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Connetquot

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Northport's Kristen Roethel dribbles the ball up the field. Photo by Jen Holden

By Jen Holden

Northport’s field hockey is at it again.

For the sixth time this season, the visiting Tigers secured a shutout and, this time, with a 6-0 blanking of Connetquot Oct. 10, earned a postseason berth.

Northport’ Lilly Fox sets up a pass. Photo by Jen Holden

Senior Olivia Lewis scored the first goal five minutes in, on her way to a hat trick. She scored twice in the first half.

“We did a good job possessing the ball,” Lewis said. “It was in our half almost the entire game. We moved the ball well and our off-ball movement was good. We did a good job keeping it from the
other team.

Junior Lily Fox added a goal and one assist, scoring off a penalty shot, and junior forward Taryn Saturno rounded out the scoring for the first half, 4-0, on a corner shot.

“We had a lot of different players come in and we definitely used the width of the field.” Fox said.

Saturno said her teammates worked on sharing the wealth.

“I think we did a really good job like playing as a team and passing to each other and working for the ball and assists early,” Saturno said. “[The team] made sure that we each got equal opportunities to get some good goals.”

The second half challenged the Tigers’ stamina as the Thunderbirds applied pressure — forcing Northport passes and allowing Connetquot to steal the ball and gain two breakaway chances.

Northport’s Olivia Lewis passes the ball across the field. Photo by Jen Holden

The Tigers were able to slow the game and regain control of the ball, allowing the Thunderbirds just three shots on goal, all of which were blocked by sophomore goalie Hayley Hayden. The midfield also blocked Connetquot from gaining yards in the Tigers’ zone.

Lewis scored again before sophomore Kate McLam rounded out the scoring, 6-0, for the 10-3 Tigers.

Northport head coach, Gina Walling said she’s happy how her team has developed since the start of the season, and thinks they’re on the path toward success.

“They did a good job focusing on playing their game, maintaining their game and working on things they needed to work on,” she said.

The Tigers walked off the field with smiles on their faces and their sights now set on a state finals appearance.

“They are starting to put it together,” Walling said. “It’s great for postseason.”

Northport will visit Sachem East Oct. 12 at 4:30 p.m. before playing Garden City in a nonleague game at Veterans Park Complex, Northport, Oct. 14 3:30 p.m.

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Michael Kuzca sends the ball into play between two opponents. Photo by Jim Ferchland

By Jim Ferchland

Northport came into Connetquot Sep. 9 and shut out the Thunderbirds on their home turf 8-0, the two team’s Oct. 3 matchup on the Tigers’ home field was no different, as Northport continued its play of dominance and blanked Connetquot 4-0 to remain undefeated in League II.

“We just always like to possess the ball,” Northport head coach Don Strasser said. “We want to be patient, and I think the boys did a really good job of executing the plan today.”

Jack Wetzel moves the ball across the field. Photo by Jim Ferchland

It was a one-sided affair for Northport (10-1, 8-0). Jack Wetzel, who scored 14 points coming into the matchup, added three points to his his total with two goals and an assist, moving him into the Top 10 list of Suffolk County scorers.

Wetzel assisted on Konstantine Mendrinos’ first goal of the game in the 25th minute.

“I saw Jack get the ball down the sideline and I knew he was going to drive it into space with his pace, and I ran into the middle and I saw the gap open,” Mendrinos said. “I was there to put it home.”

Northport piled it in the next few minutes, as Wetzel scored both his goals between the 32- and 25-minute marks to give the Tigers a 3-0 lead.

“Chris [Fertig] won a very good 50-50 ball for me and I could have dribbled up and got a better opportunity,” Wetzel said on his first goal, adding that his teammates gave him plenty of opportunities throughout the game. “I was able to make good contact on the ball.”

Connetquot struggled to possess the ball all game, and had one shot on goal in the first half compared to Northport’s 19.

Matt Brennan moves the ball with an opponent on his back. Photo by Jim Ferchland

“We played them better than we did the first time,” Connetquot head coach Nick Sturtz said. “We came in with three or four starters short, so it was kind of scrappy play all day.”

Northport scored its fourth goal late in the game off the foot of James Diaz to make the score 4-0.

Wetzel said he hopes the Tigers can keep their streak going.

“We’re very excited and very happy about the position we’re in right now, but we are still taking it one game at a time,” Wetzel said. “We are not trying to think about going undefeated right now. We are thinking about beating Lindenhurst. They are very good and we are away, so we are just trying to care of business.”

Northport faces Lindenhurst (7-4, 4-4) Oct. 5. At 4:30 p.m. Northport won the first battle between the teams back on Sep. 12 with a 2-0 win.

Strasser said he likes the way his team is playing this season, but also knows the upcoming games will be a challenge for Northport.

“We don’t want our forecast too far ahead,” Strasser said. “We still got to to try to win the league title, and now our focus is on Lindenhurst. It won’t be easy, so we just have to continue to work hard.”

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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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Patriots have now won 24 county titles in 38 appearances

By Bill Landon

The bitter taste of last year’s devastating loss in the Suffolk County championship game to Smithtown West was replaced with the sweet taste of victory Wednesday night, after the Ward Melville boys’ lacrosse team lit up the scoreboard early and often on the way to a 13-5 win over Connetquot for the Class A crown.

Senior attack Chris Grillo scored his hat trick goal less than a minute into the second quarter, to put his team out front 5-0. Senior midfielder Connor Grippe and junior midfielder Dominic Pryor each tallied a goal. Grippe followed up Grillo with an unassisted goal for a 6-0 advantage, before Connetquot put its first point on the board with 7:16 remaining in the first half.

“After that devastating loss last year, we worked our tails off during the off season because we knew we didn’t have the super star talent that we had in years past,” Grippe said. “We don’t have one go-to guy, we have six, and Chris Grillo had an outstanding game. Five goals — that’s what we needed.”

With just over two minutes left before the break, Grillo struck again, and junior attack Andrew Lockhart split the pipes to take an 8-1 advantage into the third.

“We lost to them earlier in the season in overtime,” Grillo said. “We came out flat on offense in that game, defensively we played okay, but we beat ourselves [that day]. We had a lot of injuries and [we battled] the flu in that game, so to come back at full strength was just huge.”

Ward Melville’s defensive unit controlled the Connetquot attackers as they struggled to find an open lane, and had few shots on goal.

Four minutes in, Connetquot scores its second goal of the game, but a minute later the Patriots rattled off three unanswered goals, capped off by Grillo’s fifth goal of the game, to stretch the lead to 11-2.

Connetquot found the net once more, but Ward Melville junior Eddie Munoz stretched the net to edge ahead 12-3 to begin the final 12 minutes of play. The midfielder said he was confident in his team’s ability to take it home this year, despite the Patriots’ season getting off to a rocky start.

“I knew our team had championship potential and I knew we had it in us,” he said. Emphasizing the total team potential to go far. “Today everyone played well, not just one guy. Our defense held together to the end and our offense was shooting to the back of the net making [Connetquot’s] goalie earn every save, which weren’t too many.”

The Patriots let up two late goals in the game, like the team did against Walt Whitman in the semifinals, but Ward Melville was still able to take home its 24th county title in 38 appearances.

“We lost a lot in the beginning of the season — we didn’t have an identity — but now we’re starting to peak and our identity is starting to poke through,” Ward Melville head coach Jay Negus said. “I have to take my hat off to both my assistant coaches, they did a great job preparing defensively — that’s been our strength all year, and our offense came to play today. And I’ll tell you, we can be really dangerous when that happens.”

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Lukas Jarrett leaps up to the rim and scores two points. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Northport opened its season with a win over Connetquot on their home court Tuesday, defeating the Thunderbirds 62-51 in League II boys’ basketball action.

Brennan Whelan scores on a layup. Photo by Bill Landon
Brennan Whelan scores on a layup. Photo by Bill Landon

Connetquot broke out to an early 8-2 lead halfway through the first quarter, which shrunk to a three-point lead with just under two minutes left. The Tigers rallied and took their first lead of the game, edging ahead 11-10 in the last minute of the quarter, but Connetquot, on their final possession, let the clock wind down to two seconds, and hit a jumper at the buzzer to take a one-point lead into the second.

But it would be the last time the Thunderbirds would lead in the contest.

After a sluggish first quarter, Northport senior Lukas Jarrett found his rhythm and the rim, as he helped the Tigers surge ahead 19-12 with just over five minutes left in the half.

Connetquot controlled the inside game early, as they were strong down low and Northport struggled to handle the pressure.

The Tigers opened the second half clinging to an eight-point lead that shrank to five with just under four minutes left in the third. Northport senior Joe Stockman swished a three-pointer from the corner to give his team a six-point advantage, and the Tigers took a 42-36 lead at the 2:28 mark of the third.

Connetquot clawed its way back to open the final quarter trailing just 45-41, but Jarrett rocked the room with a three-pointer to aid the Tigers. Again the Thunderbirds muscled their way to the rim to cut the deficit, 48-43.

Lukas Jarrett leaps up to the rim and scores two points. Photo by Bill Landon
Lukas Jarrett leaps up to the rim and scores two points. Photo by Bill Landon

Northport head coach Andrew D’Eloia said that Connetquot is a tough, resilient team, adding that the matchups between the two teams are always competitive.

“We knew what to expect and we had to be ready and play all 32 minutes, and we did that,” D’Eloia said. “I thought Brennan Whelan, Sean [O’Shea], Lukas [Jarrett], Rory [Schynder], and Joe Stockman really stepped it up, so it was a real team victory.”

O’Shea, a senior, made his presence known with a long three-pointer from the corner to break out to a 51-45 advantage with just under four minutes left in regulation.

“We knew that they’re a team that likes to pound it inside and they have good shooters, so we prepared for that,” O’Shea said. “I like how we finished at the end. It was a close game. We didn’t get overwhelmed by the moment.”

Jarrett struck again from long distance, as the senior drained his second trey of the game, to put his team out front by 11 with just over three minutes left.

Play was stopped for an injury timeout as Jarrett took an elbow to the nose. The 6-foot, 7-inch forward, with cotton stuffed up his nostrils, sat on the bench for the rest of the game.

Rory Schynder drives the baseline. Photo by Bill Landon
Rory Schynder drives the baseline. Photo by Bill Landon

“They’re a physical team,” Jarrett said. “They were good at getting to the loose balls, so we had to match their intensity. Our bench is deep — it’s always been that way, so it’s awesome that when someone gets hurt, our bench can always pick us up.”

In the foul-plagued final minutes, both teams traded points at the free-throw line. Whelan nailed two, and the senior put his team ahead, 60-46.

“We knew they were going to be tough inside and they’re tough players,” Whelan said. “We let them get too many points inside, but we started to play well on defense and we pulled it out there at the end.”

Trailing by 14 points with time running out, Connetquot was forced to foul to arrest the clock, but learned that that was a losing battle with Northport at the charity stripe.

Whelan led his team in scoring with 18 points; Jarrett was close behind with 17 and O’Shea finished with 13.

The Tigers will try to carry the winning momentum into Friday’s road contest at Half Hollow Hills East. Tipoff is at 4:30 p.m.

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Ward Melville's Victoria Tilley and Alex Stein grab a block at the net in the Patriots' 3-0 loss to Connetquot in the Suffolk County Class AA finals on Nov. 12. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

It was a battle of the undefeated teams, but Ward Melville fell short. The Patriots girls’ volleyball team was able to power past Smithtown East but had trouble doing it again, and fell to No. 1-ranked Connetquot, 27-25, 25-18, and 25-20, Thursday in the Suffolk County Class AA finals.

Ward Melville senior Alex Stein scores a kill shot in the Patriots' 3-0 loss to Connetquot in the Suffolk County Class AA finals on Nov. 12. Photo by Bill Landon
Ward Melville senior Alex Stein scores a kill shot in the Patriots’ 3-0 loss to Connetquot in the Suffolk County Class AA finals on Nov. 12. Photo by Bill Landon

The Thunderbirds broke out to an early 10-4 lead, but the Patriots made it a one-point game later in the set to trail 19-18, forcing a Connetquot time out. Ward Melville scored next to tie the game at 19-19, but Connetquot rattled off five more points to surge ahead 24-21.

It was advantage Ward Melville when the Patriots scored the next four points to take a 25-24 lead, but the Thunderbirds were the No.1 seed for a reason, and dug out two more points to retake the lead, 26-25, and aced the final point to put the set away, 27-25.

“I felt like we got robbed in game one — I thought we had it but got a bad call there,” Ward Melville head coach Charles Fernandes said. “But I’ve got to be honest, I don’t think we played like we normally play. We didn’t pass very well and when we don’t pass well we don’t get into our offensive system.”

In a repeat of the first set, Connetquot broke out to a 10-4 lead and edged ahead 12-5 in the second set, before the team jumped out to a 20-8 lead. Ward Melville battled back to trail 22-14, and both teams traded points as Connetquot took the set to the brink, leading 24-14 before Ward Melville rattled off four unanswered points to trail 24-18. The Thunderbirds scored next though, to claim another set, 25-18.

Ward Melville junior Cierra Low sets the ball in the team's 3-0 loss to Connetquot in the Suffolk County Class AA finals on Nov. 12. Photo by Bill Landon
Ward Melville junior Cierra Low sets the ball in the team’s 3-0 loss to Connetquot in the Suffolk County Class AA finals on Nov. 12. Photo by Bill Landon

Fernandes spoke to his team following the second-set loss about what it took to battle back, being down two games to none.

“This has happened before — teams pull this out,” he told his team. “You’ve got to get the first one and that’s the hard one.”

With their backs against the wall, the Patriots broke out to an 8-2 advantage in the third set as the team tried to avoid elimination, but after a Connetquot time out, Ward Melville struggled to maintain the margin, and the Thunderbirds bounced back to tie the game 10-10.

Connetquot scored next to take its first lead, but the set was retied at 16-16 courtesy of a kill shot by Ward Melville senior outside hitter Alex Stein. The Thunderbirds edged ahead 20-17, then 22-19 and again brought the match to the brink leading 24-20.

Stein said that her team’s performance was not up to par with the level her team usually plays at.

“I don’t know if we were nervous, anxious or just all over the place mentally, but we did not click as a team,” she said. “Our defense was all over the place and it’s just not how we play.”

The Thunderbirds scored next to sweep the Patriots and advance to the Long Island Championship round against Massapequa, where the team beat the Nassau County champs for the Long Island championship title.

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By Bill Landon

In the deciding game of the Suffolk County Class AA baseball championship, Ward Melville hit the road to take on Connetquot and was never able to mount a scoring threat, as the Thunderbirds ended the Patriots’ season with a 6-0 blanking, Thursday.

No. 2-seeded Ward Melville had forced a game three with a 4-3 win over No. 1 Connetquot on Wednesday, and senior third baseman Joseph Flynn continued to make a statement with his bat when he led off the first inning with a stand-up double. The Patriot bats were unable to bring him home, though, and with one out and two runners in scoring position in the bottom of the inning, Connetquot went to work, using a line drive to shallow right field to score both players for the first runs on the board.

Ward Melville threatened again in the top of the third when senior Daniel DeCastro laid down a bunt to advance the runner, junior Frank Merlino, over to second base. With one out, Ward Melville hit a high fly ball to right field and Merlino took off for home plate. The only problem was that Connetquot caught the ball just short of the fence and threw to second base for the double play to retire the side.

In the bottom of the third with runners in scoring position, Connetquot struck again on a Patriots miscue to edge ahead 3-0 on a passed ball to the plate. After a conference at the mound, Ward Melville’s senior Joseph Barbieri took over pitching duties for sophomore Ben Brown.

The damage wasn’t done though, as Connetquot plated two more runners to end the third inning with a five-run advantage.

Ward Melville struggled to challenge its opponent the rest of the way, and Connetquot scored once more in the bottom of the fifth inning on a long drive just inside the third baseline, for the 6-0 lead and the win.

Ward Melville head coach Lou Petrucci was proud of his team’s successful season.

“We’ve had a lot of great memories,” he said. “We had three walk-off wins during the playoffs and we finished the season 22-4. It was a great accomplishment by our seniors, as well as the freshman we brought up, so it’s just a great group of kids. But it’s the friendships this team has cherished the most, and that’s what high school baseball is all about.”

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