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Middle Country’s Christine Gironda races Smithtown West’s Natalie Lynch for the ground ball off the draw in the Mad Dogs’ 17-13 win over the Bulls on May 8. With the win, Middle Country goes undefeated in regular season play. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The Middle Country girls’ lacrosse team has made history, finishing a perfect season Friday with a 17-13 win over Smithtown West, to go undefeated for the first time in district history.

“The girls played awesome today, and honestly, at practice yesterday, we didn’t even talk about being undefeated,” Middle Country head coach Lindsay Dolson said. “These girls are smart, great lacrosse players. I don’t do much but steer the ship. Now we’re back to 0-0, and let the playoffs begin.”

Middle Country’s Nikki Ortega gains possession of the ball in the Mad Dogs’ zone, in her team’s 17-13 win over Smithtown West on May 8. With the win, Middle Country finished the regular season undefeated at 16-0, with a 14-0 mark in Division I. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Middle Country’s Nikki Ortega gains possession of the ball in the Mad Dogs’ zone, in her team’s 17-13 win over Smithtown West on May 8. With the win, Middle Country finished the regular season undefeated at 16-0, with a 14-0 mark in Division I. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The victory places the team first in Division I.

The Mad Dogs were off to a strong start as usual, lighting up the scoreboard and rattling off seven unanswered goals before Smithtown West midfielder Mackenzie Heldberg, a junior, put the Bulls’ first point on the board. Each team scored four more goals in the first half, to bring the score to 11-5 heading into the break.

“Every game we’re growing, we’re coming together and our chemistry is amazing on and off the field,” senior midfielder and attack Nikki Ortega said. “We’re best friends off the field, and it really shows when we play on the field. I’m so proud of the team, and it’s really all come together.”

Ortega got the ball rolling in the second half after senior goalkeeper Ashley Miller made a big save. Ortega passed the ball to classmate Allison DiPaola, who knocked a shot in early for the 12-5 advantage.

Senior midfielder Christine Gironda continued to aid the Mad Dogs in gaining possession off the draw, which helped her team continue to score and maintain its lead.

“Momentum is everything in this game, and winning the draws gave us so much more momentum and really put us up,” Ortega said.

Ortega continued a series of strong assists when she passed the ball to her younger sister, Jamie, a sophomore midfielder, and Miller followed with two saves to keep the Bulls at bay.

Middle Country’s Amanda Masullo squeezes between Smithtown West’s Kalya Kosubinsky and Katie Aldrich as she moves the ball up the field in the Mad Dogs’ 17-13 win over the Bulls on May 8. With the win, Middle Country goes undefeated in regular season play. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Middle Country’s Amanda Masullo squeezes between Smithtown West’s Kalya Kosubinsky and Katie Aldrich as she moves the ball up the field in the Mad Dogs’ 17-13 win over the Bulls on May 8. With the win, Middle Country goes undefeated in regular season play. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“That’s not how they play — they were definitely intimidated, without a doubt,” Smithtown West head coach Carie Bodo said of her team. “I think they put so much pressure on themselves, but in the second half, they were pissed, and they came out and played, and we outscored [Middle Country] in the second half.”

It took a little while for the Bulls to find their groove, and after Nikki Ortega scored off an assist from her younger sister to make the score 16-6 with 15:45 left to play, Smithtown West came back to score five unanswered goals — two by sophomore midfielder Kayla Kosubinsky — and force Middle Country to call a timeout.

“I think in the second half we really stepped it up,” Kosubinsky said. “I think we needed to figure out what we needed to do quicker in the game before there wasn’t much time left, but these girls are amazing and every person has their own role on this team and I think we all work so good together.”

The Mad Dogs regrouped in their huddle.

“This’ll show how much you want it,” Nikki Ortega said to her team. “If we want it, we’ll win.”

Jamie Ortega dished the ball to DiPaola for her hat trick goal, and although the Bulls tacked on two more to end the scoring for the game, Miller made two more stops, leaving the Mad Dogs with an undefeated season at 16-0 with a 14-0 mark in conference play.

Middle Country’s Jamie Ortega shoots the ball over a swarm of Smithtown West players in her team’s 17-13 win over the Bulls on May 8. With the win, the Mad Dogs finished the regular season undefeated at 16-0, with a 14-0 mark in Division I. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Middle Country’s Jamie Ortega shoots the ball over a swarm of Smithtown West players in her team’s 17-13 win over the Bulls on May 8. With the win, the Mad Dogs finished the regular season undefeated at 16-0, with a 14-0 mark in Division I. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“Once you have your first save down you have the adrenaline to keep going,” Miller said. “We all try to stay positive and we don’t get down on each other, but bring each other up. I feel like we have good motion going on, and we’re going to keep it going.”

Nikki Ortega finished the game with four goals and five assists, while Jamie Ortega also finished with nine points, off five goals and four assists. Behind DiPaola’s hat trick was sophomore Ava Barry and eighth-grader Sophie Alois with two goals. Sophomore midfielder Amanda Masullo tacked on a goal and an assist, and her twin sister Rachel rounded out the scoring with an assist, while Miller finished with a game-high eight saves.

“It’s something I never dreamed of ever doing,” Nikki Ortega said of going undefeated. “Although it puts a lot of pressure on us for playoffs, it’s the most incredible feeling.”

She feels her team still needs to work on being more composed, especially when its opponent applies pressure and comes back in a game. However, she thinks her team has what it takes to go further than its semifinal appearance last season.

“We have to keep our heads up,” she said. “Every game I play like it’s my last. This is how I’d want to end my season and my career at Middle Country. I think if there was any year that we could go all the way, it’s this year.”

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Smithtown West’s Jimmy Caddigan dives and shoots the ball past Riverhead’s goalkeeper in the Bulls’ 14-0 win over the Blue Waves on Friday, May 1st. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

The Smithtown West boys’ lacrosse team blew the Riverhead Blue Waves out of the water in a dominating performance on its home turf Friday afternoon.

In a tune up game for the playoff-bound Bulls, the team controlled the draw, the clock and the time of possession, and shut out Riverhead, 14-0, to improve to 8-2 with two games left to play in regular season, League II play.

Smithtown West’s Jarrod Wilkom maintains possession with a Riverhead defender at his hip, in the Bulls’ 14-0 win over the Blue Waves on Friday, May 1st. Photo by Bill Landon
Smithtown West’s Jarrod Wilkom maintains possession with a Riverhead defender at his hip, in the Bulls’ 14-0 win over the Blue Waves on Friday, May 1st. Photo by Bill Landon

Smithtown hit the scoreboard quickly and often, and freshman attack Kyle Zawadzki put away a pair in just over three minutes of play. The first, was off a feed from senior midfielder Jarrod Wilkom.

The Bulls rattled off five more goals to take a 7-0 lead into the second quarter.

Smithtown sophomore attack Jimmy Caddigan got on the scoreboard first, and sophomore midfielder Danny Riley tacked on the next. Senior attack Brennan Laforge found the cage twice — on his second, the ball ricocheted off the pipe and he snagged the rebound and drove his shot home — and Riley struck again for the final goal of the quarter.

“In the second half we took over on offense, but they’re a tough team,” Riley said.

Smithtown junior midfielder Dan Caroussos fed a diving Zawadzki in front of the cage, and while airborne, Zawadzki buried his shot before touching ground, for his hat trick to put his team out front 8-0.

Zawadzki wasn’t finished, and scored his fourth goal of the game off a feed from senior midfielder Garrett Brunsvold, to lead by nine to end the half.

The Bulls opened the second half with possession thanks to junior midfielder Danny Varello’s mastery at the faceoff “X,” and from there, they slowed the tempo of the game. Smithtown’s passing remained solid and deliberate throughout the game, as the team circled the cage looking for any opportunity. Opportunity came knocking three minutes into the third quarter, and Caroussos fired a shot between the pipes to surge ahead 10-0.

“We played very well today, our defense communicated very well and Zach Lamberti, our goalie who’s been playing great all season, had some big stops,” Smithtown West senior defenseman Chris Weider said. “Dan Varello at the ‘X’ won almost all of our face-offs today, and when you do that it means time of possession.”

With the heavy lead, Smithtown went to work on running down the clock. The team’s assistant coach, Tom Rotanz, barked from the sideline: “Zero-zero, get big, get wide,” as the Bull’s offense dropped back, spread out and snapped the ball around the circle, first one way, and then the other, as time bled off the clock.

Smithtown West’s Brett Disalvo passes the ball in the Bulls’ 14-0 win over Riverhead on Friday, May 1st. Photo by Bill Landon
Smithtown West’s Brett Disalvo passes the ball in the Bulls’ 14-0 win over Riverhead on Friday, May 1st. Photo by Bill Landon

Riverhead’s goalkeeper, fresh off a big stop, looked to clear the ball to a defender at his right, only to have Smithtown junior attack Nick Cascone take flight and snatch the ball from the defender’s waiting stick.

Upon landing, Cascone fed the ball to Caddigan in front of the cage. Caddigan snapped one by the startled keeper and put his team up 11-0.

“One of the things we’ve focused on all year is limiting our turnover,s because when you play the better teams, they’re going to beat you on it,” Caddigan said. “When you have the ball, they don’t, and when you have a face-off guy like Varello, you control the game.”

Rounding out the final three goals for Smithtown was freshman attack Matt Miller, Laforge, for his hat trick, and junior midfielder Brett Disalvo.

Smithtown head coach Bob Moltisanti was pleased with all aspects of his team’s game, and in particular, that of his senior goalkeeper.

“Danny Varello had an excellent game at the ‘X,’ and Zach Lamberti did a nice job in the cage turning away some of their good chances,” he said. “Our defense played close and we were able to shut the door on [Riverhead] a few times. Our attack did an excellent job on the ride — turning them over — and that created scoring chances for us in transition.”

With two games remaining in the regular season, Moltisanti said his strategy is to continue to take the season one game at a time.

“I’m happy if we get better every time we’re on the practice field, and we get better every game we play,” Moltisanti. “And right now, all we’re thinking about is getting ready for Copiague.”

Smithtown West hosted Copiague Wednesday, but results were not available by press time. The Bulls will conclude the regular season with a game at West Islip on Tuesday, May 12, at 5 p.m.

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Girls’ lacrosse brings the heat en route to third straight win

The connection between Mackenzie Heldberg and Natalia Lynch goes as far back as kindergarten, so when one of the junior midfielders gets the ball, the other is confident that her best friend can finish the job, the girls said.

“When I look up, I know she’ll be there cutting and I know she does the same for me, so I think that’s the best friend thing,” Heldberg said of the connection. “We knew we were going to have to play hard, so it feels really good to take away the win.”

Smithtown West head coach Carie Bodo started off by addressing her previously 5-2 team before the game and telling them that it was a game of possession.

“Win the draw and take smart shots,” she said.

Her team did just that, as the Bulls topped the previously second-ranked North Babylon, 16-9.

In the first 10 minutes of the first half, Smithtown West rattled off six unanswered goals, with Heldberg tallying a hat trick and an assist, and Lynch adding a goal and an assist, before North Babylon scored its first goal.

“I think my team really came out with a lot of fire and we really wanted this, so it feels great to win,” Lynch said. “We knew that this game was really important to us, so once we got that lead, it really helped us.”

North Babylon managed to score just two goals before the halftime break, while the Bulls scored four more to break out to a 10-3 lead.

Heldberg remained strong on the draws, and gaining that possession at midfield proved to be the game-changer for Smithtown West.

“I think it’s a big aspect for possession and I think everyone is good at getting the loose ball of the draws, even in the air like Natalia [Lynch] did a few times,” Heldberg said. “I put them up to her and I know she’s going to get them, and having [Addie Stapleton] behind me helps, too.”

North Babylon scored the first two goals of the second half, but Smithtown West countered with another six-goal tare, with Heldberg and Lynch connecting for two of them, to bring the score to 16-5.

“We played together since second grade and ever since our first year together, we would always look for each other,” Lynch said. “She’s amazing on the draws and always knows where to put it to get it to me and sees me when I’m open, and I think that helps a lot with the connection that we have.”

North Babylon went on a 4-0 run to end the game, but the team’s comeback effort fell short.

Heldberg lead the team with five goals and two assists, while Lynch finished with two goals and four assists.

“I like passing it to my players,” Lynch said. “I have a lot of confidence in them when they get opened.”

Senior attack Kaitlin Unser and sophomore midfielder Kayla Kosubinsky finished with two goals and two assists apiece, and sophomore attack Chelsea Witteck tallied a hat trick in the win.

“We did exactly what we said we wanted to do,” Bodo said. “We wanted to fast break to them and we’re definitely a fast break team, so as soon as we win the center draw, we book it and it goes in.”

Once Smithtown West realized that North Babylon’s Ally Kennedy was the team’s scorer, after she scored the first six of her seven goals, the Bulls were able to isolate her and protect their lead.

One of the Bull’s greatest benefits came from multiple girls getting their names on the score sheet, with seven girls tallying goals and nine getting at least a point.

“If one of our girls get hurt or someone is having an off-game, someone else can step up, because everyone can score,” Lynch said. “There’s not one girl that is a weakness on the field and I think that’s a great thing.”

Above, Kim Plaspohl fires a pitch from the mound. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Both teams stranded runners on base after several innings, but the Smithtown West softball team left fewer players stranded, to pull out a 4-0 victory over visiting Newfield on a cold, dreary Tuesday afternoon in a League II matchup.

Newfield senior Jennifer Sarcone struck first with a deep shot to left center for a standup double but was stranded at the bottom of the first.

Danielle Balsamo reached for the ball but not in time to make the out. Photo by Bill Landon
Danielle Balsamo reached for the ball but not in time to make the out. Photo by Bill Landon

Smithtown West sophomore Tara Killeen drove in senior Kassie Furr on a sacrifice fly to give her team a 1-0 lead to start the second inning, and the duo did it again in the top of the third when Killeen smacked a fly ball to right field to drive in Furr to take a two-run advantage.

“I didn’t think we came out with as much energy as we normally do,” Newfield pitcher Tabitha Butler said. “We should’ve got more lift on the ball. All we were doing is driving balls into the ground right at them so we weren’t’ finding the gaps.”

Smithtown West head coach Dave Miller sent in freshman right fielder Madison Mulder to pinch run at first, who stole second base on the very next pitch, but again, the Bulls stranded a runner on base.

Newfield head coach Jessica Palmaccio said her team didn’t execute when the opportunity presented itself.

“They were exactly what we thought they would be,” Palmaccio said. “They’re a good team. We’re a good team, but we didn’t do what we needed to do today. That’s all.”

Smithtown West lit up the scoreboard once more when Furr drilled a hit to rightfield to drive in sophomore Kaitlyn Loffman to edge ahead 3-0 in the bottom of the fifth.

“We came out knowing what to expect and we came out ready to play with good communication,” Smithtown West senior pitcher Kim Plaspohl said. “I felt confident because I knew my team would back me up.”

Furr, who defensively collected two line drives in the dirt to stop both, was there for her pitcher.
“I just knew I needed to support my pitcher and a play like that could mean the game,” she said. “So I knew when it was hit I needed to do whatever I had to do to get to it.”

Kiley Magee makes a catch. Photo by Bill Landon
Kiley Magee makes a catch. Photo by Bill Landon

Newfield’s Butler thought that her movement could’ve been better to help her team not just from the plate but from the mound.

“I didn’t hit all of my spots and that’s where they took advantage of it,” she said. “That’s where they got their hits.”

Killeen, in scoring position, was driven home by Smithtown West sophomore Amber Meystrik’s bat to take a 4-0 lead into the bottom of the sixth.

“Their energy was more than ours was today,” Sarcone said. “We had opportunities today that we didn’t take advantage of.”

Newfield threatened late, but couldn’t capitalize and fell to Smithtown West to drop to 2-3, while the Bulls improve to 2-1.

“I thought the girls played very, very well,” Miller said. “My pitcher was great. She didn’t walk anybody and our short stop [Furr] played better than I’ve ever seen her play. She’s a four-year varsity player.”

Smithtown West was scheduled to travel to Riverhead on Wednesday while Newfield was slated to host Copiague.

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Brian Willetts moves the ball around the cage in the Suffolk County Class A championship game against West Islip last season. File photo by Bill Landon

The Bulls have come charging out of the gate.

The Smithtown East boys’ lacrosse team proved it’s still a force to be reckoned with, dominating its season-opening, nonleague game against East Islip Tuesday, 17-6.

Last season, the Bulls went 16-4 overall, 12-2 in Division I and nabbed the school’s first Suffolk County Class A boys’ lacrosse championship; and as the team’s motto says, the Bulls are hungry for more.

“We had great leadership, we had a really close team, everyone was there for each other and it shows that we may not have had the best players in the league last year,” senior midfielder John Daniggelis said. “But we definitely had the best team, and we worked as one, which allowed us to get to the county championship, win it, and then move on to the Long Island championship.”

Despite graduating 16 seniors off the roster, many of the team’s key playmakers have returned, especially on offense. Daniggelis said five out of six starters are back this season and they possess a lot of firepower.

“We have kids that are experienced, which is something that you can’t teach on the varsity level,” he said. “We know that our offense can be very explosive and can put up a large sum of goals, and the big key is going to be on defense. We’re really buckling down and focusing and paying attention to detail so that we can hold teams to a low score.”

This vision came to fruition Tuesday as the team scored nine straight goals in the first quarter before East Islip scored its first, which helped many Bulls see playing time. Senior goalkeeper Sean Turner, who is starting between the pipes for the first time this season, made three saves and only let up the one goal before he was taken out.

“[He] played a great game,” senior attack Brian Willetts said of Turner. “The defense was busy today and it was nice to see them come together and work together, but offensively we moved the ball great, we won faceoffs — it was a great overall game and a great team win.”

John Daniggelis maintains possession in a game against Northport last season. File photo by Bill Landon
John Daniggelis maintains possession in a game against Northport last season. File photo by Bill Landon

Junior midfielder Gerard Arceri, known for dominating at the “X,” combined with sophomores Steven Cuccurullo and Brian Herber to win 20 out of 23 faceoffs in the game.

“He was phenomenal least year,” Smithtown East head coach Jason Lambert said of Arceri. “We’re pretty fortunate that right now we have three kids that take faceoffs for us that are committed to play Division I already, which is very rare and we’re very lucky, so we feel most confident, as far as having the most depth on our team, at the faceoff ‘X.'”

The team said it remains confident on offense, and it showed. Willetts, an offensive co-captain, scored five goals and added an assist in the game; junior attack Dan Rooney added two goals and four assists; sophomore midfielder Connor Desimone tacked on two goals and two assists; and Daniggelis, the second offensive co-captain, finished with two goals.

And on defense, the Bulls said they thought they needed the most work on the back end of the field. But that didn’t seem apparent during the game.

“We have new defenseman coming in, [seniors] Ryan O’Connor, Cole Valinoti, and [sophomore] Sean Yorke, who can hold down the fort and are all good defenseman,” senior defenseman and Smithtown East’s final co-captain, James Sarrocco, said. “We couldn’t get outside the first few days of practice and we had to be in the gym, which was kind if tough, but once we got outside, we were rolling right from the beginning and it carried over into the first game.”

Willetts, a four-year varsity starter, said the offense has been clicking, while being unselfish and sharing the ball, and even some young, skilled players have stepped up to help out, while the seniors continue to lead the way.

Daniggelis, another four-year varsity starter, said he thinks this senior leadership is important to the Smithtown East program.

“Being on the team for four years you get to see players come and go, and if you can take one lesson from each guy, you can instill it in these younger guys and hope they can take one thing from you,” he said. “Our thing has always been leaving the program better than you found it. So when I was a sophomore, we went to the semifinals, and last year’s seniors were able to take us to the county championship and Long Island championship, and I think our team has the full intention to go farther than that this year, leave the program better than we found it, and hopefully make a run in the playoffs.”

With the league structure changing, the Bulls will still go up against some stiff competition, and Lambert has also set up a tough nonleague schedule against teams like Locust Valley, Greenwich and Bronxville, to keep the playing level high. But according to the boys, one of its biggest tests will come in the form of Half Hollow Hills West on Friday at home at 4:30 p.m., against a team that returns 24 seniors.

“If we keep our heads down, if we keep our nose clean, if we just strive to push each other and get better in practice each day, everything else will take care of itself in the end,” Lambert said. “It worked well for us last year, so if we keep working hard, when the dust settles, we want to make sure that we put ourselves in a good position to be one of the few teams left standing in the end.”

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