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County

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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.’”

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker is running against Republican Gary Pollakusky to represent the 6th District. Photos by Alex Petroski

A Town of Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency volunteer and small business owner is challenging incumbent Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) as she vies for a fourth term to represent the 6th District.

Gary Pollakusky, a Rocky Point resident since 2012 who graduated from Baldwin High School and Cornell University, said he wants to bring more fiscal responsibility to the county while working to keep young people living on Long Island. He moved to Rocky Point from Long Beach following losing his home to Hurricane Sandy.

“You have to force the government to work within its means,” he said during a recent debate at TBR News Media’s office. “We need to treat the public’s purse like we treat our own. You don’t borrow from Peter to pay Paul.”

“I will continue to provide leadership in our county government by prioritizing fiscal responsibility, public safety and protecting our health and environment.”

— Sarah Anker

While Anker, a resident of Mount Sinai for more than 20 years, who previously lived in Middle Island and Coram, said she is fiscally conservative, Pollakusky pointed to Suffolk’s recent practice of borrowing to make payroll. He criticized Anker for calling for a traffic study following the release of a red-light camera program report and for voting for the $700 million contract between the county and the Suffolk County Police Benevolent Association. Though he was critical, he ultimately admitted he would have voted in favor of the contract as well, citing public safety as the primary reason.

“Each year our budget is going up $50 million and $48 million is going toward the police contract,” Pollakusky said. “We have to create sustainable contracts, we need people who understand business and have business acumen and financial acumen in government.”

Anker defended her track record on the Legislature. She voted against the controversial fees, which many have referred to as “backdoor taxes.” The legislator voted to reduce Suffolk County’s pipeline debt by closing out unused funds for unrealized capital projects; against the increase in mortgage recording fee, which would have gone up $300; against the alarm bill fee; against increased fees for Suffolk County parks; and against the proposed plastic bag fee that would charge 5 cents per bag at the grocery store.

“I also feel if you don’t have the money don’t spend it, but unfortunately, you have to provide services, it’s mandated by the government,” Anker said, adding that she took a pay freeze and also voted to freeze other legislators’ salaries. “We combined comptroller with treasurer’s office, saved $23 million by privatizing the health care centers, sold the Foley Center, reduced staff by 1,000 people, cut county services costs by 10 percent and I think we still have a lot to do.”

Democrat incumbent Legislator Sarah Anker is running for her fourth term as the 6th District representative in the Suffolk County Legislature. Photo by Alex Petroski

She fell in agreement with her challenger regarding the SCPD contract, as she said it’s important to have boots on the ground amid the opioid crisis and rise in gang violence, but said she’s still hoping the county can make cuts at the negotiation table next year when the existing deal expires.

“We have a new police class which contributes to 15 percent of their health care,” she said. “It takes them longer to reach the highest pension payout; we’re revamping the whole system once these senior officers retire. Overtime should not be included in pensions, and the best thing I can do, and I’ve done this for 20 years, is to advocate strongly — shine a light and let the county executive and police unions know that this needs to be done. I can be one of many voices to direct them to do the right thing; to have a bully pulpit and use it effectively.”

The legislator highlighted her sponsored legislation passed to create a permanent heroin and opiate advisory panel, re-established from a temporary 2010 panel, created to ensure a continuous and interdisciplinary approach to help mitigate the issue. Her challenger cited the panel’s few recommendations the last time around and said he has a more active approach he would take.

“I want to identify programs, like the Given a Second Chance program developed locally four years ago, and keep the heroin crisis more consistent in curriculum and assemblies,” Pollakusky said, also highlighting his panel work with his organization, North Shore Community Association. “We need community coalitions to push law enforcement to close down drug-dealing homes and more drug reform on the supply side.”

While Pollakusky said his organization, which is not a registered nonprofit, was created in 2013, there is no mention on the website or Facebook page prior to June, when he announced his run against Anker.

“We need to look at storefronts that left and see why, see what true development we’re doing and how it’s being led.”

— Gary Pollakusky

“The association began with a small group of community advocates who felt there was a void in their local civics organizations,” he said in response. “No money flows in or our of our group. When we raise money it is through and for 501(c)(3) organizations in need, and much of our work has no events
associated with them.”

The challenger said he is more business friendly than Anker, and his time working with the town IDA has helped him. He said by retaining talent and creating jobs, keeping residents on Long Island is more attainable.

“We need to look at storefronts that left and see why, see what true development we’re doing and how it’s being led,” he said. “I act. I create jobs.”

Anker questioned his businesses, saying he outsources jobs to countries other than the United States for Media Barrel LLC and Travel Barrel LLC. Pollakusky responded that they are support teams not employees, to which Anker responded: “Do they do your work for you? Do you have [products] that are made in the United States? That’s all I’m asking.”

“For you to perpetrate these lies I not only find disappointing, I find that shameful,” Pollakusky said, asking Anker if she owns a car, television or phone made in the United States. “I am a local businessman. I work within our local economy, I have local clients.”

Republican Gary Pollakusky is running to represent Suffolk County’s 6th legislative district. Photo by Alex Petroski

Travel Barrell only lists some of the events that Pollakusky discussed, many of which are unclickable. The website’s About Us, Our Brands, Testimonials and Contact Us tabs also do not work. Anker questioned her challenger about an event called Boobs & Tubes, also listed on the website, which he referred to as a charity event that donates to breast cancer research. Based on online photos and videos of the event, referred to as “the most fun you can have with (some of) your clothes on,” it is marketed as an exclusive weekend summer event of camping, tubing, barbecuing, music and relaxation. The 2017 New York trip was canceled. Pollakusky’s last name is the only last name not in the About Us and the only mention of charity is deep in the About Us: “After Scott lost his friend Marcelo Vandrie to cancer in 2009, Boobs & Tubes began donating a portion of its proceeds to a different charitable event each year.” There is no mention of how much or to which charities the organization contributes anywhere on the website.

Anker cited several initiatives she’s proud of contributing to locally, including land acquisition with the Little Portion Friary in Mount Sinai and Cordwood Landing property in Miller Place to preserve more open space, a single-stream recycling program and work with veterans and seniors.

“I will fight for lower utility costs and continue to educate residents about common scams,” said Anker, who used to serve on the Mount Sinai Civic Association and worked on major projects like the construction of Heritage Park and ongoing Rails to Trails recreational path. “I will continue to provide leadership in our county government by prioritizing fiscal responsibility, public safety and protecting our health and environment. I will stand strong to support our veterans who have defended our nation. I will do everything in my power to protect our children. I will use my extensive experience in public policy to create safer communities for families and to improve the overall quality of life for Suffolk County residents.”

This version was updated to correctly identify what year Gary Pollakusky moved to Rocky Point and the names of his companies. The version also adds what university he graduated from.

A view of the main page of a piece of Reclaim NY’s Transparency Project. Image from ReclaimNY website

Transparency and honesty play a major role in healthy democracies, and now New York State municipalities will have a watchdog tracking their effectiveness, providing feedback publicly to concerned citizens, by concerned citizens.

Last week, Reclaim New York, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization established to “educate New Yorkers on issues like affordability, transparency and education,” launched a website designed to rate government accessibility and transparency based on an index of recommendations.

The site is part of the group’s New York Transparency Project, an initiative launched in 2016, which kicked off with 2,500 Freedom of Information Law requests for basic expenditure information to county, town and village governments, as well as school districts across Long Island and the state.

“This is an accountability tool,” Reclaim New York Communications Director Doug Kellogg said. “Anybody who wants to help do something to make government more accessible and accountable, go spend 30 minutes and input ratings.”

The new system allows citizens to grade local governments based on 29 indicators, including whether contracts are posted on the internet, there’s access to expenditure records, notices of meetings and the minutes to the meetings are available and contact information is listed for elected officials. The municipalities will receive an overall, objective grade. The grade will indicate which are transparent and law-abiding, as budget information and records access officers need to be publicly available.

“Anybody who wants to help do something to make government more accessible and accountable, go spend 30 minutes and input ratings.”

— Doug Kellogg

“Citizens can hold their governments accountable at every level if they have the right tools for the job,” executive director for the organization Brandon Muir said in a statement. “This is a truly unprecedented moment for New Yorkers who want to reclaim ownership of their government. Working with this new site they can make proactive transparency a reality.”

To input data, users must register with an email address. When data is put into the system, it is vetted and sited prior to going live to avoid a “wild west” feel, according to Kellogg. The process of imputing data to extract a rating for municipalities has only just begun. Kellogg said it will take time to have an all-encompassing collection of information.

In May 2016, Port Jefferson Village and Commack school district failed to comply with FOIL requests as part of the organization’s Transparency Project.

New York’s FOIL requires governments and school districts respond to records requests within five business days, whether with the information requested, a denial or an acknowledgement of the request. The response needs to include an estimated date when one of the latter two will occur. Denials can be appealed but  not allowed “on the basis that the request is voluminous or that locating or reviewing the requested records or providing the requested copies is burdensome, because the agency lacks sufficient staffing.”

As part of a project it dubbed the New York Transparency Project, Reclaim New York sent 253 Freedom of Information requests to school districts and municipalities on Long Island. It reported on its findings, saying that while many entities complied with state guidelines on processing such public records requests, and after the findings were released, Port Jefferson Village and Commack school district eventually complied with the requests.

Entities that it said complied included Suffolk County; Brookhaven, Smithtown and Huntington towns; Belle Terre and Lake Grove villages; and the Port Jefferson, Kings Park, Huntington, Smithtown, Mount Sinai, Miller Place and Rocky Point school districts, among others.

To become an evaluator for the website or to view data, visit www.reclaimnewyork.org and click on the Transparency tab.

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Kyra Sommerstad competes in the Suffolk County championship meet. Photo from Raymond Sommerstad

By Desirée Keegan

Kyra Sommerstad is either part fish or exceedingly dedicated to her craft.

The freshman swimmer from Port Jefferson has practice two hours a day, six or seven days a week, 11 months a year. Needless to say, the hard work continues to pay off for Kyra, who hasn’t missed a practice since the new season began in September, and as a result, she competed in the state finals for a second straight season, this time in Ithaca Nov. 18 and 19.

Kyra Sommerstad competes in the Suffolk County championship meet. Photo from Raymond Sommerstad

“Sometimes it gets a little intense, but it’s fun,” she said of her chaotic schedule. “As long as you stay determined at practice and have fun with it, you can make it through and be successful. But it was nice to see all of my hard work in the pool pay off.”

Kyra entered the state meet after earning two county titles in the 100-meter backstroke and 200 individual medley Nov. 5 at Suffolk County Community College’s Brentwood campus. She finished the backstroke in 57.16 seconds, and the intermediate medley in 2 minutes, 7.88 seconds.

“She qualified in other events she could have entered in and done equally as well,” Port Jefferson head coach Mary Fleckenstein said. “She’s mentally strong and she sets goals for herself and she works hard at practice to achieve those goals. She’s a dedicated athlete. She’s just got it all.”

While Fleckenstein has known Kyra since she was in elementary school, the freshman works primarily with Three Village Swim Club coach Mark Anderson. The club houses the nearest pool for Port Jefferson residents, and since Royals swimmers only compete as individuals, Kyra is part of a team with the club year-round.

“She’s a very gifted athlete,” Anderson said. “She’s very tall and thin — pretty much the stereotypical look for a swimmer — she’s self-determined, dedicated and the list goes on and on of the positive words you could use to describe her. Everything that you look for in a swimmer, she’s got.”

Kyra began swimming during camp and mommy-and-me days at the YMCA. She decided to try out for the Three Village team, and fell in love with the sport.

“She works hard and always comes into practice with a smile on her face, and you can see the results of that pay off at her meets. She’s certainly motivated enough to get to any level of competition she wants to.”

— Mark Anderson

“I feel very, very comfortable in the water,” she said. “It felt like a better place than playing on the field or something.”

Her competitions have continued to amp up in intensity over the last four years, and as a result of her outside training and meets, she qualified to compete at the state level as an eighth grader, after earning a county title in the 500 freestyle. Kyra reached the state finals in the freestyle and 100 backstroke last season.

“I was very nervous,” Kyra said of her first trip to the state finals. “It was different being one of the youngest people there, but I knew a lot of the girls there through club swimming, like some older kids that were seniors, so they helped me get through that.”

Although she was intimidated, she’s not someone to let emotions get in the way of her performance, according to Anderson. Her father Raymond added that his daughter tends to pull out her best performances when the pressure is on.

“The feeling of watching your kids work hard at something and then being successful, there’s no way to describe it,” Sommerstad said. “It’s the best feeling that I’ve had in my life. To get the results when you work like that is very nice to see.”

This year, Kyra finished 13th in the individual medley and 15th in the backstroke.

“I didn’t do as good as I wanted to, but I looked forward to being there, and making finals again was still exciting,” she said.

Kyra Sommerstad raises up her finger after placing first in the 100-meter backstroke and 200 intermediate medley. Photo from Port Jefferson school district

Her coach said he has enjoyed getting the time to grow with and learn about his young swimmer.

“As a coach, I develop a really close connection with a lot of them,” Anderson said. “You learn their strengths, weaknesses, how to get them motivated for a swim, how to calm them down after a bad swim, so it’s been a really great learning experience for me, and I’ve got to know Kyra the past couple of months. I’m starting to go with her to some very big swim meets, and it has been a lot of fun.”

He’s excited to see where the future will take his swimmer.

“She’s always willing to learn, she’s always listening, she takes criticism and compliments and any stroke techniques really well, and she translates it,” he said. “She works hard and always comes into practice with a smile on her face, and you can see the results of that pay off at her meets. She’s certainly motivated enough to get to any level of competition she wants to. The sky’s the limit for her.”

Kyra said she’s just enjoying the ride and all that the sport has given her so far.

“Swimming is pretty much my life right now,” she said. “I do it after school every day. It helps me digest everything that happened throughout the day, or to just think about stuff or clear my mind. I think swimming is both a mental and physical sport. You have to have the determination and confidence going into a race, and you have to be able to practice well and train hard in order to achieve your goals. And I’m doing that.”

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Eddie Munoz makes his way through the defense as he gains yards. File photo by Bill Landon

The Ward Melville football team hasn’t played for a county championship in 29 years, so when the Patriots had the opportunity to, they weren’t going to let it slip away.

First, No. 5 Ward Melville shut out No. 4 Connetquot, 14-0, in the qualifying round, and on Nov. 11, the reseeded No. 4 Patriots upset previously undefeated No. 1 Lindenhurst, 27-10, to make it to the county finals Nov. 18. The team will take on No. 2 William Floyd at Stony Brook University at 7 p.m.

Wesley Manning tries to avoid a sack on a quarterback keep. File photo by Bill Landon
Wesley Manning tries to avoid a sack on a quarterback keep. File photo by Bill Landon

“It was a big win for the program,” Ward Melville head coach Chris Boltrek said. “The defense played great throughout the game to keep it close, and the offense pulled away in the second half.”

Lindenhurst jumped out to a 10-0 lead on an 8-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter — just a few plays after Ward Melville fumbled a handoff on the opening possession — and a 21-yard field goal to start the second. The tide turned quickly after that for the Patriots.

Senior wide receiver Eddie Munoz caught a 7-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Wesley Manning to close the gap to 10-6, though the extra-point kick attempt was blocked. The deficit was erased shortly following halftime.

“Beating the No. 1 seed is the best feeling,” Munoz said. “As a team, we can hold our heads high and be proud we took them down. We really prepared, watching film and scheming against their formations and play. We had mixed feelings — obviously everyone was a little nervous, but that’s part of the game. We were ready and excited.”

Manning and Munoz connected for another touchdown for the first score of the second half, on a 4-yard pass, and with senior kicker Joe LaRosa’s extra-point kick successful, the Patriots led 13-10 to open the final stanza.

“Scoring for my team was a great feeling and I couldn’t have done it without any of my teammates,” Munoz said. “I feel very comfortable catching [Wesley Manning’s] passes because I have great trust in every throw he makes, and he trusts that I will catch every pass he throws my way.”

“Playing on this historic team is something that I will never forget.”

— Eddie Munoz

He said the bond the two have was formed over the summer.

“We would go to training sessions together and go up to our home field and throw the ball around,” he said.

In the final 12 minutes, senior cornerback and wide receiver Andrew McKenna snatched a slant pass up the middle from Manning and took it to the house for a 61-yard touchdown to extend the cushion. With LaRosa’s kick good, Ward Melville went up 20-10.

“Andrew McKenna had a huge game for us, shutting down Division 1 recruit Jeremy Ruckert, and scoring a 61-yard touchdown off of a pass from Wesley Manning,” Boltrek said.

Senior wide receiver John Corpac capped off the scoring with a 90-yard run. The Patriots held the No. 1-seeded team scoreless in the second half.

“Playing on this historic team is something that I will never forget and something that I have enjoyed being a part of, and I can’t wait to play Friday with this team,” Munoz said. “I feel very confident and excited as we move into the finals, and I think that Ward Melville football can make history once again.”

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By Bill Landon

Smithtown West did what to many was inconceivable.

The boys’ volleyball team claimed the program’s first Class A Long Island title Nov. 12 with a four-set win over Plainview JFK (16-2) 25-18, 25-23, 24-26 and 26-24.

Junior outside hitter Chris Shanley had 20 kills, junior outside hitter Kevin Kelleher added 16 kills and senior setter Tom Bernard had 42 assists to lead the Bulls to the championship at Suffolk County Community College’s Brentwood campus. Senior libero Jake Torres had 17 digs and senior middle blocker Tom Keller had five kills and four blocks.

To claim the team’s first Class A championship just three days prior, the No. 2 Bulls handed No. 1 Sachem North its first Long Island loss in 52 matches. In fact, Smithtown West swept its opponent, a two-time defending Suffolk champion, 28-16, 25-19 and 25-17 at Suffolk.

Again, Shanley led the way for the Bulls (14-2) with 15 kills.

He helped the Bulls not only tie the game twice, but give the team a one-point edge two times in the first set. He also put the team in the right state of mind to get the job done.

“We were getting the sets where they needed to be, we were getting kills and we distributed the ball well,” Shanley said, adding that he knew his team would have to play a mistake-free game in order to get the job done. “But I knew that they could come back with any mistake we made.”

Both teams scratched and clawed at the net as Sachem North (15-1) retook the lead, 23-22, and took the game to break point. But after Smithtown West called for a break in the action, the Bulls rallied back.

“We stayed composed and we played for every point until the game is over,” Kelleher said. “We’re a hard team — we push.”

Needing to win the set by two points, the Flaming Arrows brought the game to the brink, only to have Kelleher’s kill shot retie the game 26-26. The Bulls fought off back-to-back set points, and won it on a block by Keller, who had nine kills.

“Our defense was the strongest part of our game — we pride ourselves on being the best defensive team on the Island.”

—David DeRosa

“Winning that first game gave us the confidence that we can do it,” Smithtown West head coach Michael Legge said. “We had a little bit of doubt, but that win gave us the confidence to go get them.”

The momentum carried over to the second set. The Bulls jumped out to 6-2 lead, and stood on the gas to make it a 14-8 advantage. Both teams exchanged points, but the Bulls maintained the margin, staying out front, 18-12. The team showed its defensive strength, as Torres dug and dove all over the floor — making nine digs on the night — and got the ball out to Kelleher and junior right side hitter David DeRosa.

“Our defense was the strongest part of our game — we pride ourselves on being the best defensive team on the Island,” DeRosa said. “[Assistant] coach Andrew Sanchez preaches defense, and that’s how you win games — you get the ball up, you throw it back at them and let them make the mistake.”

Sachem North did just that, making an unforced error to fall behind 22-14, and after giving the Bulls a point on a service error, a Bulls kill brought the match to break point, prompting another timeout in the match. After a sustained volley, the game was decided at the net off a blocked shot, and Smithtown West took a two-set lead.

Even with its strong teamwork, Smithtown West got off to a slow start in the third, before tying the set 5-5. The Flaming Arrows answered with three straight points before Shanley, from service, rattled off three of his own to knot the score at 8-8. Sachem North committed two more unforced errors, and continued to struggle to find a rhythm at the Bulls bounced out to a 17-11 lead.

The thunder from Smithtown West’s side of the bleachers echoed off the gymnasium walls, as the excitement behind, and thought of a first-time championship-winning sweep loomed.

DeRosa put up a wall on the right side, blocking shot after shot — making five blocks to go along with four kills — to help his team to a 23-16 advantage.

Legge said DeRosa’s play set the tone for the Bulls’ defense.

“Dave with those blocks on the right side — he just killed it — he was one-on-one with a lot of them and usually that’s an advantage for the other team,” the coach said, adding that those blocks were a difference-maker. “But big boy was getting up, getting hands on it — he was awesome.”

The Flaming Arrows flamed out, gave up the next two points and the championship.

“They’re a great team — they have the ability to come back from any deficit, so it wasn’t until that last point that it became real,” DeRosa said. “I was very surprised that it went three games, but we were ready for a dogfight.”

Smithtown West will return to Suffolk County Community College’s Brentwood Nov. 19 to make its state tournament debut. Pool play begins at 10 a.m., and should the Bulls advance to the finals, the first set it scheduled to begin at 2 p.m.

By Desirée Keegan

Captain Casey Schmitt continues to sprinkle her name throughout Mount Sinai’s record book.

The senior forward scored three goals to help the Mustangs to their first Suffolk County title over Harborfields Nov. 1. Her hat trick goal was the game-winner in the first 10-minute overtime session.

“It’s the greatest thing to ever happen to me,” she said following the victory. “We just made history.”

“Harborfields thought we got lucky, but we showed them. We came out with intensity and proved to people right away why we’re here.”

— Casey Schmitt

The No. 4 Mustangs upset No. 1-seeded and previously undefeated Islip on penalty kicks to reach the county finals for the first time. Schmitt scored the game-tying goal in that matchup. The team then found itself up against the No. 2 Tornadoes, which hadn’t lost a game since its first matchup of the season.

“A lot of the teams tend to underestimate us,” said junior goalkeeper Caiya Schuster, who made 12 saves in each of the last two games. “They say, ‘Mount Sinai, who’s that? What have they done?’ In a sense, yeah, we’re the underdogs, but we definitely don’t let the other team think we’re the underdog. As soon as we come out, we try to do all that we can. We show them this is Mount Sinai and this is what we’re capable of.”

Schuster and her team did just that. She scored her first goal in the 19th minute, after Harborfields goalkeeper Ava McKane came out of the box to make a save. Schuster pushed through when McKane failed to secure the ball, just like her head coach Courtney Leonard always advises the girls to do.

“The three goals speaks for itself,” Leonard said of her co-captain. “Casey knew what she had to do, and she got it done.”

Schmitt scored again in the 28th minute to make it 2-0, but Harborfields’ Caroline Rosales wasn’t going to let her team go down without a fight. She scored in the 38th minute, and added the equalizer 10 minutes later when she dribbled through Mount Sinai’s defense and beat Schuster.

“In a sense, yeah, we’re the underdogs, but we definitely don’t let the other team think we’re the underdog.”

—Caiya Schuster

“Islip didn’t take us seriously, and we beat them,” Schuster said. “Harborfields thought we got lucky, but we showed them. We came out with intensity and proved to people right away why we’re here.”

With the score tied at the end of regulation, two 10-minute overtime sessions ensued. Schuster scored in the first, five minutes in, and her team defended for the final 15.

“We’re elated — each win gets better and better and shows that anything’s possible if you put your mind to it,” Leonard said. “It shows the leadership of this group of young women. They’ve led by example all year. From one end to the other we’re extremely strong, and [Schmitt and Schuster], along with their surrounding teammates, are so reliable. Winning the game last Friday, today’s victory, it’s a little piece of history for Mount Sinai and I’m so proud to be a part of it. The sky’s the limit.”

Mount Sinai will face Garden City in the Long Island championship Nov. 4 at St. Joseph’s College at 4 p.m.

While Schuster said she’s not an emotional person, she couldn’t help but cry as the announcer counted down the final seconds. She’s hoping to come away with the same feeling Friday.

“I love that my team doesn’t let the pressure and the fact that people underestimate us effect them,” Schuster said. “Everyone wanted it, not just for themselves, but for everyone else.”

By Desirée Keegan

Northport goalkeeper Emma Havrilla has a way of firing up her team, and with one swift motion, she lit the match.

Less than a minute into the second half, Northport’s Havrilla moved just slightly to her left to block Amanda Sheradin’s penalty kick, which could have been the difference-maker for Smithtown West, and then dove on the rebound to keep the scoreboard blank.

The No. 2-seeded Bulls had been dominating the ball up to the penalty kick save, but that stop, which was one of Havrilla’s 13, sparked a turnaround.

“We’ve been working so hard since August, and it’s finally our time to shine.”

—Stephanie Rapp

“I looked into her eyes and I could see the fear; I knew where she was going,” Havrilla said. “It gave our team more confidence. Then, after the first goal we scored, we kept the momentum going.”

No. 1 Northport blanked Smithtown West 3-0 to claim the Suffolk County Class AA title for the first time in three years. The Tigers were eliminated in the semifinals each of the last two seasons.

Past disappointment served as motivation this season, according to at least one Tiger.

“Our team has been working so hard since that loss to Massapequa [in the 2013 Long Island championship game], and we’re finally back here,” defender Stephanie Rapp said. “We’ve been working so hard since August, and it’s finally our time to shine.”

Rapp was one of two girls tasked with shutting down Smithtown West’s leading offensive threat, Sarah Harrington. Rapp and Harrington had been teammates on a travel team, so Rapp had an advantage over most defenders in the league.

“She’s amazing in the air and with her footwork, so we had to put pressure on her to keep her out,” Rapp said.

The Bulls had a few more chances at a goal, but Havrilla refused to yield.

At 23:23, Victoria Colatosti chipped in what ended up being the game winner.

“After Emma’s stop with the PK, it just woke them up and they killed it out there.”

—Aija Gipp

“It was back and forth,” Colatosti said of the action in front of the net. “Paige Leonard got a touch at the 18, I saw an open shot and took it, and thank God it went in.”

Northport made it 2-0 on Emily McNelis’ goal with less than 10 minutes left in the contest, and 3-0 on Emily Zeblisky’s goal with four minutes remaining.

“To see our attack finally come together was huge,” Northport head coach Aija Gipp said, adding that her team built on its aggressiveness to put the pressure on. “It gives us that confidence going into the next round. After Emma’s stop with the PK, it just woke them up and they killed it out there.”

Northport will get its rematch against Massapequa Nov. 4 at 6:30 p.m. at St. Joseph’s College. Colatosti is confident, and added that although it’s not going to be easy, it’s going to exciting to be a part of.

“It feels so good to finally be where we should be,” she said. “Losing last year in the semifinals — that shouldn’t have happened, so it feels good to be where we deserved to be and where we’ve been working hard to be.”

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Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta holds a copy of a troubling letter sent to over 200 recipients operating home furnishing businesses in Suffolk County. Left to right: Ralph Mondrone, Natalie Weinstein, Robert Trotta and Charlie Gardner. Photo by Chris Mellides

By Chris Mellides

Housed in a building that was originally a vaudeville theater built in the early 1900s, Uniquely Natalie is a St. James-based consignment store catering to shoppers looking for affordable home and office furnishing.

Its owner, Natalie Weinstein, launched this space last year as a designer-driven shop adjoining the headquarters of Natalie Weinstein Design Associates — a full-service interior design firm.

Aside from contending with the challenges of owning her own business, Weinstein was recently served with some bad news from the county.

In a letter dated Oct. 27, Weinstein and several other small business owners with storefronts operating in Suffolk County were introduced to county code Chapter 563-106-A, which among other things states it is unlawful for any person to engage in the selling of furniture or carpets without obtaining a license.

“When I received the letter my first inclination was to say, since I’m a good law-abiding citizen, we’ve got to pay this, [but] how are we going to do this now?” said Weinstein. “This is my first retail operation … I felt it would be helpful to people who really couldn’t go to the big box stores or pay for expensive furniture and still get quality things.”

The code makes no distinction between “new, used or antique furniture,” and there are no exemptions that exist for “antique furniture dealers, churches or other nonprofit organizations.”

This means that Weinstein and others specializing in the sale of home furnishings in Suffolk County are required to apply for licensing at the initial cost of $200 with $400 needed to be paid every two years for relicensing.

Frustrated and looking for outside assistance, Weinstein reached out to Legislator Rob Trotta, who admitted his outrage over the county mandate.

“This is strictly an attack on small business,” said Trotta (R-Fort Salonga). “Over 200 letters were sent out right before the Christmas season. Downtowns are struggling, small businesses are struggling and this [code] said that you need to get a license.”

Trotta said the foundation of this law had shifted from its original intent and that this mandate was just “another attempt to hurt small business and to raise revenue.”

Aligning himself with Trotta is former Commissioner of Consumer Affairs Charlie Gardner. Gardner believes that this mandate aimed at small-business owners subverts the original intent of its legislation, which was to safeguard consumers from unlawful business practices.

“This legislation was aimed at regulating those businesses that would routinely go out of business, would take consumers’ deposits for money, fail to deliver furniture, deliver damaged furniture, and many times consumers had no recourse,” said Gardner. “Since the inception of this legislation the number of complaints dramatically decreased, but it was certainly not aimed at antique stores, antique dealers [or] roadside vendors.”

Gardner, who is now chair of the Government Relations Committee for the Kings Park Chamber of Commerce, said if any of his town members were burdened with the mandate, he would suggest they appear before the Legislature to vent and demand that the legislation revert to its original intent.

In an attempt to resolve this issue, Trotta asked legislative counsel to draft legislation that would clarify the definition of “antique dealer” and “seller” and save Weinstein and others from additional hardship.

“I believe that the original intent of the law was to protect consumers when primarily furniture and carpet retailers failed to deliver the merchandise promised,” said Trotta. “Now it appears that the county is going after the small-business person who sells a few pieces of furniture and [the consumer] takes the merchandise with him or her.”