a monster all their own.

“You don’t have the luxury of warming up and getting into your groove,” he said. “You’re going against the best from the very first run. You need to be on point out of the gate, or you could be out.”

Northport's Austin Henningsen fights for possession at the “X.” file photo

One of Long Island’s top face-off specialists is headed to the University of Maryland this fall.

Austin Henningsen, a recent Northport grad, was stellar at his midfield position all four years of high school, winning 70 percent of his face-offs across that span, according to head coach George Searing.

Searing said the talent his now former player possesses is something he saw from a young age.

“We looked at him in seventh grade because I like to take a look at the young kids in our program,” Searing said, adding that coaches in the middle school told him how good a face-off player Henningsen was, that the summer after his eighth grade year he was asked to join the team for a competition. ”We were in a highly competitive summer tournament and I thought it would be a good experience for him to come with us and see what he was capable of. It was national tournament and he did really good.”

He did so well that other coaches even approached Searing after the tournament to ask questions about his soon-to-be new addition.

“A lot of the coaches asked me what school he was going to next year, and I had to tell them he was only in eighth grade,” he said, laughing. “I think that was a great experience for him and it really showed what capabilities he had.”

He made the varsity team his freshman year, and Searing said Henningsen worked tirelessly to continue to improve his skills, both with his team and with a private face-off specialist. As a result of his training and dedication to honing his skills, the Tigers star continued to rise to the occasion as the competition grew tougher each season.

Austin Henningsen breaks away with the ball for Northport. File photo by Kevin Freheit
Austin Henningsen breaks away with the ball for Northport. File photo by Kevin Freheit

“He does a great job preparing for each lacrosse season and every year he got better,” the head coach said. “He’s an excellent leader for the kids, no matter what his skill level was, but then certainly, his on-field performance in terms of his desire to succeed and how he persevered from injury and continued to work hard just set the bar for everyone else on the team.”

In Henningsen’s first season with the Tigers, the team went 11-7 after falling to No. 1-seeded West Islip in the Suffolk County Class A quarterfinals. His sophomore year, the team took it a step further, and went 15-3 after losing to Smithtown West in the semifinals. The Tigers had a more difficult season in 2014, going 9-9, but made it back to the quarterfinal game, where the team lost to Smithtown East.

According to Searing, Henningsen’s junior year was his best in terms of statistics. The former player won 77 percent of his face-offs, scored 11 goals and three assists, and picked up 240 ground balls. But the head coach thought Henningsen was especially tremendous for the Tigers this past season, where the team made it back to the Class A semifinals, but fell to Ward Melville, 11-10, after going 17-1 up to that game.

“He was a very important player for us this past season,” Searing said of Henningsen, who won 75 percent of his face-offs and tacked on 14 goals and 10 assists while scooping up 184 ground balls. “I think the thing that he learned here at our program is how he has to commit himself and how hard he has to work. His work ethic is tremendous and that’s one of the reasons he is so successful when lacrosse season comes around.”

His commitment to the game earned him national recognition from high-level colleges and universities, but Henningsen ultimately chose to play lacrosse at the University of Maryland.

“I think the thing that really separates him from a lot of people is that he is very driven to succeed, but you wouldn’t know it from his demeanor when you see him off the field — he’s very low key, very humble,” Searing said. “He’s very well-prepared athletically and mentally to get into the season and he’s going to find it to be very challenging at the next level once he gets to college, but I think with the work ethic he acquired, it’s going to allow him to succeed at the next level.”

Maryland put together one of its best seasons in program history in 2015, when head coach John Tillman led the team to a Terrapin single-season record 15 victories and a berth in the NCAA national title game. The team featured the top-ranked scoring defense, and five players earned All-American honors.

Henningsen will be working under Tillman, who joined the program in 2010 after three years at Harvard University and 12 seasons as the top assistant at Navy. The university’s head coach captured his first Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of the Year honor by leading the Terrapins to the 2014 ACC regular season championship and the program’s third Final Four appearance in four seasons.

An All-American this year, just one out of nine in Suffolk County to receive the honor, Henningsen joins a strong Maryland program that his old coach is looking forward to seeing him succeed with.

“He’s been a tremendous player,” Searing said. “He’s been very coachable and a great role model for the younger guys. He’s exactly what you want to see in a student-athlete. I’m looking forward to watching him play once he gets to Maryland and am very confident he will be successful at the next level.”

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Danny Bullis stops in his tracks to maneuver around an opponent and go to goal for Mount Sinai. File photo by Bill Landon

After playing his freshman year at St. Anthony’s, Danny Bullis transferred back to Mount Sinai, and he and his team couldn’t be happier with his decision.

Harold Drumm, the Mount Sinai boys’ lacrosse head coach, first saw the now college-bound attackman when he was in sixth grade, playing on a club team.

“We knew he was going to be a special player,” he said. “He was really good and you could see it even at that age. He just really understood the game and we were excited for him to come on up.”

Drumm would have pulled Bullis up to the varsity level when he was a freshman, but the attack decided to try out St. Anthony’s and upon transferring back to Mount Sinai his sophomore year, made the varsity team.

“He was the quarterback of the offense for the last three years,” Drumm said. “This year he really came into his own and became the talented and determined player that we knew he could become.”

The team went 8-8 his first year on the team, where Bullis scored 21 goals and added 27 assists. In his junior year, the Mustangs went 9-6 and the attack tallied 22 goals and 39 assists.

“We haven’t really had a player like Danny since I’ve been the head coach here,” Drumm said. “We had a couple of really good players in the past when you needed a goal or an assist or were waiting for something to happen, but we never had a player of his caliber to give the ball and to create something.”

Danny Bullis celebrates the Suffolk County win with his Mount Sinai teammates. File photo by Bill Landon
Danny Bullis celebrates the Suffolk County win with his Mount Sinai teammates. File photo by Bill Landon

Bullis excelled his senior year, exceeding his sophomore and junior marks by scoring 45 goals and 37 assists.

His second-to-last goal of this past
season was the most important one of his career.

With 3:41 left in the Suffolk County Class B title game, in front of a large crowd at Stony Brook University’s LaValle Stadium, Bullis scored the game-winning goal to help the Mustangs edge out Sayville, 8-7.

“I can’t even describe the feeling.” Bullis said of scoring the final goal of the game. “It was one of the best feelings I’ve ever had.”

Bullis scored two goals and added two assists in the Mustangs’ first county-title win in years.

“He was definitely very dedicated and worked hard,” Drumm said of Bullis. “He had the lacrosse ability and he worked real hard in the weight room this last off-season, got a lot stronger, and that made a big difference for him his senior year. I wish I had a Danny ever year.”

The attack is now St. Joseph’s University-bound, and Taylor Wray, the men’s head coach, is thrilled to welcome his new player to the team.

“He’s a huge addition to our team,” the head coach said. “He’s got a terrific skill set, he has an old-school attackman — two-handed, great vision, speed, he’s a feed first kind of player, and he can do a little bit of everything. He can turn the corner and score, shoot the ball pretty well from the outside and he’s a very well-rounded player.”

Wray is hoping that Bullis can compete for time right away and said he believes he has all the tools to do so.

“We are expecting big things from him over the course of his career,” he said. “From a program standpoint, to have a player of Danny’s caliber and skill set on attack, and to have a character guy who puts the team first, is something that gives you a major piece to work with for many years.”

Although initially a baseball player, it seems that switching to lacrosse was another move in the right direction for Bullis, who was unanimously voted an All-American and the Attackman of the Year for Division II.

“It’s one of my greatest accomplishments,” Bullis said of the All-American nod. “Not as great as the county title, though,” he added, laughing.

According to Drumm, St. Joseph’s is a budding lacrosse program that he thinks is a perfect fit for Bullis. For the player’s mother, Janine, she’s just excited to see how far her son has come in the sport.

“The older he got the more he practiced and the more he strived to become the player that he is,” she said. “I’m so proud of how far he’s come. It’s something that I never expected. I don’t even have the words to describe how exciting it is as a parent to watch the progress of not only Danny, but the entire team.”

Bullis said he plans to take a lot of what Drumm taught him with him to college, and he’s hoping it will make him successful at the next level.

“Coach Drumm is one of my favorite coaches,” he said. “Training with him throughout the last few years has made me not only a lot better of a player, but a better person. He taught me hard work will outwork talent when talent’s not working hard, and I’m never going to give up.”

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Maria Raheel, instructor at LISUP, strikes a pose on the board. Photos by Michael Chinnici

By Lisa Steuer

While surfing on Long Island is not extremely common, stand up paddleboarding is more popular than ever in the warmer months — and the good news is that you don’t need to be experienced to get started.

Long Island SUP is just one of the local companies with introductory classes featuring certified instructors, rentals, tours and even fitness classes on the paddleboard. In operation for the last 10 years, LISUP offers paddle boarding on Fire Island and in Smithtown and Patchogue.

Owner and instructor Joe Funaro was a surfer and a life guard, and also does windsurfing and kitesurfing — so getting into paddle boarding was a natural progression for him, he said.

“Surfing on Long Island is very difficult because the weather conditions have to be perfect to surf – it has to be a north wind at low tide,” said Funaro. “Stand up paddleboard surfing, because there is a paddle, enables you to surf smaller waves.”

At LISUP, first-timers typically start with the introduction to stand up paddle boarding class before coming back to rent boards and venture out on their own. In addition, like many other paddleboarding companies, LISUP also offers yoga/paddle fitness classes. More and more yogis are taking their practice to the paddleboard and the water because it creates more instability, making your core work harder.

“We call it yoga fusion because we are fusing both disciplines… so there are a lot of Pilates moves in it, there’s a lot of yoga in it, and then there’s core strength,” said Funaro.

Paddleboarding itself is not too difficult to learn – it’s harder to understand the wind direction, said Funaro. On the North Shore, for example, the wind is pushing you away from the beach toward Connecticut, while on the South Shore, the wind is pushing you in toward shore.

And while injuries are not too common, it’s important to be aware of your environment when paddleboarding and to look out for boats. If a boat creates a wake, “that wake is similar to somebody running through a stop sign; you’re not expecting that,” he said.

Plus, another way to ensure a safer paddleboarding experience is to simply go to a place like LISUP that has certified instructors and areas they already use for paddle boarding, rather than attempting to go out by yourself. “We have our locations to rent the boards because those areas we know best as far as what’s under the water,” he said.

The popularity of paddleboarding continues to grow, and there are also more long-distance races popping up, said Funaro, who has done a race around Manhattan. He has also paddled to Connecticut and Fire Island among others, and also offers paddling tours to those places as well, in addition to sunset paddling.

LISUP offers paddle boarding until October. For more information, visit

Get on board
In addition to LISUP, here are a few more local stand up paddleboard companies:

  • Step Into Liquid Stand Up Paddle Board Long Island: Cold Spring Harbor. Contact: 516-302-6852.
  • Epic Paddle Boarding: Various locations. More information:
  • Huntington Stand Up Paddle Board: Huntington Harbor. More information: