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Bill Hamilton

Smithtown East's Stella Mazzitelli celebrates her game-winning overtime goal. Photo by Desirée Keegan

A scoring drought dating back to the last game of last season — 400 minutes of game time — hung over Smithtown East’s girls soccer team, so when sophomore striker Stella Mazzitelli got the ball on a breakaway with the score tied 0-0 in overtime, she admitted she was worried.

“I was nervous,” she said. “But we were hyped up. We really wanted this win and it felt really good to finally score our first goal of the season.”

Following Mazzitelli’s goal with 8:09 left in the first 10-minute overtime session, sophomore forward Ava Bongiorno headed in a corner kick at the 1:58 mark for a 2-0 lead, and ultimately, a Bulls win over Centereach Sept. 11.

Smithtown East’s Alexis Desmond races ahead of Centereach’s Sophia Catapano for the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“We haven’t really connected as a team, but today I feel like we all worked together — it felt like we were whole,” senior center defender and striker Danielle Bartsch said. “And I feel it’s only uphill from here.”

The beginning of the game produced a familiar result for Smithtown East. Centereach dominated the time of possession in the opening half, but was unable to put away its chances. In the second half, Centereach freshman Nicole Fabris continued to fire away, but her shots went wide. Her last shot, with 25 seconds left in regulation, rebounded off the crossbar and out of play.

“Centereach is always a good team,” Smithtown East head coach Bill Hamilton said. “They play hard. I call them a hard-luck team, because they’re better than their record usually shows. This was an important game for us to get back on track, so it’s I’m excited.”

The game served as a boost for the Bulls’ confidence, which had wavered due to losses to top League III teams Newfield and crosstown rival Smithtown West.

“I needed this to be our breakout day so they know they can play,” Hamilton said. “Losing to them wasn’t catastrophic, but we need to do a better job the next time we play them. The girls were questioning themselves, wondering why they can’t score, but they can, they just need to keep trying.”

The Bulls came out pressuring in the second half. With the game still scoreless, they knew there was still a chance.

“We passed a lot, which we were struggling to do well in the first half, and we communicated,” Mazzitelli said. “We put a lot of hard work into it and deserved to win.”

Centereach’s Lindsay Scally battles Smithtown East’s Lauren Roback for possession of the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Between the 27- and 16-minute marks, Smithtown East made six breaks through the box in an effort to score. Hamilton attributed the chances to a change in formation following a 3-0 loss to Smithtown West Sept. 8.

“We were running a totally different field position,” he said. “They’re learning it, and I feel it gives us more offensive opportunities. We started to connect the passes we were just missing.”

His two sophomores were just what the team needed to ignite the spark, and Hamilton said he believes more goals are on the way Sept. 13 against Copiague. While Bongiorno was on the team as a freshman, Mazzitelli was a transfer student last year, and found herself on the junior varsity team.

“Before today we were playing with one person up top and five people at midfield, and we just never got the numbers forward that we needed to make a better offensive push, but when we practice they can kick a house down,” Hamilton said. “They’re up there for a reason, and we did a nice job on the pass that went to Stella to spring her for her first goal. She did a nice job of not kicking it to the goalie — finding a corner to put it in. She’s tough. It’s a case of them having to do it enough times to realize they can do this.”

Bartsch said the energy remained high and the team’s mindset remained positive heading into overtime, something she enjoyed seeing from her fellow Bulls.

“From the beginning of the game we all had good spirits, we had good vibes going, we were all positively cheering everyone on, working together and we got good results from it,” she said. “We have to work on sequences up the field and finishing, but we got two goals today, and I see more coming in the future.”

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Kings Park's Kayla Homeyer competes in a game against Huntington last season. File photo by Desirée Keegan

By Joe Galotti

The schedule makers did not do the Smithtown East girls’ soccer team any favors during their first month of the season. The Bulls are currently in the middle of a stretch in which they play four games in six days, and in their matchup against Kings Park on Tuesday afternoon, fatigue was certainly a factor.

After winning a physical and hard-fought game against crosstown rival Smithtown West on Monday, Smithtown East allowed the Kingsmen to dominate much of the play in Tuesday’s contest, but strong play in their own end and a 17-save performance by sophomore goalkeeper Cat Sheppard, allowed the Bulls to keep things close on the scoreboard, and ultimately, leave the field with a 1-1 draw.

Smithtown East head coach Bill Hamilton made the decision to give his regular starters limited playing time in the nonleague matchup. Despite that, he was pleased that his team was still able to avoid their first loss of the season.

“Given the fact that they had about 30 attempted shots in the game, I’m happy it came out as a tie,” Hamilton said. “I told the team today, at the beginning, that I don’t care about how the game goes, as long as we play hard. And they did.”

Kings Park head coach, Bryan LoPalo, also seemed satisfied with the way his team played in the match, despite the fact that his club failed to come away victorious.

“It was not the result we wanted, but the effort was outstanding,” LoPalo said. “I feel like we played our style of soccer and it was a good game.”

Most of the contest was played on the Bulls’ side of the field, with the Kingsmen preventing their opponent from breaking through the middle of the field. LoPalo highlighted the defensive efforts of seniors Shakila Sevanan and Francesca Timpone, and juniors Alexa Biegler and Kayla Homeyer in the game.

Kings Park controlled play through much of the first half, but still entered the intermission trailing 1-0. Sheppard’s strong play in net held the Kingsmen off the scoreboard, and sophomore midfielder Emma Heiser found the back of the net for the Bulls, to give her team the early advantage.

With just under 28 minutes remaining in the second half, Kings Park finally broke through.

A Genevieve Carpenter deflection, off a cross by teammate Selena Ubriaco, was too much for Sheppard to handle, and the ball found its way just over the goal line for the score.

“I just saw Selena coming down the line, and she crossed it, Carpenter said. “I was just trying to help make sure that it went in the goal, and it did. That ended up being a good result for us.”

Kings Park continued to put pressure on Smithtown East during the game’s final stretch, but Sheppard stood tall for the Bulls. The netminder made numerous big saves, including key late-game stops on golden opportunities by Carpenter and senior forward Noelle Perciballi.

“I kept focusing on the ball, and as we continued on, I was able to keep my head in the game,” Sheppard said. “I was a little tired from the game yesterday, but I wanted to get a good result here, and I knew I had to push through.”

Smithtown East continued on with their challenging stretch today, when they visit North Babylon at 4 p.m. Kings Park will also be back in action today, as they hit the road to face off against Deer Park at 6 p.m.

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