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All-American

Mount Sinai duo join Ward Melville, Northport standouts in Maryland for game of a lifetime

The Under Armour All-America senior team representing the North gather together during practice June 29. Photo from Meaghan Tyrrell

By Desirée Keegan

Although North fell to South in a 10-9 overtime thriller during the Under Armour All-America lacrosse game in Maryland June 30, featuring the country’s best high school seniors, recent Mount Sinai graduate Meaghan Tyrrell was just proud to have been a part of it.

Ward Melville midfielder Shannon Berry grabs the ball during the Under Armour All-America senior game June 30. Photo from Shannon Berry

“Being chosen to be part of the Under Armour game is such a huge honor because it’s the top 44 players in the country being chosen, which makes for a great game,” she said. “It was quality, competitive lacrosse, which is good to have before heading into college.”

According to Ward Melville senior Shannon Berry, another player selected for the game, the teams arrived in Baltimore Thursday, June 28, and the girls spent the first evening at the Under Armour headquarters, where they received all of their gear. The teams practiced twice on Friday before taking the field Saturday morning.

“It was crazy to talk to some of those girls over the weekend and reflect on our time as young lacrosse players, and to see how far our journey’s as lacrosse players have gone,” the Princeton University-bound
midfielder said. “All of my teammates were both incredible lacrosse players and great people. They were all extremely competitive, but also very friendly and kind.”

Tyrrell said working alongside former competition was part of what made the experience unique.

“It’s cool to get to know people that you’ve played against in school and travel lacrosse,” she said. “I think our team clicked practicing on both offense and defense.”

Tyrrell played with teammate Meaghan Scutaro, a defender headed to the University of Notre Dame, for the last time. She said it was the best way she could cap off her high school lacrosse career.

“I can’t think of any other way to say goodbye to high school lacrosse,” she said. “The game itself was so fun.”

The Syracuse University-bound attack scored twice, her second tying the game at 9-9, which is something she’d consistently done for her Mustangs girls lacrosse team across her career.

Recent Mount Sinai graduates Meaghan Tyrrell and Meaghan Scutaro, at center, with their families during a photo shoot. Photo from Meaghan Tyrrell

“It was a great feeling to be able to help the team,” she said. “We had an opportunity to go into overtime and be able to try and win.”

Berry totaled four ground balls and five clears, taking one shot on goal.

“The level of competition was certainly the highest I have played in so far in my career,” said Berry, who played at attack, midfield and defense during the game. “The entire experience was incredible. Under Armour and Corrigan Sports truly do an amazing job of honoring the senior athletes and giving them an unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

Ward Melville graduate Alex Mazzone was chosen to play in the boys game. The Georgetown University-bound defender was on the South team that toppled North 22-15.

“It was really awesome to have both a male and female to represent Ward Melville,” Berry said. “It was great knowing that both of us were there representing our community.”

Northport attack Emerson Cabrera said the athletes are treated like professionals. They’re given new sneakers, cleats, uniforms and sticks and are followed around by photographers all weekend. The game is also broadcast live, and the teams took part in a charity day, working with Harlem Lacrosse, which Cabrera said was rewarding.

Northport’s Emerson Cambrera, at center, with future teammates Hannah Mardiney and Sarah Reznick. Photo from Emerson Cabrera

She assisted on Bayport-Blue Point attack Courtney Weeks’ goal, who Cabrera said is a longtime friend of hers with whom she played club ball.

“Everyone wanted to contribute somehow to the score, I was lucky to get a dodging opportunity to create an open cut for Courtney,” she said. “This was really an experience like no other. Under Armour makes it so special for us. I’m very proud to have ended my high school career being an Under Armour All-American.”

Cabrera, along with many of her teammates from the all-star game, will continue to compete alongside one another at the collegiate level. She’ll be joining Long Beach goalkeeper Sarah Reznick and Notre Dame Prep attack Hannah Mardiney at the University of Florida in the fall where several other local alumnae currently play, like soon-to-be senior Sydney Pirreca (Mount Sinai) and sophomore Shannon Kavanagh (Smithtown East). Cabrera added that ending her high school career with this game wasn’t just an honor, but a dream come true.

“It’s been something I’ve wanted to be a part of since I was little,” she said. “All of us have played with or against each other over the years and many of us will be joining forces together in college, so it was easy for our team to mesh. The transition I’m sure will still be a little tough, but as long as we all work hard, I’m sure it’ll go well.”

Kerrin Maurer reflects on time playing for team Italy in World Cup

Kerrin Maurer competes in the World Cup for team Italy. Photo from Kerrin Maurer

A Setauket native is spreading her love of lacrosse across the globe.

Kerrin Maurer, a St. Anthony’s High School and Duke University graduate, arrived home from Guilford, England with a revived passion for her favorite pastime after playing for team Italy in its first Federation of International Lacrosse Rathbones World Cup appearance. Despite her competitive nature, she said she enjoyed her time teaching Italian children about the game more so than the actual tournament.

“Being able to play the sport I love while traveling and helping to grow the game was a unique opportunity,” she said. “We want to help Italy sustain the sport in the country for as long as possible.”

Kerrin Maurer earned a most valuable player nod following one of team Italy’s wins. Photo from Kerrin Maurer

When she did step onto the field, Maurer shined.

The midfielder earned Most Valuable Player honors twice during pool play, and concluded the World Cup tournament with 61 draw controls. The former Duke All-American tallied 21 goals and 20 assists for the second-most points in the tournament. In the eight games played, she caused three turnovers.

“She killed the draw,” team Italy head coach and University of Massachusetts women’s lacrosse head coach Angela McMahon said. “She was scoring a ton, setting up her teammates, communicating and being a leader. We don’t get a lot of practices so it was a work in progress and she helped the whole team improve. She really stepped up.”

Maurer performed especially well in an 18-17 win over Haudenosaunee. The teams battled back and forth, entering halftime tied 10-10, but Italy pulled through with an 18-17 victory. Maurer turned in three goals, four assists and eight draw controls to help spearhead the attack.

“I haven’t got to play in a while, so just playing again was a ton of fun,” Maurer said. “Every game was super competitive, which was awesome.”

The two-time All-American graduated from Duke in 2014 as the program’s leader in assists with 119. A three-time Tewaaraton Award nominee, an award given to the best collegiate player, Maurer graduated second in Duke history in career points with 280 and tied for fourth in career goals with 161, while finishing on a 47-game point scoring streak. She helped the Blue Devils to four NCAA quarterfinal appearances, and reached the semifinals in 2015 after topping Princeton University in the quarterfinals.

Since graduating with a degree in political science, she was named an assistant coach at Division I Mount Saint Mary’s University in Maryland, and this month, will begin a new venture as an assistant at Princeton. Maurer is currently completing her master’s degree in sports management, and said she was excited to also be able to hone her coaching skills during the FIL tournament.

“Learning the proper technique from successful coaches has helped me grow my love for the game and want to teach others the way I’ve been taught.”

—Kerrin Maurer

“I think seeing the game on an international level, seeing what everyone else is doing and the different systems is helpful,” she said. “You see these different strategies and plays and it’s good to learn and study.”

Her teammate Gabby Capuzzi from Pennsylvania, who is currently a coach at the United States Naval Academy, thought the team benefited from having coaches on its roster. She first met her Setauket friend during tryouts in Italy when she let her borrow a pair of her gloves.

“She’s a tough, hard-nosed Long Island player,” Capuzzi said. “She’s not selfish, she fed me most of my goals and she’s a team player, but she’ll take her looks. She’s a good heads-up player.”

Maurer said she’s thankful for her time spent playing lacrosse in Setauket at an early age. Because of the coaching and guidance she received, Maurer said she felt like she was able to bring a lot of skill over to Italy and the team.

“I think I’m really fortunate that Setauket is such a hotbed for lacrosse,” she said. “Feeding off a ton of knowledge within the area about lacrosse and the excitement around the game has helped fuel my passion along the way. Learning the proper technique from successful coaches has helped me grow my love for the game and want to teach others the way I’ve been taught.”

Team Italy wasn’t sure if it would even be able to compete in the FIL. There were concerns as to whether Italian Americans would be allowed to play for the team, and when the news broke they would be allowed, the midfielder couldn’t be happier.

“It was surreal,” she said of being a small-town girl playing on such a big stage. “When they did make the decision and I was chosen to play, it was a dream come true. It’s the highest level you can play at.”

Kerrin Maurer teaches native Italians in Italy. Photo from Kerrin Maurer

Italy finished 11th out of 25 teams. It was the only country making its first appearance to finish in the top half of the list, with other first-timers like Switzerland (19), Mexico (20), Sweden (21), China (22), Spain (23), Columbia (24) and Belgium (25) also making inaugural entrances.

“Coming in 11th, even though it may not sound like a big deal, was huge for us,” Maurer said. “We finished the highest out of any team making its debut ever in the tournament’s history. I think that in itself, and seeing the Italian citizens improve over the course of this process, that’s what it’s about for us.”

Her teammate agreed, adding that the changing atmosphere is current exciting for lacrosse.

“The most rewarding part of all of this is growing our sport to hopefully make a push for the Olympics in a few years,” Capuzzi said. “In January 2013 we were teaching 20-year-olds how to catch and throw who had never picked up a stick before. We’re usually working with youth at camps here in America and it’s exciting to get youth and club programs up and running in Italy. I think we sparked that.”

For now, Maurer is just focused on continuing to spread the love.

“We’re trying to keep it fresh,” she said. “We’re trying to get viewership up and spread it around the world. Everyone’s excited to learn the sport and it brings a renewed energy when I step out onto the field with them — remembering why you play the game.”

Stony Brook women's lacrosse head coach Joe Spallina rounds up his team. Photo from Stony Brook University athletics

Joe Spallina has done what many would deem impossible.

In six short years, the Mount Sinai resident and Stony Brook University women’s lacrosse coach has turned the university’s program from a U.S. Lacrosse Magazine RPI-ranked No. 62 team, into the No. 2 team in the country.

“He knows what he’s doing,” said Frankie Caridi, 2014 Stony Brook graduate and former goalkeeper for the Seawolves. “His coaching style, his philosophy and his ideas are allowing them to get to where he wants to bring that program.”

Stony Brook women’s lacrosse coach Joe Spallina talks plays with his Seawolves. Photo from Stony Brook University athletics

Caridi played under Spallina as a freshman at Adelphi University. He had the opportunity to make the move to Stony Brook and encouraged Caridi, now associate head coach for the Adelphi Panthers, to make the move with him during her playing career.

“He was a great coach straight from the beginning,” she said. “Just playing for him at Adelphi that one year was amazing. The fact that he believed in the few of us that went with him that we’d be able to change the program pretty quickly — he sold us.”

Caridi said she was not only sold on making the switch because of his vision of building a national championship caliber team, but because he was honest about what he was looking for from his players and what he thought they could be.

“He shot the truth,” she said. “He’s someone who is able to get the most out of you. He demands you to be the best you can be … every single day. I respected him so much as a coach, because he respects us as players.”

Her first conversation with him when being recruited to play for Adelphi was about if she wanted to win a national championship and be an All-American.

“He told me the opportunities that I had, and he let them play out,” she said. “I credit all of it to him.”

Caridi became one of the most prolific goalies in Stony Brook program history. Her .514 career save percentage is tops in the school’s record book, while her 5.91 goals-against average is the best among any goalie with at least 1,500 minutes played.

Stony Brook women’s lacrosse head coach Joe Spallina speaks with attack Kylie Ohlmiller. Photo from Stony Brook University athletics

The East Northport native won two America East championships and qualified for two NCAA tournaments, earning International Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association Third-Team All-American status in 2014. She was also named the Lacrosse Magazine and ILWomen.com Goalie of the Year, picked as the America East Defensive Player of the Year and nominee for the Tewaaraton Award, given to the most outstanding American lacrosse player.

Current Stony Brook attack and soon-to-be senior Kylie Ohlmiller also bought what Spallina was selling.

“He told me I could live out my dreams here,” she said. “He told me I could win a national championship in my time here, I’ll be the face of women’s lacrosse and on the cover of magazines. And it’s all happening now. He painted my dream in my head for me and has been making it all possible.”

She agreed with Caridi that he’s been able to shape the athletes to get the program to where it is today.

“I think if I were to go anywhere else, and a lot of my teammates would say the same thing, that we might not be the level of lacrosse players that we are or even the people that we are,” Ohlmiller said. “We want to give our fans — all the little girls who play lacrosse — the dream of coming to Division I lacrosse games and watching a good, Top 5 Division I program play and compete for a national championship.”

“He’s someone who is able to get the most out of you. He demands you to be the best you can be … every single day.”

— Frankie Caridi

The Islip resident said she wants to be a coach one day, and Spallina is the inspiration.

“He’s able to be stern and be authoritative, but at the same time he can throw a joke in there like he’s one of your best friends,” she said. “He’s able to make it fun, and that’s ultimately the reason we play. It’s to have fun and win.”

He and Ohlmiller were big proponents in recruiting her younger sister Taryn, who will be a sophomore in the upcoming school year. As the leading scorers on the team, the two are referred to by their head coach as a couple of the “big dogs” on the team. Kylie Ohlmiller’s 164 points shattered the previous Division I record of 148. Her 86 assists are also a new DI record. She was American East Offensive Player of the Year, was named a Tewaaraton finalist, also an IWLCA ILWomen Attacker of the Year. Her younger sister led all Division I freshmen and ranked seventh in the nation with 98 points last season. The attacker was named America East Rookie of the Year and an IWLCA All-American.

“Once you’re one of his big dogs he wants to be closer to you,” Taryn Ohlmiller said. “He does one-on-one workouts with us, he gets you out there early, doing shooting drills. He cares about you as an individual as much as he cares about the team.”

Stony Brook women’s lacrosse head coach Joe Spallina walks the sideline during a game. Photo from Stony Brook University athletics

The team-first mentality that the Ohlmillers and the Seawolves have bought into under Spallina, who is also the head coach of the Long Island Lizards, propelled Stony Brook to new heights in 2017, as the Seawolves went 20-2 and advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals – all new high-water marks in program history. The team broke Division I single-season records for assists (222) and points (576) in 2017 while leading the nation in scoring defense (7.27) and scoring margin (8.82).

For his leadership, in turning the program around and becoming the winningest coach in program history, Spallina has been named America East Coach of the Year in 2012, 2015, 2016 and 2017, and was named IWLCA Coach of the Year for the Mid-Atlantic Region following this season. He also garnered several coach of the year honors with the Lizards.

“He deserves all of the recognition — he deserves the world and so much more,” Kylie Ohlmiller said of her head coach. “Last year we were ranked second in the nation behind No. 1 undefeated University of Maryland, and that’s just in a couple of years — it takes decades for some coaches to do. He’s doing what a lot of coaches can’t or haven’t done, and it’s really cool to see. It’s insane how he’s flipped the culture of Stony Brook athletics.”

Ward Melville's 4x800-meter relay team placed third at New Balance Nationals June 18. Photo from Christy Radke

Ward Melville spring track and field head coach J.P. Dion sent a text to his 4×800-meter girls relay team the day of the national race: “Believe in yourself, like I believe in you.”

The girls had shaved 15 seconds off their time and bested a school record in the process at the state-qualifying meet a few weeks earlier. Despite a letdown, falling to sixth after going in as the No. 2 seed in the state meet, the Patriots believed and pushed themselves to the limit to reverse the drop in the standings with a third-place finish at the New Balance Nationals in North Carolina June 18. Placing in the Top 6 also earned them All-American status.

“They have that fire, and they harnessed it,” Dion said. “They’re more than willing to work, and there’s big things to come here at Ward Melville with these girls.”

Ward Melville’s 4×800-meter relay team of Allyson Gaedje, Samantha Sturgess, Elizabeth Radke and Samantha Rutt following the third-place finish at New Balance Nationals June 18. Photo from Christy Radke

The quartet of soon-to-be seniors Sam Rutt, Sam Sturgess and Allyson Gaedje and will-be sophomore Elizabeth Radke started the 2017 season like any other. The four had competed in both the 4×800 and 4×400 relay, outrunning the school record for the latter in 2016. As the weeks passed, the girls weren’t sure which race would be the focus come county and state championship-time. That is, until the school record-shattering 9 minute, 1.81 second finish at the state-qualifying meet at Warwick Valley High School.

The team needed to finish second or better to be able to compete in the state championship. With anchor Gaedje, or “Gator” as her teammates call her, racing to a hard-fought finish against a top-tier competitor in Shoreham-Wading River’s Katherine Lee, she knew it’d come down to the wire.

“I always race against her, so I knew it’d be difficult, but I just wanted to do my best,” she said.

In a photo finish, Lee beat out Gaedje for second place. Despite the loss, the girls celebrated their historic run. They were competing on a Saturday, and had finished the race in 9:16.61 that previous Tuesday, less than 4/10ths of a second off the state standard of 9:17, which was needed to qualify to compete in the state meet.

“That’s when we knew we had what it takes,” Radke said.

Her teammates agreed, especially after easily surpassing the 2011 school record of 9:10.56.

“We were hoping just to get the state standard — we thought the school record was almost untouchable,” Rutt said. “It was really emotional. We went to the tent to grab our stuff and Sam [Sturgess] and Gator were hugging each other on the track, and J.P. Dion called us over and asked us why we’re crying.”

That’s when the Patriots found out Shoreham-Wading River had been disqualified following a judgment call from one of the officials. Lee had changed lanes rounding a bend, instead of taking the straight path, which officials argued forced Gaedje to run a longer distance.

“I was perfectly fine not going to states because they ran their socks off,” Dion said. “They really performed well. Just the fight in that race was good enough for me as a coach.”

Ward Melville’s 4×800-meter relay team of Allyson Gaedje, Sam Rutt, Elizabeth Radke and Sam Sturgess were crowned All-Americans for finishing in the Top 6 at New Balance Nationals. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The girls’ race game wasn’t up to par come states, and they knew that after a big letdown, they needed to believe in themselves, like Dion said, in order to pull out an All-American finish.
“After we ran a 9:01, we realized it’s time to get serious, and we can do something other than just show up,” Sturgess said. “Competing in that atmosphere gets you serious.”

As the leadoff runner, Sturgess knew she needed to set the tone.

“I had to get us off to a good start,” she said. “I wanted to be in the Top 6 to get us that All-American status. That’s what we’ve been working on and working toward. We were motivated.”

She made her way to sixth before she handed the baton off to Radke, who said she has always had a problem controlling her anxiety heading into a race.

“I was freaking out,” she said, laughing while still showing that nervousness. “I kept telling myself ‘maintain and kick, maintain and kick.’ I didn’t want to get passed, because that gets me down, so I kept my spot, and ended up moving up a couple of spots before handing off to my teammate and hoping for the best.”

Rutt was next in line, who helped move the team to fourth before passing the baton to Gaedje.

“It was a little bit of a mind game, because we had to think to states and remember how bad we did and how we needed to pick it up,” Rutt said. “It’s cool to see what you can do when you put your mind to it. It’s so mental — how far you can push your body. The way Gator races, she’s so driven. I knew that as long as I got her in a good enough spot that’d be good enough for us.”

As she crossed the finish line, Gaedje said she couldn’t believe what her Patriots had done.

“My head was a little fuzzy,” she said, laughing. “I was a little tired, my legs were burning, and it took a little while to process, but my teammates came over and hugged me. I couldn’t believe it.”

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Daniel Claxton leaps over the high-jump bar for Smithtown East. Photo from Daniel Claxton

As Daniel Claxton looked around his room, his eyes locked on something he said means most to him: a “most outstanding athlete” award.

The honor, selected and handed out by the Suffolk County coaches, is given to an athlete who excels in the sport or possesses great sportsmanship.

Daniel Claxton and his father Bill pose for a photo with his Most Outstanding Athlete Award. Photo from Daniel Claxton
Daniel Claxton and his father Bill pose for a photo with his Most Outstanding Athlete Award. Photo from Daniel Claxton

The junior high jumper for Smithtown East first stepped foot on a track and field arena in seventh grade. Having an amazing day at a middle school meet in eighth grade, Claxton said his older brother William, who was on the varsity team, came up to him with a Bulls T-shirt.

“I told him I wasn’t on the high school team, but he told me his coach said I qualified to be on it, and wanted to give me the shirt as a ‘see you next year’ kind of thing,” Daniel Claxton said. “From that moment I thought to myself, ‘there’s no way I’m going to stop doing this.’”

When Daniel Claxton first started jumping, he reached 5’1’’ and, now, has reached a personal best of 6’10’’ and said he hopes to break the seven-foot barrier in the near future.

One of his most memorable moments of his high school career to date, though, was when he jumped 6’3’’ at the state meet qualifier as a freshman.

“Everything went perfect — I got it first try,” he said. “I heard my parents screaming for me and only one other kid ended up making that height. I got knocked out the next round, but my coach told me I still might make it to states. Everyone was sitting with me and I was shaking, and my coach, who is a foot-and-a-half shorter than me, kicked my backside and handed me my plaque. That was such a great day I’ll never forget.”

Earning All-State as a freshman, after coming in fifth place, was just the first of many accolades Claxton would garner. Each season, he’s earned All-League, All-Division, All-County and All-State nods. Each year, he’s improved his height as a result of rigorous training, despite head coach Kathie Borbet not needing to coach him.

Daniel Claxton stands atop the podium at the Eddy Games in Schenectady. Photo from Daniel Claxton
Daniel Claxton stands atop the podium at the Eddy Games in Schenectady. Photo from Daniel Claxton

We’re basically there for more moral and emotional support, because he’s such a natural athlete that when he came into varsity track he had perfect form,” she said, adding that she heard about Claxton early on from a middle school gym teacher. “He’s tremendously talented and has this great concentration.”

That focus and drive took him all the way to states again, his sophomore year, where he placed second. This season, he made it back to the finals, where he was able to avenge his loss to become a state champion.

“Ever since I knew I would be competing for this type of stuff, I’d say I’ve been taking the sport a lot more seriously,” he said. “I knew this year that I wanted it, and I needed it. My workouts were getting harder and the stakes were getting higher, and it felt great to finally win and show that not only did I deserve it because I was seeded first, but because of my work ethic and my passion for the sport.”

Since then, Claxton has also competed at the New Balance Nationals, where he garnered All-American honors.

What has helped Claxton improve his height has been his plyometric training with assistant coach Kurt Martraf.

Claxton said he does drills with three-foot, four-foot and five foot boxes, doing toe taps and step ups, and different types of vertical jumps with soft landings. Martraf said the training has been paying back dividends.

Daniel Claxton is all smiles with his state champion medals. Photo from Daniel Claxton
Daniel Claxton is all smiles with his state champion medals. Photo from Daniel Claxton

“He wouldn’t be where he is right now without those various plyometric exercises, and he’s willing to train and follow direction and take feedback and look at every aspect of his jump, and that’s another reason why he is where he is today,” he said. “He has great character. He has a good, positive attitude and he’s a well-liked athlete throughout his team.”

Which is something Claxton said he prides himself on.

“I always motivate athletes on my team to do better,” he said. “Even when I’m in other competitions … I always try to give advice. They may not take my advice, but I’m always willing to share it.”

It’s just because he loves the sport.

“Every meet I’ll go out there and realize that this sport is my life,” he said. “It’s sleeping, eating and breathing track and field ever since I was 12. I don’t know where I’d be without this sport. It means everything to me.”

And Borbet thinks he’s exactly where he needs to be.

“I’m just along for the ride and enjoying every moment of it,” she said. “He’s not out there to flaunt it — he’s a humble kid. If you’ve ever seen him jump it looks like he’s been doing this his whole life. Watching him jump is like seeing a work of art in progress.”

2016 Suffolk Sports Hall of Fame inductees Tom Combs, Chuck Downey and Rich Cimini pose for a photo at the induction announcement press conference. Photo by Alex Petroski

The Suffolk County Sports Hall of Fame announced on Wednesday that they will be inducting eight new members in 2016. The class includes Setauket resident Rich Cimini, the New York Jets beat reporter for ESPN; Commack resident Chuck Downey, the first Stony Brook University athlete to sign a professional sports contract; and Setauket resident Tom Combs, the athletic director at Patchogue-Medford High School and a standout football star for Smithtown, among others.

Television and radio host David Weiss introduced the inductees at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Hauppauge during the press conference.

“It’s an honor to be associated with such great inductees, great athletes and coaches,” Cimini said during the press conference after he was introduced. “I’m just a guy who got cut from his varsity baseball team by Bill Batewell. At least he’s a Hall of Famer, so I can say that I got cut by a Hall of Fame coach.”

Cimini graduated from Sachem High School in 1981. He has covered the Jets for Newsday, the Daily News and now ESPN during his long career as a reporter.

“It has been such a great ride that I have a fear that I’m going to wake up one day and realize it’s just been a dream, and that I actually have to go out and get a real job,” Cimini said.

Downey, who is currently a Battalion Chief for the FDNY, credited his parents for instilling values of hard work that led him to be successful in life. His father Raymond, who was also an FDNY firefighter, was killed in the line of duty on Sept. 11, 2001.

“Suffolk is very special, and to be here today with these other inductees — thank you very much,” Downey said during the press conference. He was a three-sport athlete at Deer Park High School, before playing football at Stony Brook University, and ultimately signing an NFL contract with the Philadelphia Eagles in 1988.

Combs has played, coached and been an athletic director in Suffolk County dating back to the 1970s. He is also a member of the Hall’s board of trustees.

“This is quite a talented class,” Combs said. “I’ve been involved with the Hall of Fame for the last five years and I can honestly say this is a very intimidating group with some amazing accomplishments.”

The other inductees include Jillian Byers, a thre-sport standout from Northport who went on to become a four-time All-American in lacrosse; Frank Romeo, who was a longtime boys’ basketball coach at Comsewogue High School who was inducted into the New York State Basketball Hall of Fame last year; and Laura Gentile, Maria Michta-Coffey and Isaac Ramaswamy, all of whom went to Sachem.

Richie LoNigro, owner of Port Jefferson Sporting Goods, will also receive a Special Recognition Award for his dedication to the athletes of Suffolk County. He is one of only six people in the country to receive the Rawlings Sporting Goods Silver Glove Award, which has been given to some of the most respected people in the sporting good industry

The ceremony for the 2016 inductees will take place on May 6, also at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Hauppauge. Tickets are $95. For more information visit http://www.suffolksportshof.com.

Tom Rotanz poses for a photo with a gold medal and trophy after the U-19 team he was an assistant coach of won a world championship. Photo from Tom Rotanz

A familiar face is stepping onto the college lacrosse scene.

Tom Rotanz, a former head boys’ lacrosse coach for Shoreham-Wading River for 18 years, will helm St. Joseph’s College’s new men’s lacrosse program, which will begin its first season in spring 2017.

“It’s something I always wanted to do,” Rotanz said of joining the college ranks. “I think any competitive athlete and coach wants to show someone what good can come from having the right people around you and the good players that are willing to commit themselves, and I hope to have another successful tenure at St. Joseph’s.”

Tom Rotanz will be the first head coach for St. Joseph's College's men's lacrosse program. Photo from Tom Rotanz
Tom Rotanz will be the first head coach for St. Joseph’s College’s men’s lacrosse program. Photo from Tom Rotanz

Rotanz has a long history with lacrosse.

His elder brother was on the team that won Ward Melville’s first Long Island championship in 1974, and the younger Rotanz was part of the squad that won the second and third in 1976 and 1977. The lacrosse captain earned All-American honors as a senior in 1977, after his team also made it to the New York State championship game, the first one for lacrosse. The boys lost that game, 12-11.

From there, he was the captain of the Suffolk County Community College lacrosse team that won a national championship and earned All-American honors twice. He then repeated that feat at Adelphi University, where he was also named an All-American twice.

“Tom was a great player,” said his former high school coach, and a legend on the lacrosse scene, Joe Cuozzo. “He was a great competitor, had a great sense of humor about him, and I really enjoyed working with him.”

As a coach himself, with the Shoreham-Wading River Wildcats’ program only a year old, Rotanz took over a roster of 14 players, including six freshmen. The team went 1-15 his first season, scoring 38 goals on the year. But seven years later, the team was ranked fourth in the country, after winning a New York State championship and scoring close to 400 goals.

“It snowballed into something that was really neat to be a part of,” he said. “In the last 13 years I was there, we won 10 county championships, five Long Island and three New York State. People always wondered why or how we kept winning every year and being ranked one or two in the county. I say if you have bright kids that buy into the system, I think anything is possible.”

Tom Rotanz gets water dumped on his head by a former Shoreham-Wading River team after a win. Photo from Tom Rotanz
Tom Rotanz gets water dumped on his head by a former Shoreham-Wading River team after a win. Photo from Tom Rotanz

Rotanz earned his first of six Suffolk County Coach of the Year honors in 1999, two years before he led the program to its first county championship in 2001. In 2002, the program repeated as Suffolk champs en route to Long Island and New York State titles. The team also swept Suffolk, Long Island and New York State championship titles in 2007 and 2012.

In 2012, the coach added to his list of accolades, serving as an assistant for the 2012 USA Men’s U-19 lacrosse team that won a world championship.

Now, he hopes to be able to bring that same success to St. Joseph’s, and Shantey Hill, assistant vice president and senior director of athletics and recreation for the college, thinks Rotanz is the perfect fit.

“We were very lucky in that Coach Rotanz applied,” she said, referring to the school’s intensive, national search across all NCAA institutions. “He has a plethora of experience, and … he knows the landscape of Long Island, and he’s very well-connected with his peers to be able to do good recruiting for what we’re looking for.”

For Rotanz, being on the scene as long as he has and being a part of Long Island lacrosse, serving as an assistant coach at Smithtown West for the last two years, will be beneficial throughout the recruiting process for the Golden Eagles.

“I’m very close friends with a lot of the Suffolk and Nassau coaches, so they’re already contacting me with players that they think will be a great fit, kids that they think would really like to play for me; so that’s the neat thing.”

He added, laughing, “I think there will be a lot more kids that think about not leaving the Island now, hopefully.”

Tom Rotanz makes a save during a Ward Melville boys' lacrosse game. He helped the team to two Long Island championship titles and a New York State championship appearance. Photo from Tom Rotanz
Tom Rotanz makes a save during a Ward Melville boys’ lacrosse game. He helped the team to two Long Island championship titles and a New York State championship appearance. Photo from Tom Rotanz

According to Hill, the school decided the time was right for a lacrosse program after seeing that a number of Division III student-athletes in the college’s Skyline Conference that commit to play lacrosse come from Long Island and that there was interest with incoming and current students. The college also built a new outdoor athletic facility.

Hill said St. Joseph’s found the right coach in Rotanz.

“We think we hit a home run with coach Rotanz,” she said. “He’s not only a wonderful coach, but also a great man, and he will do great things. We’re looking forward to him not only being the face of the lacrosse program, but also being a mentor to our male student-athletes. His tenure speaks for itself. He’s very well-connected, and he has good relationships with lots of people, and that’s something you can’t put a price tag on.”

Cuozzo, who was inducted into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame, said he used to go to Shoreham-Wading River practices and games to watch his former athlete, and has been thrilled with his approach to the game.

“The way he treats kids, he’s a real student of the game, and I can’t say enough on how proud I am of his accomplishments,” he said. “He brings a winning attitude.”

Rotanz, who said he tries to emulate the ways and successes of his former coach, is competitive, according to Cuozzo.

“He hates to lose — I think he got that from me,” he said, laughing. “I wasn’t a very good loser.”

Luckily, neither one of them has had to do much of that.

Tom Rotanz coaches from the sidelines of a Shoreham-Wading River boys' lacrosse game. Photo from Tom Rotanz
Tom Rotanz coaches from the sidelines of a Shoreham-Wading River boys’ lacrosse game. Photo from Tom Rotanz

Cuozzo compiled a 699-73 record while at the helm of the Patriots’ program. In 2007, he became the head coach at Mount Sinai, where he brought his win total to 747 in his four years before retirement. During his tenure with the Wildcats, Rotanz amassed a 256-99 record.

Cuozzo also thinks Rotanz will be able to draw athletes to the school.

“A lot of kids like to leave Long Island when they are finished with high school — they don’t want to stay local — but knowing Tom, he’s very convincing,” Cuozzo said. “He’ll do his homework. He’ll go out and scout, he’ll go to high school games and he’ll talk, make phone calls. He’s very organized, he’s very knowledgeable about the game, and there’s no doubt in my mind that he’s going to be successful there.”

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Port Jefferson grad Philip Lanieri III grabs an interception for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Photo from RPI Athletics
Port Jefferson grad Philip Lanieri III grabs an interception for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Photo from RPI Athletics
Port Jefferson grad Philip Lanieri III grabs an interception for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Photo from RPI Athletics

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute student-athlete Philip Lanieri III has been named National All-America by the American Football Coaches Association. The senior Port Jefferson native was one of four defensive backs selected for the year-end honor.

A third-year starter, Lanieri had a team-high five interceptions with 19 return yards in 11 games. He also broke up nine passes and had 42 tackles, including 23 unassisted and two for lost yards. He had multiple tackles in 10 games and at least one interception in four contests.

An Industrial and Management Engineering major, Lanieri had a season-high three pass breakups with a pair of tackles at Alfred University on Sept. 12. He picked up his first interception of the season, along with four tackles (three solo) and a pass breakup, in a win at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in the Transit Trophy Game two weeks later. He had five tackles (four solo) with one for a loss of two yards and a pass breakup against the United States Merchant Marine Academy on Oct. 3 before intercepting two passes (13 return yards) with two tackles, including 0.5 for lost yards, in a win over the University of Rochester on Oct. 17.

The following week, Lanieri made a season-high five unassisted tackles (six total) with an interception (two return yards) and two pass breakups, including one in the end zone on a game-winning two-point conversion attempt with no time left in regulation, in a 21-20 win at Hobart College. He then had seven tackles (three solo) against Springfield College and a team-best and season-high nine stops (four solo) with a pass breakup in a win in the Dutchman Shoes Trophy Game at Union College to close out the regular season. Lanieri finished his career with two stops (one solo), an interception with a four-yard return and a pass breakup in a victory over Buffalo State College in the Asa S. Bushnell Championship Bowl.

Port Jefferson grad Philip Lanieri III plays football for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Photo from RPI Athletics
Port Jefferson grad Philip Lanieri III plays football for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Photo from RPI Athletics

He finished third in the Liberty League in interceptions per game (0.45) and fourth in passes defended (1.27 per game) and was the Liberty League Defensive Performer of the Week following the game at Hobart. Lanieri was selected to the All-Liberty League First Team before being chosen to play in the National Bowl in Miami, Florida. He helped the Engineers to a 9-2 record and first place in the Liberty League standings with a 6-1 mark.

As a junior, he had six interceptions with 25 return yards and seven pass breakups while starting all 11 games. He made 28 tackles with 19 solo and one for lost yards. He also forced a fumble and recovered another, which he returned 64 yards for a touchdown. Lanieri was All-Liberty League First Team and the team’s Defensive Ultimate Grinder Award winner. The year prior, he was All-League Honorable Mention after recording 44 tackles (29 unassisted) and a team-best four interceptions (four return yards) with three pass breakups in 10 games.

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