By Jim Ferchland
The Eagles are soaring all the way to nationals.
Rocky Point’s cheerleading squad once again came out on top, with a 92.5 Division II Medium first-place finish at West Babylon Jan. 27. The Eagles were ahead of No. 2 Northport (77) and No. 3 Newfield (66.5). Head coach Anna Spallina said that competition is practice for nationals, where Rocky Point will be seeking its fourth national title.
“When we won nationals in the past, we were beating teams by 20 plus points,” Spallina said. “We’re in a good place.”
Rocky Point keeps its standards high. Spallina, in her 14th year at the helm, has taken her team to the top of the Orlando scoresheet in 2011, 2012 and 2015. In the last two years, the Eagles finished second and third, respectively.
“It’s so much pressure,” Spallina said of maintaining the team’s ranking. “To climb to the top, I can tell you, is not as hard as staying at the top. Staying on top, no one wants you to take first place anymore. I don’t blame them.”
The Eagles had 16 girls perform on the mat, and even with some starters out to illness, assistant coach Arianna Scanlon said the girls performed well.
“The girls came through,” she said. “They did their performance well even though they weren’t feeling their best, and that’s just the expectation. They know that the team’s counting on them and they’re dedicated enough. That’s part of the reason why we’re so good.”
Before awards were announced, senior Julieanna Joy said she was confident her team would take first.
“I think we were pretty confident,” she said. “We knew that if we just hit our routine, we would end up on top.”
Junior Samantha Ferrara, who has been on the cheer team since seventh grade, is the only cheerleader on the current roster who has won a national title. She got pulled up to varsity after a teammate quit right before this season’s first competition.
“I want to give a boost to my team,” she said, “so they can feel what I felt a few years ago.”
Joy pointed to the coaching staff as a reason why the team’s been so successful.
“They push us to do our best and keep us relaxed,” she said. “They are always pushing us.”
Scanlon said that she is tough on the girls, knowing the standard having won five national championships with Hofstra University. To help the team perform to its level of difficult with percision, the Eagles practiced their routine over 100 times a year.
“This program is at the same level as a college program,” Scanlon said. “Spallina runs this program just as hard Hofstra cheerleading runs their program. We’re tough, and the kids know that.”
Mount Sinai continues to rock the top spot in Division I Large after requesting to compete outside of Division II, with no other challengers in that section. The Mustangs finished with a 91.05 ahead of No. 2 West Babylon (84.9) and No. 3 Sachem North (83.8).
Mount Sinai head coach Kara Bochicchio said it took a lot of preparation for the Mustangs to get where they’re at.
“We started open gyms back in April — we’ve been preparing for a while,” she said. “We’ve been working around the clock since. It’s been a long time coming.”
Mount Sinai senior captain Charlotte Fiordalisi competed in her first competition in over a month after she had surgery on her broken nose.
“I just want to thank all my coaches, my teammates and my doctors for being so understanding,” Fiordalisi said. “It’s unexplainable the joy I feel to be back out there with my team. I don’t really know what to say. I’m just so happy. It’s a fun day for me.”
Mount Sinai has one competition left on Long Island at Smithtown West Feb. 3.
The teams will compete at nationals Feb. 10 and 11 before returning home to take part in the Suffolk County championship at West Islip Feb. 24.
“The big goal is nationals,” Spallina said. “These girls want to claim the national title, and we’re excited about that.”