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Patriots avenge 11-10 loss to Smithtown East in 2015 Class A finals

 

Being down 5-1 in the Suffolk County Class A finals didn’t scare the Patriots — it fueled them.

According to senior Eddie Munoz, Ward Melville coaches say lacrosse is a game of runs, and all the team needed was a run to get back in it.

So Ward Melville’s Zach Hobbes scored twice in a four-run spurt across the end of the first half and beginning of the second, and Munoz capped it off with an unassisted goal to tie the game, en route to a 9-8 win for Ward Melville over Smithtown East May 31.

“Down 5-1 is tough to come back from, but we made our run at the right time,” Munoz said. “And we didn’t stop.”

After senior Mike Marino scored off an assist from senior Mike Latini for Smithtown East, Munoz was quick to help tie it up again, when he scored his hat trick goal off a pass from Hobbes. Senior Dominic Pryor scored next off a feed from classmate Andrew Lockhart, but Smithtown East senior Connor DeSimone tied it up for
the Bulls.

DeSimone was held off the scoreboard besides one assist, thanks to Ward Melville senior Andrew McKenna, who was tasked with guarding one of Long Island’s leading goal scorers.

“I know he’s a very good player, but I’ve [gone up against] a lot of good players,” McKenna said. “He’s one of Long Island’s best, but knowing I have a great defense around me and a great goalkeeper behind me in Perry Cassidy made me all the more confident.”

Watching his defenseman lean in to help with a dodge on the next play, Munoz said he decided to step into it, hoping Pryor would find him with a pass. With little time to think, Munoz decided to send the ball to senior Noah Kepes, who finished his shot to put Ward Melville back on top, 8-7.

“When Dom passed the ball, I knew I was a little far out, so I took one glance at the crease in my windup, I saw Noah there and I couldn’t not pass it to him,” Munoz said. “It was a great catch, a great handle and a great finish.”

Senior Jack Purdy tacked on an empty netter for what the Patriots thought would be an insurance goal, but Smithtown East’s Dominic Pizzulli found the netting with 22.1 seconds left, and Ward Melville’s defense was able to hold the Bulls off after senior Brian Herber’s faceoff win.

“We were resilient,” McKenna said. “Down 5-1 we still went out there and competed, gave 100 percent on every play and played good, hard, smart lacrosse.”

He said it’s been a dream ever since he was a kid to make it to this point in his senior year with his longtime Patriots surrounding him, and they agreed.

“We needed to get back here,” Munoz said. “I couldn’t let us lose today. This is a dream come true.”

Ward Melville will play Massapequa in the Long Island Championship June 3 at 10 a.m. at Stony Brook University.

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Smithtown East will face Ward Melville in Suffolk County championship May 31

 

Jason Lambert told his team to weather the storm.

Not only literally, as rain fell through the thick fog during Smithtown East’s Class A semifinal game May 25 against their in-district rivals, but because he knew that Smithtown West was going to push for a comeback.

East was leading West 7-2 heading into the fourth quarter, and despite West scoring three goals to cut down the margin, Connor DeSimone drained time off the clock, and held it during the final seconds to secure a 7-5 win for East.

The senior said his team knew it had to adopt a different strategy to seal the deal.

“That was definitely the game plan coming in — we were going to hold the ball,” he said. “We knew that if the ball was in our stick, we couldn’t lose. So we didn’t mind holding the ball during five or six minutes of good possession at a time without scoring.”

Lambert said the other main objective was to value the ball, and he liked that his team accomplished that goal — using it to capitalize on early scoring chances.

DeSimone and senior Luke Eschabach went back-to-back with unassisted goals, and then assisted on each other’s shots in East’s 4-1 first quarter.

“We’ve been playing together since we were 5 years old and we always find each other through the field,” Eschbach said. “He knows where I am, I know where he is without even looking, and he always finds the void.”

DeSimone said he knows his longtime teammate’s skills and wants to find him when he can.

“He’s an awesome shooter, a great player, and I know when I find him on the through ball, he’s going to put it in the back of the net like we’ve been doing all year,” he said.

DeSimone said the team was concerned about West’s faceoff man Conor Calderone and goalkeeper Ryan Erler.

“We weren’t letting [Ryan] Erler make the saves, who played great today,” he said, although Erler still made 12 stops, including back to back saves in the game’s final seconds. “I knew possession was crucial. They out-possessed us by two times the amount we had the ball, so knowing that we knew we had to value the ball, we had to take the best shot, not the first shot.”

Both teams went scoreless over a 20-minute span, before DeSimone found senior Dominic Pizzulli.

“We weren’t nervous at all,” DeSimone said of the drought. “It’s one play at a time. We’re not looking for home runs — there’s no superheroes on the team — if we all look out for each other and play team ball it’s going to be hard to beat us.”

Danny Riley scored twice for West, sandwiched around a goal by Jimmy Caddigan, to make it 7-5 with 7:23 left.

“We just had to make sure to manage their comeback and not give them all the momentum,” Lambert said.

West’s Brian Herber won the ensuing faceoff, and East went back to draining the clock.

“Sometimes we have letdowns, but this team knows we have ups and downs, and every single person on this team never gives up on each other,” Eschbach said. “We always stay positive, so when we lose a couple of ground balls, get a flag here and there to go a man down, we always come back and pull through.”

DeSimone said he was most excited to avenge last season’s semifinal loss to Connetquot, and is just happy to have another day of practice. Eschbach said he’d love nothing more than another county championship win over Ward Melville, like the Bulls had two years ago.

“I wanted to get here so bad my senior year,” he said. “We need to possess the ball — not throw it away — and play strong defense. If our defense plays the way it did today, I think we’ll have a very strong shot at taking that game.”

Smithtown East will face Ward Melville May 31 at Stony Brook University at 3 p.m. The winner will move on to the Long Island championship game at Stony Brook University June 3 at 10 a.m.

Patriots shut out Smithtown in double-elimination game

By Bill Landon

Logan Doran delivered.

The Ward Melville player homered in the first inning, and drove in two runs in the second to give the No. 1 Patriots baseball team a 3-0 home win over No. 9 Smithtown East May 23, to advance to the Class AA semifinals.

Doran said he was looking for his pitch to set the tone early.

“It was a 2-0 fastball, and I was looking fastball dead red,” he said. “I saw it high and in, and just took a big swing on it. I didn’t think it was out. I was just running and then I heard my first base coach say it’s out.”

Ward Melville threatened two batters later, when Joseph Rosselli singled into shallow left, and Michael Sepe found the gap with two outs, but Smithtown East pitcher Nick Harvey fanned the last batter to strand the runners.

With two outs, Smithtown East’s Marc Barbiglia singled in the top of the second, Ward Melville catcher Tom Hudzik fired the ball to his twin brother Matt at second base to catch him on a steal attempt. The strike arrived in plenty of time for Matt Hudzik to apply the tag.

“They’re a hard-hitting team — they hit well last year and they came back and are hitting even better this year,” Tom Hudzik said. “It was Logan’s home run that got the momentum going.”

The Patriots went back to work in the bottom of the inning when Trevor Cronin singled to start things off. James Curcio followed with a fly ball to right field to put runners on the corners.

Again, Doran was the difference maker as he blasted the ball to right, plating Cronin and Curcio for a 3-0 lead.

“We played them [twice] and we knew what we were coming into,” Doran said. “We had to stay focused like we did the first two games. Just come out hot — that’s what we’ve been talking about. I think our team played great, and we just got to keep it rolling.”

The Patriots defense was just as potent as their bats, and the boys turned a double play in the top of the third for the first two outs. Later in the inning, with a runner on base, Hudzik sent another laser throw to his brother, who again waited for the runner to end the inning.

Ward Melville pitcher Max Nielson kept the Bulls at bay the rest of the way, spreading 76 pitches over the seven innings with four strikeouts and allowing just three hits in his shutout performance. It was the second playoff victory of his varsity career.

“The key to winning today was our defense,” Nielsen said. “But Logan’s base-hit knock sealed the deal.”

Ward Melville head coach Lou Petrucci also had high words of praise for Doran.

“He’s our captain ,and that’s what captains do,” he said. “That home run in the first gave us momentum.”

But he also gave other credit where due.

“Max pitched a heck of a game,” Petrucci said. “He kept their lead-off batter off base — he made quality pitches and you’ve got to give the guy credit.”

It was the third time these teams faced each other this postseason, each giving the other its first loss to send them into the double-elimination bracket.

“Bottom line is they played a little bit better than us, and they deserved to win,” Smithtown East head coach Ken Klee said of Ward Melville. “Our kids hung in there — we had a very nice season — and I’m proud of them.”

Ward Melville hosted the first of a three-game series on Wednesday against No. 4 West Islip, but results were not available by press time. The two teams will face off again on the Lions’ home turf May 25, at 4 p.m. The finals are set for May 31 at Stony Brook University, 3 p.m.

This version was updated to correctly identify the second baseman as Matt Hudzik.

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The East Bulls will battle crosstown foe Smithtown West in semis May 25

By Bill Landon

Being down early doesn’t faze the Smithtown East boys’ lacrosse team. And despite the 4-0 lead visiting Connetquot had in the opening round of the Class AA playoffs May 19, the Bulls bounced back for a 12-10 victory to advance to the semifinals.

Connor Desimone rockets a shot into Connetquot’s goal. Photo by Bill Landon

“That’s kind of been our M.O. this year — we’ve allowed our opponent to jump up on us early in games and these guys have done a good job all year staying together, [being] positive and chipping away at it,” Smithtown East head coach Jason Lambert said. “When we got down 4-0, I said, ‘hey guys, we’ve been here before, we’ve done this before — we’ll come back.’ And with our seniors and the leadership we have here, there’s never panic with this group.”

Smithtown East didn’t find the cage until two minutes into the second quarter, when senior midfielder and co-captain Luke Eschbach slammed home a solo shot. Senior Michael Latini attacked next, with 5:05 left in the first half, to cut the lead in half. Senior faceoff specialist Brian Herber won the ensuing battle at the ‘X,’ and dished the ball to classmate and co-captain Connor Desimone who buried his shot 20 seconds later to pull within one, 4-3.

At the 3:15 mark of the second quarter the Thunderbirds struck again, but so did a lightning bolt, which suspended the game for 30 minutes. Connetquot picked up where it left off when play resumed, to double Smithtown East’s score, 6-3.

“That half hour stop was almost a blessing in disguise,” Lambert said. “It allowed us to gather ourselves, talk to the kids and tell them exactly what we were seeing, and hear what they were seeing.”

Desimone passed to Latini, who on the cut shot the ball behind his back, catching the keeper off guard to make it a 6-4 game.

Brian Herber wins a faceoff and fires at the net. Photo by Bill Landon

“I’ve done it in practice and I’ve never tried it in a game,” Latini said. “But I always wanted to try it, and today, it went in.”

After another Herber faceoff win, Latini scooped up the flick, and senior Dominic Pizzulli drilled his shot into the netting as the Bulls trailed 6-5. The four-goal deficit early in the game had little effect on Herber or the rest of his team.

“I was a little nervous,” Herber said. “But I know this team and knew we would definitely come back — we always do.”

With 26 seconds left before the break, Desimone leaped from behind the cage dove in front to bury his shot and make it a new game.

Smithtown East goalkeeper Thomas Harkin, who had eight saves on the day, commended his opponent for the tough battle.

“They brought a lot of ball movement, they moved well inside — they are very good at doing that, but we prepared for that,” Harkin said. “We knew we had to step it up, wake up a bit. We knew the next ground ball, the next pass, the next shot, the next anything, it’s ours.”

Two minutes into the second half, Desimone gave his teammate’s words meaning when he scored his hat trick goal to give his team its first lead, 7-6.

Thomas Harkin makes one of eight saves. Photo by Bill Landon

“Our guys have a ton of heart, starting with our goalie,” Desimone said.

Smithtown East’s lead wouldn’t last long though, as the Thunderbirds scored three unanswered goals for a 9-7 advantage with 2:30 left in the third.

Senior Bobby Burns put an end to the Connetquot rally, and Herber’s faceoff win led to the game-tying goal by senior Mike Marino. Marino tied the game again minutes later, 10-10, and the Bulls’ defense stood strong in the final eight minutes, cutting off all lanes to the cage.

“[Anthony] Voelker played great on [Connetquot junior attack George Wichelns],” Herber said. “He’s a big part of Connetquot’s team and [Brian] Cosgrove was playing great off ball, which really slowed them down.”

Desimone passed to Eschbach for the game-winning goal, and Desimone put the game away soon after.

“It all starts in our cage with our goalie Thomas Harkin — he’s been great all year, and our faceoff kid Brian Herber battling giving us chances, giving us the ball, giving us the opportunity to play offense,” Lambert said. “It was a total team effort, but those two guys, they’re the backbone of our team.”

Smithtown East will face crosstown rival Smithtown West in the semifinals May 25 at 6:30 p.m.

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By Bill Landon

Tori Hussey sent Smithtown East into the next round.

Her one-out grand slam in the bottom of the fifth inning broke a 2-2 tie on the way to the No. 6 Bulls’ 7-4 Class AA first-round win over No. 11 Half Hollow Hills West May 15.

“I heard my first base coach saying ‘get out, get out’ and then after that, I heard everyone cheering and then I saw it,” Hussey said. “I knew it was a changeup, and I had to be ready for anything at that point.”

Half Hollow Hills West struck first when pitcher Jillian Weinstein smacked a two run home run over the left field fence in the top of the third. With one out and runners at the corners, the Colts threatened to extend their lead in the top of the fourth when an infield line drive sailed toward Smithtown East’s short stop, but Kyra Dalli snatched it and fired the ball to first before the runner could get back for a double play that ended the inning.

The Bulls battled back in the bottom of the fifth inning — with runners on first and third — when Samantha Swenson stepped into the batter’s box. She jumped on the first pitch and found the gap to bring home Lauren Schiraldi and make it a one-run game.

“I remember them being a good team the last time we played them — they definitely got better as the season went on and that showed,” Swenson said. “But we played our game, we got ahead of them and we won.”

Courtney Hohenberger’s bat spoke next when she ripped a single into the outfield, scoring Dalli from third to tie the game with no outs. After an out, Taylor Bigliani was up next, and showed patience at the plate. She let pitches outside the zone pass her by to draw a walk and load the bases. Hussey had a full count before slamming the ball out of the park, driving home Swenson, Hohenberger and Bigliani for a 6-2 lead.

Swenson added another base hit, sending Schiraldi over to third, and Hohenberger belted the ball deep to bring home Schiraldi.

“Our defense was shaky at the end, but we stuck together, made a few great plays,” Hohenberger said. “[In the seventh inning] I just knew we had to get the outs.”

Starting pitcher Ashley DeGiorgio got into trouble, loading the bases with no outs in the top of the seventh, and sending head coach Glenn Roper to the mound. He decided to stay with his starter, who limited Half Hollow Hills West to two runs before retiring the side.

“They had their best hitter at the plate and what was going through my mind is ‘do I change the pitcher or not?’ It’s a tough decision,” Roper said. “It’s a tough spot to put a kid into that situation with bases loaded and nobody out.”

DeDiorgio struck out four in the complete game win. Swenson went 3-for-4 with a run and an RBI.

Smithtown East will hit the road May 17 to take on No. 3 Deer Park with first pitch scheduled for 4 p.m.

Shannon Brazier scores. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Undefeated Ward Melville has a target on its back, and the girls lacrosse team’s 17-4 crushing of Smithtown West May 8 only made it larger.

Hannah Lorenzen prepares to make a pass to the front of the cage. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“Everyone is out to get us,” Ward Melville head coach Kerri Kilkenny said. “I think this was probably one of our best games that we’ve played this season — connecting every pass, strong in transition, looking for each other. They were looking one step ahead. We knew where everyone was going to be and a good majority of our goals were assisted, which shows how well we’ve jelled and come together as a team.”

Senior Hannah Lorenzen scored three of the first five goals for the Patriots, who continued to win draw after draw to gain crucial time of possession against the No. 3 Bulls.

“They just passed to me and I was able to finish,” Lorenzen said. “I think the draw is a big part of it. We get possession and it leads to more opportunities to score.”

Sophomore goalkeeper Samantha Tarpey’s saves in the first half also played a large role in the team’s success.

“Making those saves keeps me going and my confidence up,” she said. “It keeps team morale high.”

As the team dominated through the final minutes of the first half, three other Patriots got on the board, and Lorenzen added her fourth goal of the game, before Smithtown West scored three straight.

Jillian Becker moves the ball through defenders. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Ward Melville sophomore Alexis Reinhardt closed out the half with the final goal to put her team up 10-3.

“We felt it was going to be a bit of a tougher matchup,” Kilkenny said. “I’m not downplaying my kids’ skills at all, because I feel when they play together they’re unstoppable. We controlled every step of this game, and I’m proud of them for that.”

With 13 players on the score sheet — Reinhardt, Shannon Berry and Shannon Brazier scoring two goals each — the chemistry between the team that put up 17 goals and 10 assists seems unmatched.

“We don’t have a few key players — our team is deep. We can all score; we can all play,” Lorenzen said. “We worked a lot on clearing and having people drive through and on our feeds off the draw. We moved the ball well in practice.”

Shannon Berry shoots. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Lorenzen is a part of six sets of sisters on the team, but to the senior, the entire team is her family.

“I think having those bonds and those connections help — we trust each other and believe in each other and the sisterly intuition is there,” she said. “But we all feel like sisters.”

Kilkenny said her team is right where it needs to be, and with its 15th straight win, she’s excited to see where the Patriots go.

“You don’t want to peak too soon, but we’re continuing that high level of play— the timing of this game is great,” she said. “We’re certainly enjoying the ride, but we keep ourselves down to Earth. They need to play each game like it could be their last.”

Lorenzen doesn’t see the season ending any time soon.

“We feel we have a little bit of an edge,” she said. “We might have a target on our back, but we can take the competition.”

Smithtown East's Michael Ruggiero hurls a pitch. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Smithtown East’s Matt Laurelli races back to the base while Newfield’s Tom DeSena waits for the ball. Photo by Bill Landon

Smithtown East’s baseball bats were cracking May 2 during a 15-0 shutout of Newfield to maintain the No. 2 spot in League III. With the win, the Bulls are three games behind Half Hollow Hills East.

Smithtown East senior starting pitcher Michael Ruggiero was as big a threat at the plate as he was from the mound. He belted the ball through  the gap to drive home sophomore Nick Harvey for the early lead in the top of the third, and senior Andrew Canino followed with a shot to right field, plating Ruggiero and junior Matt Laurelli for a 3-0 lead.

Newfield head coach Eric Joyner met with starting pitcher Ryan Wappaus on the mound, but the talk didn’t help, as Newfield loaded the bases with two outs. Junior Marc Barbiglia was up to bat next and smashed a base-clearing double to double the advantage to 6-0.

Newfield’s Mike Manzolillo makes contact. Photo by Bill Landon

“They’re a great team — they came out here and they fought hard, but we put the bat on the ball,” Barbiglia said. “We threw strikes, let them hit the ball, put the ball in play [and] we had good fielding. But our bats were on fire today.”

In the top of the fourth inning, Newfield found itself in another tough spot with a runner on base and Ruggiero up to bat. He blasted the ball over the right fielder’s head and speedily made his way around the bases for an in-the-park home run.

“He put it on the outside half [of the plate], it was a 3-1 count, so I knew a fastball was coming,” Ruggiero said. “I jumped right on it and hit it the other way. They did get me earlier in the game, but I fell back and adjusted. [Newfield is] scrappy — a good baseball team — but we were able to shut them down today.”

Newfield made its second change at the mound, but the Bulls didn’t miss a beat. Ruggiero singled to shallow right to put runners on the corner in the top of the sixth, a walk loaded the bases, and Canino drew another walk to bring home Harvey for a nine-run lead.

Smithtown East’s Marc Barbiglia makes his way to home plate. Photo by Bill Landon

“We had base runners on in the first three innings, but we just didn’t get the big hit to get some runs on the board to keep us close,” Joyner said. “They took the advantage moving base runners over and had timely hitting, and we just didn’t do that today.”

Justin Harvey, Nick’s twin brother, found the gap scoring Laurelli, and the runs piled on from there. Sophomore Will Kennedy drove in two with a stand-up double, Barbiglia smacked another RBI-single and sophomore Matt Tempone drilled a two-run double for the final runs.

“They have very good pitching, very good players,” Smithtown East head coach Ken Klee said of Newfield. “Michael Ruggiero, he’s our leader — we’ve been waiting all year to start him and he did exactly what we expected of him. It was probably our best offensive game all year, but they were on the wrong side of it today. We know they’re good, so we’ve got to be ready to play [them again] tomorrow.”

Newfield traveled to Smithtown East May 3, but results were not available by press time. Newfield will host Smithtown East May 4 at 4:30 p.m. to complete the three-game series.

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Smithtown East's Taylor Bigliani rockets the ball into the outfield. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

The Bulls were raging, and Taylor Bigliani was leading the way.

The Smithtown East softball team may have found itself behind early, but a fifth-inning rush by the Bulls, which bled into the sixth, triggered the mercy rule for a 17-5 win over West Babylon April 8.

After the Eagles ripped a solo shot home run over the fence in the opening inning, Bigliani, a first baseman, smacked a two-run double that put the Bulls out front for good.

Smithtown East’s Samantha Swenson slides safely into third base. Photo by Bill Landon

Smithtown East was swinging throughout the next two innings, but West Babylon’s defense was up to task, making play after play to hold off the threats. Smithtown East center fielder Kyra Dalli eventually drilled the ball to right center, driving in outfielder Rebecca Fields with a stand-up double as the Bulls pulled ahead 3-1.

“They had a tough defense, but we got the hits we needed today,” said Dalli, the leadoff hitter who went 5-for-5 on the day. “We were able to work through it.”

With runners at the corners, Smithtown East right fielder Samantha Swenson ripped a shot deep for a two-run double that plated Dalli and short stop Ashley DeGiorgio. Bigliani’s bat cracked next with another stand-up double that scored Swenson from second base for a 6-1 advantage.

West Babylon responded with a triple and a two-run single to close the gap, 6-3, in the top of the fifth inning, but DeGiorgio was able to apply the tag on a runner trying to steal second, to close out the inning. The Eagles would come no closer.

After Fields singled and DeGiorgio found the gap, a fly ball by Dalli dropped in to load the bases with one out.

Smithtown East’s Courtney Hohenberger throws the ball to first. Photo by Bill Landon

Swenson cracked a single to right field, scoring Field for a four-run lead, 7-3.

“West Babylon is a good team, but we were good offensively and we hit the ball when we needed to,” Swenson said. “And our coaches give us a lot of confidence.”

After a passed ball on a full count, Smithtown East took a five run-lead. With the bases still loaded and now two outs, Bigliani stepped into the batter’s box. She jumped on a pitch and hit a rocket to straight away center, over the fielder’s head for a bases clearing double and an 11-3 advantage.

“We never gave up, we kept hitting the ball so hard and we had a lot of energy throughout the entire game,” Bigliani said. “I didn’t expect this. I thought we’d be in a very close game, but we jumped on them right away and I’m proud of my team for that.”

West Babylon threatened in the top of the sixth when the team loaded the bases with two outs. On a Smithtown East fielding error, two runners made their way home, but Smithtown East pitcher Marina Amicizia shut the door with the final strikeout of the game.

“We don’t usually play them, so they were kind of a mystery for us,” Amicizia said. “Our team came out there strong and we were ready for anything. We were able to score runs when we had runners in scoring position, so we were very clutch out there.”

Smithtown East, again doing its best work with two outs, got another opportunity in the bottom of the sixth after West Babylon turned a double play. The Bulls’ bats never missed a beat, and after a Savannah Coffelt double, Dalli drove one through the right field gap to plate Coffelt for a 12-5 lead.

Smithtown East’s Ashley DeGiorgio dives for the out. Photo by Bill Landon

“We treat every team the same — we didn’t come in here cocky, but we hit the ball well, we adjusted well,” Coffelt said. “[West Babylon’s pitcher] was a little slower than other pitchers, and we’re not used to that, so I think we adjusted to that nicely.”

Swenson hit the ball over the center fielder’s head, scoring Dalli, and catcher Courtney Hohenberger found the gap to score Swenson for a 14-5 advantage. Again, Bigliani stepped into the batter’s box and belted the ball deep for a stand-up double that scored Hohenberger. Bigliani finished with seven RBIs on the day. Smithtown East third basemen Tori Hussey was up next, and her single drove in Bigliani, before Andrea Lichas knocked the ball through the gap to bring home Hussey for the run that triggered the mercy rule.

“We have a lot of girls that can really hit — they have very fast bats, so we needed to be patient and let the ball get to us because their pitcher wasn’t overpowering,” Smithtown East head coach Glenn Roper said. “My infield played really well, my pitcher did a really good job keeping them off balance, so I’m happy with how we played all around. We got timely hitting when we needed it, we made the plays when we had to and just tried to keep it simple and let the game come to us.”

Ward Melville's Kerry McKeever moves into Smithtown East's zone. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Ward Melville jumped out to a five-goal lead early in the first half, and even after the Smithtown East girls’ lacrosse team battled back to trail by two, the Patriots fired back, securing a 17-11 victory to remain undefeated in Division I April 4.

Junior midfielder Shannon Brazier and teammate Kerry McKeever rattled off two early goals, while senior attack Kaitlin Thornton added one of her own for a 5-0 lead just six minutes in.

Smithtown East’s Isabella Costa maintains possession. Photo by Bill Landon

Smithtown East sophomore attack Isabella Costa broke the ice for the Bulls when her shot found its mark for an unassisted goal seven minutes later.

Ward Melville head coach Kerri Kilkenny said her team had to press the entire game — knowing it had to after escaping the last matchup with a one-goal win.

With 12 minutes left in the first half, McKeever notched her hat trick goal for a 6-1 advantage.

“When we play together like we did at the beginning, we can close it out with a win, but we couldn’t be complacent,” McKeever said. “We worked together, we found the open cutter on transition; having turnovers on the ride starts the attack, so those were really big [because] it got us the ball back on offense.”

Costa teamed up with senior co-captain and attack Julia Smith, as each trailed two goals to trail 7-5 with just over nine minutes before the break.

The Bulls went a man down with four minutes left, but Ward Melville did too less than a minute later to even the teams. The loss didn’t affect the Patriots though, as Brazier scored her third goal, senior attack Kassidy Rogers-Healion buried her penalty shot and junior attack Kerri Thornton dished one off to sophomore Alexis Reinhardt, who put the team out front 10-5.

“Smithtown is definitely a great team — we play well together and we have a really deep bench, so there’s no deviation when we put subs in,” Brazier said. “We’ve all played together since we were young, so we mesh really well together.”

Ward Melville’s Shannon Brazier shoots the ball past Smithtown East goalkeeper Patricia Werker. Photo by Bill Landon

Smithtown East senior co-captain Shannon Kavanagh’s stick spoke next, when a foul shot hit the back of the cage in the opening minute of the second half. But again, the Patriots didn’t let the scoring last for long, and went on another tare, scoring four consecutive goals before Costa countered, to cut the deficit to 14-7.

Smithtown East head coach Ann Naughton critiqued her team’s performance, saying it was below average.

“It’s obviously disappointing, and we’re going to have to learn from it,” she said. “Ward Melville came out and they wanted it more than we did. I always respect them — they’re a really good team so I’m not surprised by them at all.”

With just over nine minutes left, Ward Melville ran the clock before senior attack Hannah Lorenzen scored on a hand off for her fourth goal of the game.

“We know that they’re a good team, so we had to get on their hands when they were shooting so they couldn’t get off a great shot,” Lorenzen said. “And that helps our goalie [Samantha Tarpey], who was a big part of our win today.”

Tarpey had eight saves on the afternoon.

Smithtown East wouldn’t go quietly though, and with time running out found the net four more times.

“They always have potential — they’ve given us a run for our money in the past and I just told the girls don’t allow those quick goals to rattle you,” Kilkenny said. “Sometimes they get a couple of quick ones on you and the team will deflate, but the girls stayed on their game.”

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Greg Giordano moves the ball around a Bay Shore opponent. Photo by Desirée Keegan

By Desirée Keegan

Smithtown West will have a long offseason to swallow another early, albeit familiar playoff loss.

After finishing last season in the Suffolk County boys’ basketball Class AA semifinals, the Bulls were hoping to take it a step further.

Michael Gannon hurriedly looks to make a pass. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The team wanted a county title, but Bay Shore had other ideas in mind. Both years, as the No. 4 seed, Smithtown West found itself up against the top dog. Last year, the Bulls had trouble controlling a tough Brentwood team, losing 61-49. This time around, the team may have fallen behind early, but picked it back up to make it a close contest, falling this time in a close 66-59 battle Feb. 25 at Stony Brook University.

“We’ve been going for a long time,” Smithtown West head coach Mike Agostino said. “It’s more than just a season, it’s a 12-month commitment. Losing here, to this team, is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s just unfortunate that they were a little bit better today.”

The Bulls, who went undefeated in League III to claim their second straight conference title, fell behind 20-10 at the end of the first, despite senior Gordon Shouler swishing two 3-pointers in the opening quarter. By halftime, the deficit grew slightly, with the Marauders holding a 36-24 advantage.

Chris Crespo shoots from the free-throw line. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“They were hitting their shots and we weren’t,” junior Michael Gannon said. “They started off hitting three after three and jump shot after jump shot. And after the first quarter their shots weren’t really falling but at that point they had a good lead.”

Junior Chris Crespo took matters into his own hands to get the Bulls back in the game. He banked two shots from beyond the arc, a field goal and a free throw in the third quarter. Senior Kyle LaGuardia added two buckets to help the Bulls close the gap to 50-43 after eight minutes.

“Bay Shore was a tough team — no doubt about it,” Crespo said. “Very aggressive, and a good matchup for us I thought. What changed was we were getting stops defensively, and those stops turned to baskets, which gave us a huge momentum push.”

Senior Greg Giordano had the hot hand in the fourth, swishing two foul shots and scoring on a jumper before a field goal brought his team within four points, 55-51, its closest score since the first, and as close as the Bulls would come for the remainder of the game.

“The game was unlike any game I’ve ever played before,” Giordano said. “Especially at the end when the game was out of reach with a few seconds left, it just hit me that this is the last game I will play in a Smithtown West uniform, and that was just such an emotional feeling.”

Kyle LaGuardia makes a leaping cross-court pass catch. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Although the senior standout will be moving on after this year, he said he’s honored to be a part of some big Bulls moments.

“I have grown up right next to Smithtown West, and when I was in elementary school, I went to all the booster camps, would see the older guys and hoped that one day I could be like them,” he said. “It has been a dream come true to not only play for Smithtown West, but to be able to cement our team’s legacy with two numbers on the banner. I wouldn’t trade my playing experience for anything.”

Despite graduating nine major contributors, Smithtown West’s two scoring leaders in the loss, Crespo and Gannon, will return next season. Crespo finished with a team-high 18 points with four 3-pointers, and Gannon was close behind with 15.

“It was a testament to these guys, because we pulled within four at one point, and they kept battling — I’m proud of them,” Agostino said. “This wasn’t our goal, but I’m not disappointed in them at all. We wanted better results, but it wasn’t because of a lack of effort. They’re gladiators, and they fought tooth and nail to their last breath.”

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