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Champions

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Smithtown West's Jack Swanson maintains control of his challenger. Photo by Jim Ferchland

By Jim Ferchland

The Bulls have once again dominated League III this season.

Smithtown West’s wrestling team finished the season undefeated at 6-0 with a 57-18 win over visiting Riverhead Jan. 12.

Smithtown West’s Logan Hutter, on left, sizes up his challenger. Photo by Jim Ferchland

“I have a senior group that’s ready to go, but I seem to have balance ,” head coach Ken Leverich said of the cohesiveness of his unit. “I have ninth graders in the varsity lineup winning matches, tenth graders, juniors and seniors — we look to keep this ball rolling.”

It’s the first time in school history the Bulls have won back-to-back league titles in wrestling. Leverich, who has been at the helm for 13 years, was hesitant to respond with how he felt.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I just like to put numbers up on the banner.”

Smithtown West even had to forego having three starters compete because they were upstate at the Eastern States Classic tournament. Despite their absence, Leverich was content with the backup and depth of his team replacing Kyle Reilly, Matt Weitemeyer and Tim Nagoski.

Smithtown West Jack Desousa stands up on the mat after pinning his Riverhead opponent. Photo by Jim Ferchland

“When you have three starters away at another tournament, it was a little dicey without them,” Leverich said. “The expectations were a little uncertain versus Riverhead, but we were able to slide guys in with our depth and [they brought home] wins for us. It was big.”

Smithtown West junior 113-pounder Jack Desousa picked up a win and six points with a pin in 1 minute, 35 seconds over Riverhead’s Jason Daman.

“It’s amazing actually —two years in a row is great for our program,” the two-year varsity starter said of being part of another league championship-winning squad, also noting his closeness with Leverich, who he said has become a second father to him. “We have great coaches and I’ve been with them forever. I’ve had [Leverich] as a coach since second grade.”

Senior Jack Swanson finished his final match at Smithtown West with a win over Riverhead’s Chris Dubose in the 182-pound weight class. Leverich said the 10-3 decision over Riverhead’s Chris Debose was the highlight of the night.

“He stepped up and beat another county-ranked kid,” the head coach said of Swanson. “He’s got a ton of wins this season. He’s done a great job.”

Smithtown West’s Steven Zimmerman refuses to let his opponent escape. Photo by Jim Ferchland

At the 195-pound weight class, Smithtown West’s Steven Zimmerman pinned Romel Richards in 5:38 to give the Bulls a 37-3 advantage.

Leverich raved about freshman Nicholas Germano, who despite winning against Riverhead at 99 pounds as a result of a forfeit has only lost one match all season.

“He’s a little stud,” Leverich said of his 17-1 grappler. “Weight class 99 is where we should go furthest this year.”

Smithtown West junior James Campanelle earned a major decision over Jared Cawley (9-1) at 120 pounds, as did freshman Logan Hutter over Dominic Bossey (10-1) at 126.

Leverich said even with some of the boys’ close losses he was happy with how his Bulls performed.

“I wasn’t disappointed in any of my boys tonight,” he said. “They all wrestled well.”

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Mount Sinai’s cheerleading team, a county, state and national champion, bounced back after having its seven-year streak of first-place Empire Regional finishes snapped, to win the first meet of the regular season. Photo from Megan Wesolowski

For the first time in seven years, Mount Sinai’s cheerleading team fell short of a first-place finish at the Empire Regional championship. The girls could have sulked, hung their heads and given up the idea of maintaining their national prowess. Instead, the Mustangs used the slip to second place to fuel their fire.

“We put out an amazing routine that we were very proud of,” senior captain Alexa Tabile said of Mount Sinai’s 88.1 score Dec. 2 at Nassau County Community College that still earned the team a bid to nationals. “We took a step back and saw we need to be better, because the team that beat us was better. It’s just as simple as that.”

The girls went into the next practice asking what they could do to get back on top, and worked at it.

Mount Sinai sticks a routine. Photo from Megan Wesolowski

“I try to motivate my teammates before practice and tell them we need to be supporting each other,” Tabile said, adding that the team takes everything in stride. “It’s something I felt we did, and it led to our next first-place finish. We focus on what’s coming up next, but always have the big picture in mind.”

The Mustangs ended up in the No. 1 spot Dec. 11 at Longwood, redeeming themselves from a bobble in the pyramid at the regional competition and a fall at the  meet.

Tabile said she was still afraid of once again coming in second, because more points are deducted for a fall.

“There was a little bit of doubt,” she said. “We thought maybe the fall really put us back, but we knew we put out a routine that was clean, and everything else in the routine we hit beautifully. We kept going.”

Mount Sinai placed fifth in the state championship earlier this year after taking first in the inaugural state competition in 2016. The Mustangs won the county title last season and have a history of placing at nationals, coming in third in February and in 2015, and first in 2016 and 2014.

“They feel a great amount of pressure knowing that we have a long tradition of winning,” said first-year head coach Megan Wesolowski, who coached the district’s middle school team for the last five years and took over for long-standing leader Samantha Melella following the birth of her child. “They want to make the people that made this program proud. They’re proving that one fall or one mishap never carries through an entire routine, and Alexa Tabile is leading the team through everything. She’s one of our best back spots with great tumbling skills. Cheer-related or not, she’s there for every girl that needs her.”

Mount Sinai’s cheerleading team earned a bid to nationals next yea.r Photo from Megan Wesolowski

Mount Sinai, as Suffolk County’s only Division II Large team, competed against Division I Large schools, which made the win this time around even sweeter. Wesolowski petitioned for her team’s step up in competition.

“It’s great to have teams to compete against, and especially to be able to compete against schools with a bigger pool of girls to choose from,” she said. “Competing against yourself you kind of lose that competitive edge. We didn’t want to end up going down to nationals next year with a false sense of security.”

Tabile said the jump has not only forced her team to improve its skills and routine, but it has also been more fun.

“Now, we go to competitions and we know we have to be on point,” she said. “Going out there last year, it didn’t matter if we were doing forward rolls on the mat for two-and-half minutes, we were still getting first place. Now, we’re driven to put in the extra work because we’re competing against other teams with national titles.”

After new and old players quit the team, and through injuries and adjusting to a new coach, Mount Sinai worked to remain competitive, and Tabile said this learning experience is only making the Mustangs stronger.

“We’ve clicked very well,” she said. “Coach Wesolowski motivates us in every way and we want to do better for her. It hasn’t been the easiest season for us — we’ve had our fair share of challenges throughout the season — but I feel like we’ve never had a team with this kind of bond, where we pick each other up and say, ‘Hey, things haven’t been going as we’ve planned, and we’ve had our hardships, but we can move on from this.’”

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Handful of cross country runners compete at state meet

Port Jefferson's cross country team finished first in Suffolk County's Class C. Photo by Dick Olson

By Jim Ferchland

Coach Rod Cawley called runner Sam Walker a “take-charge kind of guy,” and at the Suffolk County Class C championship Nov. 3, the senior raced his team to its second straight title.

The Port Jefferson cross-country competitor finished first at the 5,000-meter Sunken Meadow State Park course, crossing the finish line in 17 minutes, 48 seconds.

Sam Walker, who placed first at the Suffolk County meet, rounds a corner before punching his state qualifying ticket. Photo by Dick Olson

Walker has claimed gold his junior and senior season and said placing first two years in a row to cap off his final county cross-country meet was icing on the cake. He also was quick to point toward it being more about the team than himself this time around.

“I’m not going to lie, it felt pretty good,” Walker said. “This year didn’t entirely go as I wanted it to, but I was proud of myself because my main concern was if the team was going to qualify.”

The Royals finished 5-1 in League VIII, winning all but the final meet of the season with a loss to Shelter Island by a single point, 27-28. In all other meets, Port Jefferson dominated its opponents by 30 or more points.

“They worked very hard all season,” Cawley said of his athletes. “They did what they had to do.”

The head coach has led the Royals to 13 county crowns in his 25-year tenure. He said he gives all of the credit to his runners, especially Walker, who he said he’s had the privilege of coaching for four of them.

“He leads by example,” Cawley said. “He works hard and does what he has to do. He continued to improve each year.”

Walker said his focus this time around was on the underclassmen because of the fact the team hasn’t had many state qualifiers over his last four years.

“That whole race was trying to get the younger guys to the state meet and get that experience,” he said. “I know those guys have got a lot of talent and a lot of promise. And I know they’ll do the same for their younger guys.”

Grant Samara finished right behind teammate Sam Walker for second place. Photo by Dick Olson

The Port Jefferson team ran an average of 18:48.21, and had three runners place in the Top 5, with freshman Grant Samara placing second in 18:41 and freshman Cooper Schoch rounding out the fifth spot with a 19:05 finish. Right behind Schoch was Mike Ruggiero with a time of 19:06, and three others placed in the Top 15 — Brian Veit finished in eighth, Alex Rebic placed 11th and Owen Okst finished 15th.

“It’s amazing to see,” Walker said of the talented underclassmen. “I know when I go off to college, I’m going to be coming back to watch these guys. I know they have so much promise in this sport, especially since we are such a small school compared to the bigger Class A schools. We got so lucky with these freshmen that have such a future. I wasn’t even that driven when I first participated in the sport.”

Cawley said he too is liking what he’s seeing from his young guys.

“Samara’s an outstanding freshman,” Cawley said. “He came along quite a bit. He was the fourth guy in the beginning of the season and he ended up being the second. He improved considerably over the course of the season. For Schoch, he’s very talented and right there with Grant. Both of them ran as eighth-graders.”

Cawley said there were some challenges this year, but they were primarily a result of mother nature.

“It was a warm season — it was difficult to train sometimes and difficult to compete,” he said. “One meet got canceled because they ran out of ambulances, so I would say the weather was a difficult challenge for us this year. Cross-country is designed for the 50s and maybe the 60s, not the 70s.”

Cooper Schoch placed fifth at the Suffolk County meet. Photo by Dick Olson

With this, the weather once again became a colossal obstacle for Port Jefferson in the state meet at Wayne Central School District in Ontario Center just east of Rochester. The conditions were in the 20s with snow and wind, according to Cawley, a drastic change from what the Royals were getting used to. Port Jefferson finished the meet in ninth place.

“The ground was frozen,” Cawley said. “It wasn’t pleasant, and everyone had the same conditions, but the upstate schools are a little better handling that than us Long Islanders.”

Walker hit a major setback in the state meet as he suffered an injury in the tough conditions, costing him a Top 20 finish.

“I was feeling good,” Walker said of his confidence before his injury. “I tried catching up with the lead pack, but it was so muddy and there were foot tracks from the previous day that had frozen over. There were a bunch of holes and I rolled my ankle, fell, and it took a while to get back up. I knew that race was over. I couldn’t run as well as I wanted to, but it’s something to learn from.”

Despite the rough upstate experience, Cawley continues to remain optimistic about the future with his young, talented team.

“I’m very excited,” Cawley said. “I have very high expectations for the next few years.”

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Patriots powerhouse wins two 1-0 games for first state crown since 2008

Kerri Thornton has become a thorn in the side of her opponents.

The senior standout scored Ward Melville’s game-winning goal in overtime to help the Patriots bring home the first Class A state title in field hockey since 2008 with a 1-0 win over Maine-Endwell on their field Nov. 12.

“At first, I honestly did not think it went in,” Thornton said. “When Kate [Mulham] got the back ball, I ran back into the circle and got ready for her to send it in. When she did, I received it, and just turned around and shot it hard hoping that it would go in.”

As Thornton’s teammates surrounded her in celebration, she said she knew what she’d done.

“I let out a huge shout in relief,” she said as she saw the smiling faces racing toward her. “It has been our dream ever since we were kids to win a championship like this. The journey this season — as a senior this year — this was what I wanted. I’m just so proud of my team for putting in the time and effort to get to where we got. It’s incredible that we finally pulled it off.”

The game-winning goal was scored with 4:37 left in overtime. Mulham said despite the team’s perfect 21-0 record, losing in the state final and semifinal games in extra minutes in the last two years lingered in the back of their minds. She said despite coming up just short in recent years, she knew the qualities her surrounding teammates possessed.

“What makes Ward Melville field hockey different is that we field a team where every girl is extremely talented,” she said. “Overtime is a high-pressure situation, but I was confident. That’s what makes us so successful.”

She said when she heard her classmate calling for the ball from the circle, she knew what she had to do.

“All I could see was a swarm of defenders when I passed the ball to Kerri,” Mulham said. “But I heard her calling for it, and I trust her, so I sent it to her. When I saw it go into the net, I broke down — tears of joy, and I rushed to hug her so tightly. I never wanted something so badly, and to accomplish something like this with your best friends is a feeling I can’t even put into words.”

With the intensity up and with a huge target on its back, Ward Melville began its journey upstate Nov. 11. With a second trip to the finals in three years on the line, junior Lexi Reinhardt was the first Patriot to jump for joy. Long Island’s leading goal scorer (33 points on 24 goals and nine assists) found the back of the cage in another pressure-filled situation. With 23 seconds left in the first half of a 0-0 game with Baldwinsville, she scored off an assist from senior Shannon Coughlan to send Ward Melville to the finals.

“The play was on a corner and in these games corners are precious,” Reinhardt said. “It was just a great pass from Shannon Coughlan and I was in the right position to finish it.”

She said the Patriots wanted to make a statement being back in the state semifinal game for the third year in a row.

“Heading in, there was definitely some nerves, but I think we channeled that and we were able to play off of the energy of the situation,” she said. “During the game we didn’t focus on that though, we were just focused on playing our game, and winning. The joy and happiness that we feel has radiated throughout the entire program. I will never forget this team.”

What would a victory be without a trophy? We faced that awful question this week.

In the championship game, my daughter’s volleyball team battled their opponent and their nerves to win that coveted trophy, to claim the top honors in their division, and to cap off a successful and rewarding season that involved floor burns, mishits, turned ankles and all manner of emotional challenges as they went toe-to-toe with teams in gyms filled with exuberant fans.

Nothing went right in the beginning of the match. They gave away point after point, until the unflappable coach, whose only sign of anxiety was a few extra gulps of water, called timeout and told the team to relax and play their game.

They were down 12-2 in a 25-point game. Maybe, my wife and I thought, they’d make the first game respectable, get their bearings and then win the second and third games. The benefit of a best-of-three-game set is that they didn’t have to win the first game.

And then a funny thing happened on the way to a potential lopsided loss. They pulled themselves together and they made important shots that landed just inside the line. Momentum, which is such an intangible, shifted quickly, forcing the other coach to call a hasty timeout.

Ultimately, they won that first set, 25-23. The second set was closer throughout, but they also won that one, 25-20, leading to a euphoric celebration. They took turns holding a trophy, which had a volleyball figurine and a plaque.

The coach handed the trophy to my daughter, who was the captain. She cradled it like it was an infant, passing it gently to her teammates who posed for their own pictures with the team’s prize. She got to take the trophy home for the weekend. I drove her friend and her to a diner for some celebratory curly fries and raced home to relatives who were eating a wider variety of food.

After the meal, I offered to take Uncle Jordan, who had come out from the city, back to the train. My wife graciously suggested he sit in the front seat. As soon as he sat down, he asked, “Hey, what’s that?”

Yup, he sat on the trophy, wounding our daughter’s “baby.” When I turned on the light in the car, I saw that the figurine was still intact, but the plaque dangled at an angle.

Jordan laughed. Our son was in hysterics. My wife, who was in the back seat, laughed nervously, while I considered going into panic mode, wondering if I should call the factory in Singapore to ask it to ship another trophy overnight.

We thought about gluing the pieces back together, but that would be like bringing a messy art project to school. Maybe we could take it out of the car and run over it 20 times, and then say we lost it. No, destroying it wasn’t the answer.

“Take it to Home Depot,” Jordan suggested.

What if they couldn’t fix it? What would we tell our daughter?

When she got to our house that night, I did everything I could to keep her from asking about, or looking for, the coveted trophy.

The next morning, we raced to Home Depot, where a couple of good-humored men at the tool rental section got to work. Fortunately, they repaired it. When we returned, we shared the story with our daughter who laughed, too, even as she compared the pictures of the trophy from the night before to the rescued object in her hand. Somehow, like her team, the trophy endured.

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By Bill Landon

Lexi Reinhardt wasn’t concerned about being down 1-0, even with just 12 minutes left in the game.

Poised and prepared, Ward Melville’s junior field hockey standout slammed home the Patriots’ two goals in 2-1 come-from-behind win over Sachem East  Oct. 28 for the program’s third straight Suffolk County Class A title.

“We were just trying to stay positive, keep the pressure going,” she said. “It took us a little while to come back, but we knew we had to work together and get the ball in the net. And that’s what we did.”

After a scoreless first half, Sachem East’s Emily Rodriguez broke the ice at the 25-minute mark.

The Flaming Arrows’ defense proved it was up to the task of guarding against a Ward Melville attack that outscored opponents 62-13 during the regular season, but senior midfielder Kate Mulham said she knew it was only a matter of time until her Patriots would strike.

“Our team prides itself on its composure and our ability to be resilient even when faced with adversity, like being down 1-0 to a really strong team like Sachem East,” the co-captain said. “We all know our individual strengths and our team’s strengths, and we knew that if we kept up our style of play eventually the goals would fall.”

Reinhardt relished in a penalty shot attempt, and fired home a goal to tie the game with 11:27 left to play. With 4:50 left in regulation, junior forward Caitlin Evans scooped up possession amid a pile of players off a corner attempt, and flicked a pass to Reinhardt, who put the game away with the go-ahead goal.

“It was great to get that stroke to break the ice a little bit and to keep our attack pushing and pushing,” Ward Melville head coach Shannon Sioss said. “[Sachem East’s] defense was extremely strong today, and we were just lucky that we had a lot of opportunities. We had our fingers crossed that hopefully we would be able to break through that defense at least once.”

The Patriots extend their undefeated streak to 18-0, and will represent Suffolk in the Long Island regional championship game against Massapequa Nov. 1 at Newfield High School at 2:30 p.m.

“Winning county championship brings a lot of pride to us — it’s a confidence booster and we’re going to carry it on to our next game,” Reinhardt said. “Hopefully win and keep this streak going with this positive vibe as we go on.”

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Keren Collins is surrounded by her teammates following her three-set win to propel Ward Melville to a county team title. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

The Patriots had been in this position before, but this time, all eyes were on senior Keren Collins.

Keren Collins returns the ball. Photo by Bill Landon

The Ward Melville girls tennis team’s chance at redeeming last season’s finals loss to Commack for the Suffolk County team title came down to the third singles match, and Collins came from behind 4-6, 6-0, 6-4 to claim the crown for the No. 1 Patriots with a 4-3 edging of No. 2 Half Hollow Hills East Oct. 23.

“At first, the pressure was nonexistent, but when I found out [I was in the last match of the day] and up by three or four games, I said to myself, ‘I’m going to use that advantage and get this, right here,’” Collins said. “Last year we made it to the finals and lost to Commack, but this year we were determined to make it happen and I wasn’t going to let the chance slip away.”

While Collins was competing on the William Floyd court, third doubles pair Ellie Berger and Sam Sloan were playing alongside her. The Patriots duo dropped the second set 1-6 after winning a commanding first 6-1, and eked out a 6-4 win in the third over Lauren Kornfeld and Emily Me taxas.

Denise Lai volleys. Photo by Bill Landon

After the win and even with the mounting pressure, Collins kept her pace and her power stroke strong as she wore down her opponent.

“I was able to hit down the middle and I kept going to every possible corner that I could,” she said. “But [Melissa Chen] was extremely athletic — she was able to get to almost everything, she was like a ball machine, so I had to tire her out as much as possible.”

Ward Melville head coach Erick Sussin said his three-time All-County player was a game-changer.

“Keren was able to change the dynamic of the game. What she lacks in mobility on the court she makes up with power,” he said. “With power — putting the slice in every so often — she mixed it up so that pace went from really fast to really slow, and that caught her opponent off=guard.”

Earlier in the match, Anna Ma won her fourth singles match 6-3, 6-1 and Denise Lai did her part in first singles, defeating Alexis Huber in convincing fashion 6-0, 6-2. But the two-time All-State player admitted she was nervous about whether her team could pull out a victory.

“I had some doubts,” Lai said. “Last year was kind of sad, we lost big time, but I’m so happy that we finally won.”

Julia Hu serves the ball. Photo by Bill Landon

Sussin said that changing wind conditions presented a problem, especially during Collins match, but said she seemed to take the gusts of wind in stride.

“It was a factor early on, especially in that second set, and she used the wind when she needed to —when the wind was at her back her slice was dropping in,” Sussin said. “And when the wind was at her face she was able to hit through it with all her pace.”

Julia Hu, a three-time All-County player, said she did not doubt Collins in the nail-biting contest, even through standing still in silence with her teammates.

“I knew she could pull it out — she has that amazing mental strength,” Hu said. “She’s been playing tennis for so long and she knows she has to get the job done, and won’t let her emotions interfere with what she has to do.”

Ward Melville now turns its attention to winning the Long Island title. The undefeated, 18-0 Patriots will play Port Washington at Half Hollow Hills West Oct. 25 at 3 p.m.

The Ward Melville girls tennis team took the Suffolk County team title with a 4-3 win over Half Hollow Hills East Oct. 24. Photo by Bill Landon

Cougars celebrate a three run standup double to tie the game at four

Athletic success was contagious on the North Shore this spring.

We boasted 13 boys lacrosse, 11 baseball, eight boys tennis, 13 girls lacrosse and 11 softball squads in the playoffs this season. Local teams like Comsewogue boys lacrosse, Ward Melville baseball, Ward Melville boys tennis, Smithtown East girls lacrosse and Walt Whitman softball reached the semifinals. Seven of those 56 postseason qualifiers went on to be crowned Suffolk County champions, including the Commack baseball team, which grabbed the program’s first title in 20 years, and Mount Sinai’s softball team, which won its third straight county final.

Ward Melville boys lacrosse and the girls lacrosse teams from Mount Sinai and Middle Country all nabbed Long Island championship titles, and all three won their state semifinal games. The Patriots and Mustangs won state titles. And after the Middle Country Mad Dogs won the program’s first county, Long Island and state semifinal games, the girls narrowly lost in overtime, after the nation’s No. 1 lacrosse recruit and New York’s new all-time leading scorer Jamie Ortega netted the equalizer with just 1:37 left in regulation.

Districts like Mount Sinai, Shoreham-Wading River and Ward Melville have been dominating team and individual sports, creating powerhouse programs. Besides posting playoff teams in nearly every sport, Shoreham-Wading River junior Katherine Lee won a myriad of titles across the track and field season. She became a part of history when she and three other teammates swept the top three spots in the 3,000-meter state qualifier run, and placed second in the state with a new personal best.

Port Jefferson sophomore Shane DeVincenzo placed sixth overall and fifth in the Federation at the state golf tournament. Northport track and field’s 4×800 relay team placed first in the state and Federation finals, and Huntington’s Lawrence Leake placed third in the state track and field finals in the 400 high hurdles. His teammate Kyree Johnson won a state title in the 400 dash and third in the long jump, and led the Blue Devils to win the Federation team title, toppling every public, private and parochial high school in New York.

A load of other talented track and field standouts across our schools placed in the county finals and state qualifier meets. We’ve seen more and more talent across every team and individual sport with each season, and our schools continue to sneak into national rankings, perhaps creating budding dynasties for years to come.

With the end of another successful season, we want to recognize all the hard work and dedication put in by our student-athletes, many of whom excel to a similar level inside the classroom, and their coaches who help lead the way. Every student needs some guidance, and it’s clear guidance from coaches this season helped bring these athletes great success.

To overcome any kind of competition, students spend years learning their chosen sport or sports, practicing skills and developing their physical fitness. It takes a lot of patience and positive thinking to not give up at one loss or the next, and trust that the years of sacrifice will pay off. We’re proud to have covered those wrapping up their high school careers who have represented our six paper’s various coverage areas with class and pride, and we look forward to seeing what the returners can do next year. Congratulations, and keep up the good work.

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Commack baseball captains Demetri Mesimeris, Pete Theodorellis and john Pohlman accept the runner-up plaque. Photo by Bill Landon
Pete Theoforellis fires from the mound. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Down three runs, Commack’s baseball team dug itself out of a hole in the bottom of the fifth inning to tie the game, 4-4, but Massapequa added four late runs to pull away with an 8-4 win for the Class AA Long Island championship title at St. Joseph’s College June 3.

The road to the Suffolk title began on May 16, where the Cougars picked off Kings Park Hauppauge a day later and battled Patchogue-Medford in the best of three series. From there, Commack got the better of West Islip, sweeping the series and with it, picking up the program’s first Suffolk County crown in 20 years. The Cougars took a 15-3 record into Saturday’s game.

After singles by senior Pete Theodorellis and junior James Cardinale in the bottom of the fifth inning, sophomore Tim McHugh drew the walk to load the bases. With two outs, it was Jake Krzemienski’s bat that made the difference, as the sophomore ripped a deep three-run, stand-up double to make it a new game.

Tim McHugh drives the ball deep. Photo by Bill Landon

“Awesome season boys,” McHugh wrote on Twitter following the loss. “Good luck to all seniors in college. Happy to say I made another family.”

The Chiefs laid down a bunt to move senior Michael Cottone to second base, and classmate Luke O’Mahony drove him home to put his team back in front, 5-4. Theodorellis got into trouble on the mound, and loaded the bases for the second time in the game. He paid the price when he walked in Massapequa’s sixth run, and the Chiefs plated who more runs before the inning was over.

Massapequa retired all three Commack batters in order in the bottom of the inning to end the game.

“I’ve got a great group of kids who listened to everything I’d say and they gave it their best effort every single day,” Commack head coach Bryan Bonin said. “Competing on every single pitch — they’re a good group of kids who have a never-quit attitude.”

The Commack team celebrates Jake Krzemienski’s three-run double. Photo by Bill Landon

 

By Bill Landon

With 46 seconds left on the clock, it all came down to a single draw for Middle Country’s girls’ lacrosse team, which, leading 10-9, needed a crucial possession win to try and bring home the Mad Dogs’ first Long Island championship title in program history.

With Jennifer Barry taking the draw, her older sister Ava, a senior, said she spoke to her of the draw’s importance.

Jamie Ortegan drives to the goal. Photo by Bill Landon

“’You have to block everything out,’” Ava Barry said she told her sister. “’I told her, ‘you’re great at this, we’ve practiced this.’ She knew she had to get it, and she did.”

Senior Jamie Ortega was there to scoop up the ball, and with it, the school district’s first Long Island Class A title with a 10-9 win over Massapequa at Adelphi University June 4.

“It feels great — I’m so happy for them,” Middle Country head coach Lindsay Dolson said of the win. “They grinded until the last second, and that’s what we needed them to do.”

It wasn’t the only title that Ortega grabbed Sunday.

The University of North Carolina-bound senior needed three points to become New York’s leading point-scorer. The nation’s top lacrosse recruit, who leads Suffolk County with 130 points off 89 goals and 41 assists, surpassed Northport’s Shannon Gilroy’s record of 570 points.

Ava Barry cuts up the field. Photo by Bill Landon

She did it fast, too, during Middle Country’s first three goals. First, she fed senior Amanda Masullo to tie the game, 1-1, and on a man-up advantage, passed to an open Sophie Alois, who found the back of the goal to retie the game 2-2. With the score knotted 3-3 after Ortega scored on an feed from senior Ava Barry, and her teammate returned the favor to help Ortega pass Gilroy and give Middle Country its first lead of the game. And Ortega didn’t stop there. She scored again as the Mad Dogs went on a 4-1 run to lead 7-4 at the break.

“When I beat the record it felt really nice, but winning that game was my biggest goal,” Ortega said. “Being recognized for my achievements makes me really proud, but the ride this entire team has been on has been one for the books.”

Barry scored on a cut, and fed Ortega her hat trick goal for a 9-4 lead to open the second half. Massapequa rattled off two unanswered goals before Ortega and Barry connected again.

That’s when things began to break down for Middle Country. The team wasn’t winning the draws, and the extra possessions led to a 5-0 Massapequa run.

“I was so nervous,” Barry said of the scoring streak. “We came out hard and we were racking up points, and then all of a sudden, we weren’t getting the draw like we were.”

She said she thinks her team lost focus, but said a timeout call settled the team down.

Rachel Masullo sends a shot toward the netting. Photo by Bill Landon

“We [started] to panic,” Ortega said. “We brought it in [during the timeout] and we knew we had to keep up our defense. We knew they could score again, and thankfully, we were able to hold them.”

Behind Ortega’s three goals and four assists, was Ava Barry with a hat trick and two assists. Alois netted two goals, and twin sisters Rachel and Amanda Masullo each scored once, with Rachel also feeding on a goal. Senior Emily Walsh made five saves between the pipes.

The Mad Dogs carry a potent offense into the state semifinal game June 9, where the Mad Dogs will take take on North Rockland in the state semifinals at SUNY Cortland at 4:30 p.m.

Dolson joked she’s not only hoping to pull out a win for her special senior class, but also for a little battle she has going on at home.

“My husband won his state championship with his wrestling team at Mattituck,” she said. “So now I need to get mine.”

Ortega thinks they’re on the right track to get there.

“I really think we could win states if we play to our full potential,” she said. “It’s something that I always dreamed about and finally bringing home that win means the world to me and to my team.  We worked so hard, we have such a talented team and we are so close. I know that we can continue to make history.”

Desirée Keegan contributed reporting

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