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Desiree Keegan

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Playoff game suspended due to inclement weather with No. 2 West Islip ahead 4-1

Third baseman Matty Maurer hurls the ball to first base. Photo by Desirée Keegan

A stroke of lightning might be what Ward Melville’s baseball team needed to turn things around.

First baseman Ryan Hynes reaches for a high throw in time to get the out. Photo by Desirée Keegan

With rain, thunder and lightning delaying the No. 7 Patriots’ second-round playoff game against host No. 2 West Islip May 15, it also ends the Lions’ one-run-per-inning scoring streak, with the two teams resuming
play May 16 at 4 p.m., barring no additional weather setbacks. West Islip held a 4-1 lead when play was suspended.

“We played uncharacteristically poorly on defense,” Ward Melville head coach Lou Petrucci said. “And it cost us.”

Ward Melville started the bottom of the inning off strong, with junior Max Nielsen smacking an RBI-single to shallow right center field on a 3-2 count to score senior Brady Doran from second.

“I knew either it was going to be a ball by a long shot or he was going to give me an easy pitch to just flick into the outfield, and he gave me just that,” Nielsen said discussing his discipline at the plate. “My approach was to simply put the ball in a hole somewhere. When I saw Brady [Doran] score I knew that it was going to be a good game.”

Petrucci said he expects that from one of his star starting pitchers and designated hitter.

“He’s been doing that all year,” the coach said. “Max had a big hit right there, and we need more of that from other guys, too. Baseball’s not a one-man show. Max did his job, but we have to come back the next inning and shut them down, and we didn’t do it.”

Max Nielsen races to first base. Photo by Desirée Keegan

West Islip answered with a ground-rule double, a bunt and a sacrifice fly to tie the score, 1-1. A grounder to third ended the inning, but Ward Melville came up empty over the next three innings while West Islip scored once in each. The Patriots also couldn’t cash in despite loading the bases in the top of the third with two outs.

“We came up empty a few times with runners in scoring position, but it’s hard adjusting and sitting back against a pitcher who is throwing low-to-mid 70s,” Nielsen said. “On the defensive side of things, we had a few hops and plays that didn’t go our way, so that’s baseball for ya. We knew that West Islip was going to be a tough team to beat, but we know that we can beat them. We wanted to get ahead early and really get into their bullpen.”

Ward Melville will dive into its bullpen, with the pitch count rules leaving both starters ineligible to return to the mound for the remainder of the suspended game. Matt DiGennaro will come out of the bullpen to replace Ethan Farino for the Patriots.

“I don’t know who they’re going to use, but I can’t worry about them, I have to worry about Ward Melville,” Petrucci said. “We’ve had the right hitters up, but we couldn’t get the big hits. Hopefully with a day change we’ll get these opportunities again and try to put some good swings on the ball. We have to see if we can fight back.”

Second baseman Logan Doran tosses the ball to first base.

Nielsen said the team has been in tough hitting situations before, and Petrucci added players have struggled all year with two-out production, and that was the case through most of the day. The head coach said he told his boys following the postponement that the plays West Islip made gave them a 4-1 lead, and the plays the Patriots didn’t make helped Ward Melville to a 4-1 deficit.

“Offensively we’ve struggled all year with two-out hitting — now it’s a playoff game and we’re doing it again,” Petrucci said. “Hopefully we can make up for it over the next three innings. The season’s not over — we’ve had a great one, the kids have played hard all year, we just have to continue to play hard for the next nine outs and see where the chips fall.”

Results from the second part of the suspended game were not available at press time May 16.

Shoreham-Wading River, Miller Place three-sport athletes excel at Blue Chip Prospects Long Island combine

“By no means is Long Island considered a hot bed for football players, but we have a ton of talent here,” horeham-Wading River defensive back and quarterback Xavier Arline said, hoping to show off his skills on the
gridiron at the Blue Chip Prospects Long Island football combine May 6.

The event at Sachem High School North, put on in conjunction with the Suffolk County Coaches Association to showcase top Long Island football talent, ran the 70 athletes that attended through six stations before breaking off into specific position drills. The football players participated in the 40-yard dash, vertical jump, standing broad jump, 185-pound bench press, 5-10-5-yard shuttle and 3-cone drill.

Shoreham-Wading River quarterback Xavier Arline leaps over a defender. File photo by Bill Landon

Arline ran the second fastest 40-yard dash (4.55) and 5-10-5-yard time (4.41), behind Brandon Didier of North Babylon, who ran a 4.51 and had a 4.39.

“Knowing I have a good foundation to build off of is confidence boosting,” the sophomore said. “It just shows that with additional training and hard work I can compete with athletes across the country.”

Miller Place junior Tom Nealis, a 6-foot 4-inch wide receiver, ran a 4.91 40-yard dash and had a time of 4.67 in the 5-10-5.

“It was great to be out on the football field again and it was cool to see a lot of other top players and great
athletes there,” said Nealis, who also plays baseball and basketball. “I feel that playing baseball may have put me at a slight disadvantage. Baseball takes up a lot of time that could have been used to practice these drills and work on quickness.”

But he said that won’t hold him back from his dream of being a Long Island standout like Sachem North’s Dalton Crossan, who signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in February, and William Floyd alum Stacey Bedell, who just received an invite to the rookie minicamp of the San Francisco 49ers.

“The way the game is played is like nothing else,” Nealis said. “No other sport can you physically feel
the effort and intensity of your opponent. Seeing these guys make it to elite programs opens my eyes to the possibilities.”

Miller Place’s Tom Nealis grabs a catch. File photo by Bill Landon

Arline said the success of more recent graduates who have gone on to play Division I football, like Sayville’s Jack Coan (University of Wisconsin) and his former teammate Ethan Wiederkehr (Northwestern University) helps ignite a fire in him. Despite verbally committing to the University of North Carolina to play lacrosse as an eighth-grader, the sophomore is keeping his options open.

“This was a great opportunity for me to see where I am at as a player and athlete,” he said. “I wanted to attend this event to gain experience, find my highs and lows and compete against myself. It created a baseline and foundation for me to build on as I begin the football recruiting process.”

Hans Wiederkehr, Ethan’s father who is the president of the football coaches association, and a two-time Long Island championship winner while he was the head coach at Babylon, said since football doesn’t have travel teams, an event like this helps get student-athletes exposure.

“I’ve always thought it was a great tool for all the kids,” he said of the combine, that’s in its 16th year. “The best part for me is every kid really wants to be there and every kid wants to do great. They all have hopes and dreams, and some leave with a reality check while others get to see how good they really are.”

Arline said he thinks he has what it takes to shine at the next level in his favorite sport.

“The most difficult part about the combine was not knowing what to expect — I had very little to no preparation going in,” he said. “With hard work, perseverance and a little luck I believe I can get there.”

Comeback follows sidelines from heart condition, brain surgery

Thomas Liantonio, an attack for Long Island University and former Miller Place standout, scored four goals in his rerun to the field after undergoing brain surgery three months prior. Photo from LIU Post

Thomas Liantonio was overcome with emotion as his lacrosse teammates rushed to give him a hug after his first goal. The excitement followed a series of unfortunate events fit for a Lemony Snicket novel.

After undergoing brain surgery just three months earlier, the Miller Place resident and current Long Island University Post attack led the Pioneers with four goals and an assist in an 18-7 home win against University of the District of Columbia on his return April 17.

Thomas Liantonio following brain surgery this past January. Photo from Thomas Liantonio

“Scoring my first goal back was definitely a special moment,” he said. “To be given the opportunity to start and produce off that opportunity is something I’m very fortunate for.”

Prior to the surgery, the junior said he was experiencing headaches and eye pain but didn’t think too much of it. As problems persisted he decided to get checked out and was shocked when doctors told him he had a brain tumor that would require surgery.

“I was scared, taken aback,” he said, recalling when he heard the news Jan. 2. “I’m a big believer of doing stuff to get your mind off things, and I did what I could to keep things as normal as possible for me. I realized you can’t get down on yourself — you have to keep looking forward to the next day and roll with the punches.”

He returned home following a few days in the hospital, and got started on the path to recovery. Long Island University first-year head coach Eric Wolf said he felt devastated for his student-athlete, especially knowing Liantonio also missed the 2017 season as a result of a heart condition.

“I know how hard he had worked after missing all of last season,” Wolf said. “I know in the front of Thomas’ mind he was thinking he would come back this season, and it was more so in the back of mine. Bottom line: I just wanted him to be healthy. If he could ever play again that would just be icing on the cake.”

Thomas Liantonio crosses the field for Miller Place. File photo by Desirée Keegan

Almost exactly a year prior, Jan. 10, 2017, Liantonio found out he had myocarditis, inflammation of the middle layer of the heart wall caused by a viral infection that can weaken the heart and lead to heart attacks, heart failure or sudden death if his blood pressure were to rise too high. He said he was having some chest pains, and again didn’t think anything of it, assuming he had a respiratory infection. After visiting a walk-in
medical center, he found out he had an irregular heartbeat. Following an EKG, MRI and cardiogram, he was told of the infection.

“To see him get blindsided by two things back-to-back and see how it was affecting his morale, as a parent, that’s very disheartening,” his father Steve Liantonio said. “He’s a strong kid, and luckily he has great friends and people at LIU Post that he relied on to keep his spirits up, keep him positive. We thought good things were going to come for him, and it worked out.”

The Pioneers’ head coach said after a week-and-a-half of practice, he could see his player shaking off the rust. Wolf first opted to sideline Liantonio after he practiced at midfield and, after a night’s sleep, decided he needed him out on the field.

Liantonio, who first picked up a lacrosse stick in second grade, said he couldn’t imagine not playing the sport again.

“I love the fast pace,” he said. “I saw the opportunity I had to go far in the sport and wanted to take it. I didn’t think I’d make it back to the lacrosse field this season, but getting cleared, I was so happy I didn’t know what to do.”

Thomas Liantonio with his mother Maria following his first game back. Photo from Thomas Liantonio

Given the amount of physical contact in lacrosse, Liantonio’s dad thought a return to the field was risky, afraid of a push or helmet-to-helmet contact, but said the return also provided a lesson to his son.

“You can only hold somebody back for so long,” he said. “He was strong-willed and after several conversations he felt determined and healthy enough to do it. At some point in time you just have to let go and say, ‘Go for it.’ This proves when you put your mind to something you can overcome anything.”

Wolf said he asked current attackmen, who’d had successful campaigns up to that point, to let Liantonio return to his rightful position. He said his players were selfless, and he was moved by what Liantonio brought to the team in his first game in nearly two years.

“I was shocked, but not surprised given who Thomas is,” he said. “He played awesome. The emotional lift that he gave our team could not be measured.”

The coach said while there’s no tiptoeing around the contact in the sport, he knew his player was all in, and has improved and grown more confident with each game he’s played since.

“He works hard, has a positive attitude and makes his teammates better — he does everything we ask,” Wolf said. “To see a guy go through what he has gone through over the past two years and to keep persisting through real adversity … it’s incredible.”

Malachy McAvoy adds four goals and two assists, Michael Giaquinto goes 20-for-20 on faceoffs

A Northport defender gets trips trying to keep up with Matt Grillo as he races around the goal. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Each player brings something to the table for Ward Melville, be it Michael Giaquinto’s crafty faceoff wins, Dylan Pallonetti’s swift assists or Ethan Larson’s physical defense. Matt Grillo brought the scoring for the Patriots Tuesday, using his speed and athleticism to put away six goals in the first half of Ward Melville’s 19-5 home win against Northport.

Dylan Pallonetti fires at the cage and scores. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The senior was quick to share the credit.

“Our offense played great today,” said Grillo, as 10 different players got on the scoreboard. “Everyone was moving together, which opened up lanes for me and I was able to capitalize.”

But a performance like he had is something the attack has been working hard for. After senior Malachy McAvoy (four goals, two assists) got things going with back-to-back scores, Grillo put away three straight goals in just 1:37 of game time.

The first came off a flick from Pallonetti. Grillo grabbed the ball for mere milliseconds before rocketing the ball into the netting from 10 yards out. His third goal came when he was caught off guard by a shifting defender, found a diagonal lane toward the right side of the cage and fired over his shoulder and behind his back while he raced past it.

Michael Giaquinto dashes into Northport’s zone after winning a face-off. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“I always try to have a quick, smooth transition from when I receive the ball to when I release it,” Grillo said. “It helps to make what I’m going to do less predictable. I always love to shoot from all different angles and areas of the field. It makes me more dangerous as an offensive player, and I’ve practiced these different shots many times over the years in order to be able to execute them during a game.”

Head coach Jay Negus said his captain’s capabilities don’t surprise him.

“I expect that from him,” Negus said. “He practices hard and spends a lot of time with his stick.”

Pallonetti (two goals, four assists), who helped on McAvoy’s hat trick goal that put Ward Melville (10-1) up 8-0 to end the first quarter, scored what would end up being the game-winning goal at the 3:32 mark of the first quarter.

“We have built a very strong connection,” Grillo said of working with his junior teammate. “We are always looking for each other — helping each other get good looks. Today he did a very good job of keeping his eyes up and moving in, once he drew the slide, which really helped our offense out.”

Liam Davenport maintains possession as he crosses midfield. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Giaquinto was 20-for-20 on faceoffs, winning possessions early that grew to be crucial when the Patriots’ bench players stepped in to compete in the second half, up 15-0.

“I’ve been real impressed the last three games with how they’ve come out firing right away, been consistent, and that’s something we’ve been preaching to them constantly,” Negus said. “It took us a little while, and it took a loss [7-6 at Half Hollow Hills East April 18] to be a good learning lesson. I was really happy with how we got to the ground balls, the unselfish play and how we were locking it down defensively. Collin [Krieg, seven saves] was great in goal as well as the poles around him. All the guys are putting in hard work and it shows on different days, which is a good thing, but we’ve got to keep pushing to get better because we’re not satisfied with where we’re at right now. We just have to keep getting better every day.”

Ward Melville hosts Sachem North May 4 at 4:15 p.m. before traveling to Smithtown East May 8 at 4:30 p.m. The Patriots wrap up the regular season with a May 10 contest at Riverhead at 4:15 p.m.

Eric Swanson and his parents lead the Pleasantville and Shoreham-Wading River boys lacrosse teams out onto the field during the Lax Out Cancer fundraiser games April 28. Photo by Bill Landon

By Desirée Keegan

Cindy Swanson, of Shoreham, said she thought she’d never be so closely affected by cancer, but that changed when her 2-year-old son Eric was diagnosed with a rare form of the disease in March 2017.

Eric had a large tumor in his jaw, with additional bone lesions attacking his clavicle, elbow and C7 vertebrae. He was diagnosed as a multisystem Langerhans cell histiocytosis cancer patient — which affects one in 200,000 children — as the disease was attacking his lymph nodes and skin.

Eric was one of four beneficiaries of the Shoreham-Wading River 10th annual Lax Out Cancer event, which features lacrosse games, a dinner and raffle, the proceeds of which are donated to local families struggling as a result of the deadly disease.

The 2018 Lax Out Cancer fundraiser beneficiaries Port Jefferson Station’s Jackson, Miller Place’s Blake and Shoreham’s Eric. Photo by Bill Landon

“It’s very heartwarming,” Swanson said of the community support she received, especially at the April 28 event. “You always think that something like this is never going to happen to you, but it does happen to you. Things like this — it’s amazing, just the support for the kids to feel special.”

Eric is currently in the midst of 52 weeks of chemotherapy at Stony Brook University Hospital. Noted as a kind, caring kid with an infectious smile, the Shoreham resident loves playing with trucks and learning about dinosaurs, according to his mother. His favorite thing to do is pretend to be a fireman. He was walked out onto the field by two of them during the opening ceremony.

“I think that it’s a wonderful thing for the community to get together and help families in need, and we all know what these families are going through — they need all the help that they can get,” said Shoreham-Wading River Wildcat Athletic Club President Ed Troyano. “I think that it’s really a testament to this community when they give their time and contribute to the cause. When you look around today, you see the commitment and their time to put an event like this together — I’m grateful for all of the volunteers who do this year after year. I’m humbled by it.”

Blake Doyen, a 15-year-old Miller Place lacrosse player; 11-year-old Jackson from Port Jefferson Station; and 13-year-old Kaelyn McCandless from Lindenhurst were the other beneficiaries of the Shoreham-Wading River boys lacrosse game against Pleasantville, and the girls lacrosse game against Rocky Point. The boys junior varsity squad also faced off against the junior varsity team from Pleasantville.

“It’s huge to participate in the Lax Out Cancer event,” senior Shoreham-Wading River lacrosse player Tim Cairo said. “Pleasantville is a great team, and for them to come all this way for the cause today is great.”

Blake was diagnosed with T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia in February, an aggressive acute leukemia that progresses quickly and affects the lymphoid-cell-producing stem cells, in particular, a type of white blood cell called T lymphocytes, which make antibodies that help fight infection. He has started intensive chemotherapy at Stony Brook hospital, where he will receive treatment for the next three years. Blake is an energetic and enthusiastic teen who, although not able to return to school or play lacrosse for the remainder of the year, is determined to fight this disease until he wins, so that he can get back to doing all the things that he loves, according to his family.

“You always think that something like this is never going to happen to you, but it does happen to you. Things like this — it’s amazing, just the support for the kids to feel special.”

— Cindy Swanson

Jackson, a second-time beneficiary of the event, taking part in it last year, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia — a type of cancer of the blood and bone marrow with excess immature white blood cells — in December of 2013. He finished his treatment and was in remission, but cancer returned. He had to undergo intense chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant, according to his family, and is struggling with complications from graft-versus-host disease, a condition that occurs when donor bone marrow or stem cells attack the recipient. Jackson, noted as a lover of sports, superheroes and video games, was in the hospital from December until March and will continue his chemotherapy treatment for the next two years.

Kaelyn has been fighting brain cancer for the last two years. She has received the maximum dose of radiation and chemotherapy, but her last two scans have shown something has returned at the tumor site. Doctors are in the process of planning their next course of action on the youngest of seven children.

“I’m thankful that I can be a small part of this — to be able to give back to the community,” Shoreham-Wading River head boys lacrosse coach Mike Taylor said. “I am very happy that we are continuing such a significant event. I feel so fortunate to have such a special group of parents, and a supportive community. It is very important to me to have our athletes involved in and understand the importance of being a concerned and productive community member. It is my goal as their coach to develop these young men into strong leaders, students, employees and family members through athletics and community service events.”

Former Lax Out Cancer proceed recipients also attended the event. So far, $1,540 has been raised of the $5,000 goal through a GoFundMe page. Visit to find out more about the recipients and to donate.

Bill Landon contributed reporting

Members of the Carol Putahl Literacy Foundation have access to the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, which is a collection of classic childhood books. Photo from Carol Pufahl Literacy Foundation

Students in the Middle Country Central School District’s Universal Pre-K program are receiving the gift of literacy from the Long Island-based Carol Pufahl Literacy Foundation. 

Thanks to state funding secured by the office of State Sen. John Flanagan (R), the foundation is providing free, age-appropriate books each month to the children, in keeping with the foundation’s mission to increase early childhood literacy. The grant will help offset the cost of the program.

The literacy foundation delivers what’s known as the Dolly Parton Imagination Library to each child enrolled in the UPK program as part of a system that includes access to books and family literacy. Founded by the country singer in 1996, the Dolly Parton Imagination Library is a set of books beginning with the children’s
classic “The Little Engine That Could.” Each month, a new carefully selected book is mailed directly to the home of children enrolled in the program. Registration is free, with no cost or obligation to the family.

“Studies clearly demonstrate that early literacy is the key to academic and lifelong success.”

— Roberta Senzer

The Middle Country UPK is the largest program on Long Island, serving more than 400 youngsters from Centereach, Selden, Lake Grove, Lake Ronkonkoma, Port Jefferson Station and Farmingville. Participating family members have been overwhelmingly positive about the program’s impact on their children since it was first introduced last month.

“My son gets so excited to open the mailbox to look for and get his monthly book,” said mother Jennifer Capinigro. “Thank you.”

Flanagan is a long-standing education advocate, having previously served as the chairman of the New York State Committee on Education.

“It is my pleasure to be able to assist the Carol Pufahl Literacy Foundation in its mission of providing children in our community with a strong educational base,” he said. “By delivering books directly to young children in the Middle Country school district, the foundation helps ensure that these children enter school already acquainted with reading. This will help them reach their full potential and allow them to succeed in the coming years.”

Research has shown that children raised in homes that promote family literacy grow up to be better readers and do better in school than children raised in homes where literacy is not promoted. This is also supported through the Carol Pufahl Literacy Foundation’s Family Literacy workshops, which teach families how a child can be an active participant, rather than a passive one while reading with parents.

“Studies clearly demonstrate that early literacy is the key to academic and lifelong success,” foundation CEO Roberta Senzer said. “The Imagination Library is one way our foundation is working to foster a child’s love of
reading and to put books in the hands of all Long Island children to ensure they have the advantage they need when starting kindergarten.”

To learn more about the foundation or to make a tax-deductible donation visit www.cpliteracyfoundation.org.

Tigers take 9-6 win over Ward Melville's, which was the 400th of head coach Carol Rose's career

The Northport girls lacrosse team’s motto this season is “earned, not given,” and the Tigers proved Tuesday that they’re heeding the message.

In a battle of undefeated teams, Northport worked for each possession, goal and turnover to take a 9-6 win over host Ward Melville April 24.

“It’s the best feeling knowing we came out strong and were able to finish against a really great team,” said junior midfielder Olivia Carner, who scored a game-high four times and added an assist. Her final goal served as insurance, finding an empty net with 33 seconds left. “I was nervous, but I knew we had to be confident and work together.”

“I’m just so happy that they kept up the intensity throughout the entire game. They’re fighters, and they kept their composure.”

— Carol Rose

Northport junior goalkeeper Claire Morris made a stop with 7:18 remaining, and senior midfielder Nicole Orella scored the go-ahead goal off that possession for a 7-6 advantage in a game that saw five ties.

“We wanted to take care of the ball, make good decisions, and they were able to do that,” said Northport head coach Carol Rose. “They played as a team — they needed everybody.”

Rose said she was most impressed with senior attack Katherine Meyer, who scored twice. Her second goal, off a Danielle Pavinelli assist, gave Northport an 8-6 cushion with 2:03 left in the game.

“That’s the most she’s scored in a game, so she stepped up big for us,” the coach said. “Everybody contributed in some way. The defense was relentless, they caused a lot of turnovers. The goalie played really well. I’m just so happy that they kept up the intensity throughout the entire game. They’re fighters, and they kept their composure.”

After the teams traded scores until the game was 4-all, senior midfielder Emerson Cabrera popped outside the zone and made an arc around to the front of the cage where she scored from the left side to give Northport its first two-goal lead, 6-4, with 20 minutes left in the second half. Once again Ward Melville raced back into contention, with seniors Kate Mulham and Shannon Brazier scoring on free position and diving shots, respectively, to make it a new game.

“Kate Mulham is a really fast girl and we all knew we needed to be on our toes with her,” said Northport junior defender Isabella Hubbard. “We paid attention to her a lot throughout the game. There was a lot of pressure on [the defense], but we knew what we had to do and how to get it done.”

“It was a midseason battle, a test, and I told [my girls] to remember this feeling, because I can guarantee we’ll be seeing [Northport] again somewhere down the road.”

— Kerri Kilkenny

The senior, who scored three goals, said she uses the pressure placed on her from being the team’s leading scorers as motivation.

“I’m confident in the talent of my teammates and know that if I am shut down by a double team or a faceguard, my teammates around me will step up,” she said. “Every girl on the field deserves to be there, and I know that they will perform just as well in high-pressure situations. Northport is a big and fast team, and we knew they had some serious skill and speed in the midfield. Possession was crucial, and Northport’s players on the draw circle were tall and shifty. We knew the draw controls could determine the outcome of the game.”

Ward Melville head coach Kerri Kilkenny said she saw her team struggling to move the ball, and that losing draws early on put the Patriots in a hole.

“Northport was shooting the ball — they took at least double the amount of shots that we did,” she said. “They were more disciplined today than we were. They were absolutely the better team, but we hung in there. It was a midseason battle, a test, and I told them to remember this feeling, because I can guarantee we’ll be seeing them again somewhere down the road.”

The win was Rose’s 400th during her 29 years at the helm. She has averaged more than 14 wins per season at Northport.

“It’s kind of surreal — that’s a lot of lax games,” she said. “It’s an honor to have had the privilege to coach these wonderful, talented players in Northport throughout my tenure. It would not have been possible without the dedication and hard work that these kids put in throughout the years. They wanted this win bad, more than me, and they were really excited. They’re taking care of business and they’re on a mission.”

Northport (9-0 overall, 8-0 in Division I) plays host to Sachem North April 27 for a 4 p.m. matchup. Ward Melville (8-1, 7-1) will travel to Sachem East for a 4:30 p.m. game April 27.

Mount Sinai's Morgan Mitchell races downfield with Comewogue's Mia Fernandes pushing her toward the right sideline. Photo by Desirée Keegan

By Desirée Keegan

The Mustangs chanted in the huddle: “unleash the madness.”

Fueled with fire following its first loss in 21 games, the Mount Sinai girls lacrosse team amped up the intensity to clobber visiting Comsewogue 15-2 April 23.

After being down 6-0 in the first half of a loss to Bayport-Blue Point last Friday, the girls knew they had to come out firing.

Mount Sinai’s Emma Tyrrell passes the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“We realized we can’t take any team lightly,” said junior attack Morgan Mitchell. “We have to play each game like it’s our last one; stay focused and keep our eye on the prize.”

She kept that concentration in the draw circle, flicking the ball toward the sideline instead of up or down the field, so that sophomore midfielder Jenny Markey could scoop it up. Markey boxed out Comsewogue’s Hannah Dorney for crucial minutes of possession that led to two of her three goals in the first five minutes of the game.

“I know I was going against a strong opponent in Hannah Dorney — I had to box her out first so she doesn’t get it, because she’s strong in the circle,” Markey said. “When I boxed her our I knew I have the ball. If we match other team’s intensity we can play with anyone.”

Mount Sinai began double-teaming the Warriors ball carrier once they finally got possession and forced 17 turnovers in the first half. After Comsewogue’s Julia Fernandes scored off a Dorney assist to cut Mount Sinai’s lead to 4-1, senior Camryn Harloff began to attack, scoring two straight of her game-best four goals to up the advantage. Mitchell assisted on two of them as the Mustangs scored five times in a 15 minute span.

Mount Sinai’s Meaghan Scutaro shoots while Comsewogue’s Ava Fernandes (on left) and Hannah Dorney reach to block her. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“I like being in the middle, and Morgan and I work really well together,” said Harloff, who’s heading to the NCAA’s No. 1-ranked team, Stony Brook University, in the fall. “When her older sister [Kasey Mitchell] was on the team I worked well with her, too. We just click.”

Kasey Mitchell, an Stony Brook lacrosse player currently, and Harloff will be teammates again soon.

Mount Sinai spread out the assault with senior attack Meaghan Tyrrell also scoring a hat trick, and her younger sister Emma adding two goals and an assist. Twin defenders Meaghan and Kirsten Scutaro picked up the pace to get to slides that blocked Comsewogue from getting close to the cage the rest of the way.

“I think we bounced back from our loss, which we really needed,” Harloff said. “I think we met their intensity, and I think we played as a team.”

Behind head coach Al Bertolone who eclipsed 100 career wins with a 14-7 triumph over Christian Brothers Academy April 16, Mount Sinai moves to 8-1 overall and 6-1 in Division II. The Mustangs travel to Sayville April 26 for a 4:30 p.m. game.

“We have to take it play by play and realize how we got ourselves here,” Mitchell said. “It’s focusing on those little things. We set the bar so high, and we need to continue to reach it.”

Hundreds headed to Heritage Park in Mount Sinai April 20-22 for the annual Fling Into Spring carnival.

As the sunshine and warmer temperatures washed over the park, kids smiled, rode rides, ate ice cream and played games with excitement throughout the weekend.

The money raised from the event helps nonprofit Heritage Trust fund other events throughout the year. The park is currently raising money for a splash pad. A country line dancing fundraising event is scheduled for April 26 at the Heritage Center from 7:30-10:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance or $15 at the door.

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Starting pitcher slams a double, scores game-winning run to go with 11 Ks during his complete game

Starting southpaw Max Nielsen hurls a pitch. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Nothing is stopping Ward Melville’s starting pitcher Max Nielsen from winning a game.

Trading a ball for a bat, the lefty led off the bottom of the fourth with a double, knocking the ball into the outfield on a bad bounce, and two more hits eventually scored what would be the game-winning run in a 2-1 Patriots victory over Patchogue-Medford April 17.

Brady Doran gets under an infield popup. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Nielsen, who added 11 strikeouts from the mound during a complete game while allowing just three hits and one walk, said he knew he’d won the game once he crossed home plate.

“I knew that was going to be the run that’d win it for us,” the southpaw said. “Because I knew I wasn’t going to give up another run.”

The junior allowed hits in the first and second and hit a batter in the second before a Patchogue-Medford bunt loaded the bases. He struck out the following hitter but allowed the only run later in the same inning. He surrendered his only walk in the top of the fourth, but also struck out two to get back on track.

“I always try to give my team the best opportunity to win,” Nielsen said. “I wanted to get ahead with the fastball, because once I get ahead I can start going through my other pitches and making it harder on the hitters. I had a rough second inning, but my defense got me out of it.”

Logan Doran and Kyle Rafferty each went 2-for-3 with a stolen base. Doran scored the Patriots’ only other run, and his brother Brady Doran also went 2-for-3. While the brothers said Ward Melville was slow to start, the Patriots are now firing on all cylinders, feeling in their element.

Brady Doran, Kyle Rafferty and Alex Russo leap up in celebration after the win. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“I wanted to attack the fastball, and he had a pretty good curveball,” junior second baseman Brady Doran said of Patchogue-Medford’s pitcher. “I’m comfortable, stay confident and try to attack the fastball and hit it hard. We gel; we’re a close team that really plays well together.”

Nielsen shared a similar sentiment, but said the funny feelings from the team’s uneven start are gone now.

“I can’t think of a weakness,” he said. “Our defense is great, I know all of the pitchers on staff are going to give us a great game and we hit.”

Head coach Lou Petrucci said he thought his southpaw controlled the game, and said he liked that he stayed under 100 pitches. Petrucci said the Raiders’ record didn’t fool him (2-7), because he knew he’d be facing a challenging opponent.

“Randall [Alejo] pitched a great game and we got away with a win today,” he said. “It’s a big rivalry game. We tried to have good at -bats, put good swings on the ball, we didn’t strike out much and the kids are showing great improvement. Our pitching staff is keeping the scores down, and now we’re working on getting the clutch hits, but we’re playing hard.”

The Patriots have now won five straight and are tied with Sachem East (7-2) at the No. 2 spot in League I behind Longwood (8-1). Ward Melville travels to Patchogue-Medford for Game 2 of the series. The first pitch is scheduled for 4:15 p.m.

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