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Field Hockey

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By Bill Landon

Comsewogue senior Hannah Dorney recalled the first time her field hockey team played Bay Shore, losing a close 2-1 game back on Sept. 13.

“We went into the game today thinking about last time, and just how devastating that loss was,” Dorney said. “It was a long bus ride home, and [the whole time] you’re thinking, ‘What could we have done better?’”

This time, the No. 9-seeded Warriors had the offense to support a solid defense, to pull away with a 3-2 win over No. 8 Bay Shore in the first round of the Class A playoffs Oct. 17.

Sophomore Kayleigh Mimnaugh had two goals in the win, scoring first on a flick pass from junior Sophia Azzara and the game-winner on a player-down opportunity and a feed from senior Gabriella Ventura.

With the teams tied 1-1 heading into halftime after her first tally, she said a pep talk from head coach Jacqueline Wilkom got her juices flowing.

“Our halftime speech from the coach really pumped us up, and I think that we just worked harder overall in that second half,” Mimnaugh said. “We played well defensively.”

Dorney took working harder to heart, and opened the second half with a takeaway, outrunning defenders behind her as she carried the ball from the 35-yard line to the front of the cage for a solo shot and a 2-1 advantage.

Comsewogue had trouble capitalizing on its opportunities though, as Bay Shore committed six fouls in the striking circle, leading to six consecutive penalty corner shots from which the Warriors came away empty.

Being a player down for a majority of the second half — 20 minutes — defense was the name of the game for Comsewogue, but Bay Shore finally broke through, retying the game with 15:38 left to play.

Azzara said she was somewhat surprised with how her team weathered the storm in the second half.

“Honestly, I didn’t think we’d come out here and do this well against them,” she said. “But I knew we had it in us — we work really well together and we’re very close, so I think that helped us.”

Comsewogue, on a five-game winning streak, improves to 12-3 and advances to face No. 1 undefeated Ward Melville on the road Friday, Oct. 20 at 2:30 p.m.

“We have a talented group of girls — they’re fantastic athletes, and it’s just a matter of them coming out and giving it all that they have,” Wilkom said. “And so long as we play our game, I don’t think that there’s any team we can’t beat.”

For the Warriors, this bus ride home will be different.

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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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Mairead Micheline moves the ball into the circle amid a pack of defenders. Photo by Desirée Keegan

By Desirée Keegan

For Paloma Blatter, confirmation counts.

Paloma Blatter dribbles the ball up the field. Photo by Desirée Keegan

With seven minutes remaining in a 0-0 game against Patchogue-Medford, the Comsewogue field hockey sophomore scored on a scrum in front of the cage to win it, in an away game for the Warriors Sept. 26.

“It felt great personally to know you won it for your team, but getting the pats on the back from your teammates is the best approval you could ever get,” the midfielder said. “There’s nothing more important than putting it all on the line for your team.”

Comsewogue had some chances in the first half, but the team came up empty on several corner attempts. Sophomore defender Olivia Fantigrossi said the team is working on that aspect of its game but is still struggling with communication and obstruction calls. She said she was impressed though with her team’s grit.

“Going into the circle we have hard hits and good accuracy,” she said. “I think we were also successful blocking hits and sending them off the sideline to prevent the other team from getting a goal.”

Comsewogue head coach Jacqueline Wilkom said Fantigrossi flies all over the field when needed.

“She was out on every ball,” she said.

Her captain, senior midfielder Hannah Dorney, also wowed the coach.

Hannah Dorney battles for the ball at midfield. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“Hannah Dorney is a great athlete and really helped with leading the field,” Wilkom said. “She led the pep talk at halftime and they came out with a lot more intensity and they wanted to play.”

After losing nine seniors and the entire defensive unit to graduation after last season, Dorney said she too likes what she’s seeing from the young squad.

“We passed a lot better than we usually do,” she said. “We tend to get caught dribbling from one end of the field to the other, but today we worked the ball around more and from one side of the field to the other. We talked more in the second half, looked up, saw the options and we had the opportunities, we just weren’t finishing. We can’t let the ball slip past us as much.”

Wilkom said the team works hard and puts in the effort to improve. She said the girls are frequently seen dancing around the locker room before games, but she just hopes that energy can carry onto the field.

Olivia Fantigrossi gets in front to steal a Patchogue-Medford pass. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“They pump each other up and they want to play,” she said. “And I think that’s important. They want to be a team to be reckoned with and our motto ‘surrender the me for the we’ will help us do that. We need all 11 players working together as a unit to get that win.”

Blatter said she agreed that motivation needs to be there from whistle to whistle.

“We always find a way to come together as a team, even in our losses,” she said. “We’re always together and lifting each other up, especially this season, but we need to work on stepping onto the field and putting everything in it from the minute the timer starts to the minute it ends. If we can come out like we know we can in the beginning we’ll be a tough team to beat this year.”

Wilkom said the rise in the standings has added extra incentive — especially after going from a 3-11 team last year, to now currently boasting a 7-2 Division I record.

“We went from being in the 20s to fifth in the standings,” she said. “That’s a big deal for us — to be a team that people want to come out and beat.”

By Bill Landon

Shoreham-Wading River was on a hot streak — scoring 27 goals in the first three games of the field hockey season, all of which were shutouts. That spotless streak came to an end with a 3-1 loss to a tough Harborfields team Sept. 12.

“We were very worried and concerned about Shoreham,” Harborfields head coach Lauren Desiderio said. “They were blowouts, and that’s beyond impressive.”

The Tornadoes showed no worry or concern, as midfielder Gianna Bifulco dished the ball off to forward Jenelle Bennardo for the first goal of the game 11 minutes in. Not used to playing on grass, the Wildcats seemed to struggle.

“The ball moves very slowly on grass, and everyone reaches the ball more quickly. but I think we adjusted well in the second half,” Shoreham-Wading River junior Michele Corona said. “We just needed to talk more towards the end and we need to work on that in our next game.”

Opportunity came knocking again for Harborfields, and Sarah DeVito answered for a 2-0 lead with 11:26 left in the half.

“I’m not going to lie, I was really intimidated when we were told what their record was coming in,” DeVito said. “And all day in school, especially in math class, every couple of questions the numbers zero, three and 27 would pop into my head.”

On a penalty shot, Harborfields Sarah Gray put her team out front 3-0.

“We thought we were on the lower end,” said Gray. “But we were excited to get in the game and show them that we’re here to play.”

The Wildcats had no answer by halftime, but with 16:03 left in regulation, Harborfields went a man down, and Shoreham-Wading River looked to capitalize, but squandered the opportunity.

“They have a lot of skilled players and they’re very fast,” Harborfields Desiderio said. “They have skilled players and they did a good job putting pressure on us. I was pleased with our transition.”

Shoreham-Wading River found the box nine minutes later when Corona’s solo shot took the zero off the scoreboard to close the gap, but the team would come no closer.

With the win Harborfields improves to 2-1 and will see action today, Sept. 14 at Greenport-Southholdat 4:30 p.m. Shoreham-Wading River hits the road the same day to face Miller Place at 5:45 p.m.

“We’re so used to playing on a smooth surface we’re a passing team and that’s much more effective on turf,” Shoreham-Wading River head coach Jenna Stevenson said. “It’s our first loss of the season and we’ll look to see where our weaknesses were in this game and improve — get back on a winning streak.”

By Bill Landon

Shenendehowa has given the Ward Melville field hockey team a run for its money the last two seasons — outscoring the Patriots by one goal in the state semifinals last season and in double overtime in the state finals the year before. But this season, the Rocky Point field hockey team was first to press its luck with Ward Melville, forcing a shootout that the Patriots pulled away perfect from, 3-0, for the first win of the season.

“Respect to Rocky Point — they are a very aggressive and talented team, so I knew this wasn’t going to be a walk in the park,” Ward Melville head coach Shannon Sioss said of its nonleague opponent. “In fact, we like to schedule our nonleagues to be competitive games — it helps us see where our weaknesses are and what we need to work on.”

“We have a really experienced senior class and they’ve been down this road the last couple of years, so they’re on a mission right now.”

—Shannon Sioss

Rocky Point was first to find the back of the cage when senior midfielder Madison Sanchez dished the ball to senior forward Emily Molinaro.

The Patriots had to shake off the cobwebs when they found themselves battling a scrappy, in-your-face Eagles squad that caused several turnovers, and Ward Melville senior forward Kerri Thornton was first to break the ice. She evened the score for the Patriots with four minutes left until the halftime break, and rocked the back of the box on another solo with nine minutes left in the game for Ward Melville’s first lead.

“We have a really experienced senior class and they’ve been down this road the last couple of years, so they’re on a mission right now,” Sioss said. “I thought that Shannon Coughlan held the middle of our field today and Kerri Thornton is always up for a good challenge, so it’s fun to watch her play.”

Thornton said her team took the game very serious, knowing Rocky Point’s pedigree.

“I knew that Rocky Point was going to be good because they always battle with Miller Place in the county final,” the senior said. “So I wasn’t coming into this game thinking ‘oh, we’re going to win [this game easily, and as it turned out we had our hands full].”

Ward Melville drew a costly yellow card that led to Rocky Point defender Elizabeth Weiner scoring on a penalty shot to tie the game with four minutes remaining.

“We were right in this game and we deserved to be in this game,” said Rocky Point head coach Katie Bittner. “In the beginning we dominated, we scored first, and I think Ward Melville woke up a little bit, but we also got a little tired.”

“We were right in this game and we deserved to be in this game. “In the beginning we dominated…”

—Katie Bittner

Despite being a player down in the final minute of regulation, the Eagles held their own until the clock expired. Ward Melville, still a man up, tried to take home the win in sudden death overtime, but the Eagles returned to full strength two minutes in without Ward Melville getting a shot off. Rocky Point went down a player yet again in the final four minutes, but neither team could score.

“I don’t think that they played bad or that we got lucky — I honestly think that we were the better team,” Bittner said. “We made some mental mistakes that put us a man down, but when the field is this big, it’s huge that we held our own with our five field players to their six.”

Then came the best-of-five shootout, where Thornton and seniors Lexi Reinhardt and Kate Mulham helped Ward Melville to the 3-0 win, while goalkeeper Meghan Lorenzen guarded the Patriots’ cage to keep Rocky Point off the board.

Ward Melville will host Riverhead Sept. 6 at 4:15 p.m. Rocky Point opens its league season at home Sept. 7, hosting Sayville at 4 p.m.

Despite the loss, Bittner has realistic goals for her team this year.

“I’m not looking for an undefeated season by any means, I’m looking to get us to where [Ward Melville] got last year, which is a state championship,” she said. “And with this group, I know they can do it. This was truly a learning experience.”

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Jackie Brown sends the ball up the field. Photo by Carla Sciara

By Desirée Keegan

The relationship between a star player and a coach can sometimes be complicated, but when they’re immediate family members, a special bond is needed to achieve success.

Jackie Brown’s athletic career has been unique — her mother Deb Brown has been coaching her for five years in both field hockey and softball at Port Jefferson high school, and was her basketball coach for two years. Despite having her mother as coach, playing time and accolades were never handed to her.

Jackie Brown was Long Island's leading goal scorer, and led in overall points this season. Photo by Carla Sciara
Jackie Brown was Long Island’s leading goal scorer, and led in overall points this season. Photo by Carla Sciara

“If anything, she’s probably had to work even harder with me being her coach,” Deb Brown said. “I hold her to a higher standard, and I put more pressure on her than anyone else. For instance, in practice, she does the most push-ups.”

Brown recalled a game when her daughter had a one-on-one with a goalkeeper and she told her daughter to do one move, but she did another. “I’m yelling at her, and that’s when the parent in me comes out,” she said. “As beautiful as it was, the ball did not go in.”

Jackie Brown said the constant push has aided her success in sports, especially field hockey.

“It’s definitely interesting,” she said of their relationship, laughing. “Sometimes I tried to step over her and she puts me in my place, but what’s great is we got to talk about all of the games afterward whether it’s me saying something bad or her giving me something to work on. She teaches me new things every year.”

Brown first picked up a field hockey stick at 6 years old. From there, she became involved in clinics and played for East End Field Hockey travel team. She decided to try clinics in basketball and softball, too, and joined the Long Island Bandits fast-pitch travel softball team.

“Believe it or not I thought she would gear toward softball,” Deb Brown said. “But she just loved field hockey so much. It’s been fun watching her grow as a player.”

Jackie Brown said field hockey ran in her blood thanks to regular visits as a young girl to the field with her mother, who has been coaching at Port Jefferson for 27 years. She said the style of the sport felt like a fit for her.

“It wasn’t the sport everyone else was playing, and I liked how you had to move the ball a certain way and work with your teammates,” Jackie Brown said. “A lot I learned from field hockey, like field position and power, also helped me play softball and basketball.”

Speaking of power, the midfielder and forward has a strong shot, along with the knowledge of nuances needed to score, which helped her become Long Island’s leading goal scorer and leader in overall points this season.

Jackie Brown is hoisted up by the 2007 Royals field hockey team following the Long Island championship. Photo from Nancy Gallagher
Jackie Brown is hoisted up by the 2007 Royals field hockey team following the Long Island championship. Photo from Nancy Gallagher

“Besides just having a good shot — a hard hit and accurate — her ability to read the defense and the goalkeeper makes it much easier for her to get around them and beat them,” Port Jefferson assistant coach Nancy Gallagher said.

Gallagher is also in a special position. She played for Deb Brown and graduated from Port Jefferson in 2010. She first met Jackie when the coach’s daughter would come to games when Gallagher was a player. The assistant coach remembered the team hoisting her up on their shoulders following big wins, and the girls would teach her the tricks of the trade.

“She’d practice, and I’d tell her to do it 100 times in a row if she wanted to get better, and she was so eager to learn that she’d sit there on the sidelines doing it 100 times in a row,” Gallagher said. “She’s the ideal player to coach because not only does she have the athletic ability to pick up skills quickly, but she’s also willing to put in the time and energy to make it an instinctive part of her play.”

Gallagher said the athlete not only knows the skills, but she understands what skills are used when and why, and then how to put them to use.

Adelphi University field hockey head coach Gloria O’Connor saw each attribute Jackie Brown possesses — even the field hockey standout’s recent 6-inch growth spurt.

“Jackie has great size and feel for the game,” O’Connor said. “She is a daughter of a coach, and therefore knows the game of field hockey from a whole different perspective. She competes hard, has passion and desire and is always putting in extra practice time. She demonstrates the ability of taking care of business both on and off the field.”

The feeling of knowing the team wanted her, and the fact that Adelphi felt like a “home away from home,” led Brown to sign a letter of intent this November to play with the Panthers.

As a member of three high school teams, vice president of the Student Organization, co-president of the Varsity Club and a member of the Yearbook Club and National Honor Society, Brown knows what it means to put in the time to improve.

Jackie Brown is surrounded by her family as she signs her letter of intent to play field hockey for Adelphi University. Photo from Port Jefferson school district
Jackie Brown is surrounded by her family as she signs her letter of intent to play field hockey for Adelphi University. Photo from Port Jefferson school district

“It’s a lot to juggle when I go from one practice to the other, and then come home and do homework before going to another practice, but it’s manageable,” she said. “I learned how to be a leader on the field, work with my teammates and develop a strong work ethic.”

As Brown departs for college in 2017, her mother said she too may be hanging up her whistle at Port Jefferson. The head coach will receive a coach of the year award during the Suffolk County awards dinner, while her daughter will receive her second All-State honor and an All-Tournament nod following the No. 2-seeded Royals’ appearance in the Class C county finals.

Gallagher said the recognitions are well deserved, especially for her former coach.

“She’s very humble,” Gallagher said of Deb Brown. “No one can argue about how much she cares and dedicates herself to these girls and to this program. The success not only during these past couple of season but over her whole tenure shows it.”

Despite a hesitancy to talk about her daughter, Brown is even more proud of the success her daughter has had over the years than her own accolades.

“When I have to get the job done I do rely on her heavily to get the job done for Port Jeff,” Brown said. “I kind of downplay what she has accomplished over the years, but she’s worked very hard for this, and she deserves recognition. I’m probably retiring this year, so it’s bittersweet, but it’s great to go out with her after how well she’s done. I’m very proud of her. It’s been a heck of a ride.”

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The Miller Place field hockey team was named small school champion after shutting out Pierson/Bridgehampton 2-0. Photo by Bob Savage
Crystal Esposito reaches for the ball. Photo by Bob Savage
Crystal Esposito reaches for the ball. Photo by Bob Savage

By Desirée Keegan

The Esposito sisters continue to get the job done for Miller Place.

Crystal Esposito scored off an assist from her sister, Arianna, with 19:20 left in the first half. Arianna Esposito set up Jill Fazio for the other goal with 3:54 remaining in the game, to help the Panthers to a 2-0 pounding of Pierson/Bridgehampton for the Suffolk County Small School title Nov. 1.

Goalkeeper Ally Tarantino needed to make just one save in the win.

Prior to that, No. 1 Miller Place knocked off No. 2 Rocky Point, 2-1, for the Class B crown. In that game, Fazio scored the game-winning goal off a deflection from Julia Burns with four seconds remaining in double overtime. Arianna Esposito added a goal and was assisted by her sister.

Miller Place will compete in the Long Island championship Nov. 5 at Adelphi University at 3 p.m.

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The Ward Melville field hockey team is all smiles after shutting out its opponent for the county title. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Kate Mulham said the key to Ward Melville’s dominance is simple.

“There really is no secret. We know where we can play, our level of play and we keep it there each and every game,” Mulham said. “We take each game one at a time, we don’t underestimate anyone and we just work hard every game.”

The Patriots’ field hockey team uses that mentality to continue to shut teams down.

Kaitlin Thornton passes the ball. Photo by Bill Landon
Kaitlin Thornton passes the ball. Photo by Bill Landon

Even with the stakes so high, the No.1-seeded Patriots did what they always do, and shut out No. 2 Eastport-South Manor, 4-0, on Nov. 1 for the team’s second consecutive county title.

In 19 games, the Patriots allowed just six goals this season, outscoring their opponents 75-6. The game was never in doubt, as Ward Melville’s attack kept the ball in Sharks territory for most of the matchup.

Mulham rocked the box two minutes in, when Kaitlin Thornton broke free down the sideline and sent a cross pass to Mulham for the early lead.

Eastport-South Manor struggled to push the ball forward, but was met with formidable Patriots midfielders, who were able to advance the ball to their forwards.

Mulham’s stick spoke three minutes later, when she drilled one past the keeper off another crossing pass by Kerri Thornton, to put the Patriots out front 2-0.

Occasionally, the Sharks managed to push the ball past midfield, but were then met by the defense that dominated the backfield, like they’ve done all season.

With 7:48 left in the half, Mulham dished the ball off to senior Kiera Alventosa, and the midfielder fired at the cage for the score to put her team ahead by three.

Ward Melville came out in the second half much different than the first, focusing on ball control, clean passing, building time of possession and letting the clock unwind.

Lexi Reinhardt moves the ball up the sideline. Photo by Bill Landon
Lexi Reinhardt moves the ball up the sideline. Photo by Bill Landon

“We always focus on attacking together — our whole premise is to play as a unit,” Alventosa said. “I think that in the first half we were revved up on nerves and excitement, so we came out hard, gave it our all and in the second half, we focused on our possession play with our passing.”

With 6:44 left in the game, the Patriots broke the cadence when Thornton broke down the left sideline and flicked a pass to forward Lexi Reinhardt, whose shot was deflected, but still stretched the net for the final goal of the game.

“We were able to control the ball between the 25-yard lines, using our back passes to keep possession, instead of going hard towards the offense the whole time,” Reinhardt said.

Ward Melville head coach Shannon Sioss said the fact that her team has held its opponents to such few goals, if any, this season is not just a result of her four strong defenders.

“The team defense we play throughout the field — every single one of our players is an integral part [of that defense],” she said. “They’re a very solid unit back there — it’s built of mostly seniors that have been playing together for a while — and they show great leadership back there.”

Ward Melville advances to the Long Island championship Nov. 5 at Adelphi University at 7 p.m. Ward Melville will face the either Baldwin or Massapequa. Results of that Wednesday night matchup were not available by press time.

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Patriots have won all 10 games, with five Division I matches left this season

Kerri Thornton dribbles the ball up the field. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

These Patriots are perfect.

In the Ward Melville field hockey team’s nine straight wins leading up to its matchup against Sachem North Sept. 29, the team has allowed just three goals. In the Patriots’ two games prior, they shut out Smithtown East, 1-0, and Bay Shore 4-0.

So it was no surprise that the Flaming Arrows matchup yielded similar results.

Sachem North (8-3 overall, 6-3 Division I) managed just two shots on goal, and quickly fell behind when senior Kassidy Rogers-Healion rocked the box for a 1-0 lead just 15 seconds into the game. The Flaming Arrows never recovered, and fell 3-0 on their own home turf.

Lexi Reinhardt redirects the ball. Photo by Bill Landon
Lexi Reinhardt redirects the ball. Photo by Bill Landon

Senior goalkeeper Bella Nelin said she had complete confidence in her defense to protect the goal.

“I really trust my [defenders] in front of me, and we all just play our hardest,” she said. “Scoring that first goal in the first minute changed the game, and we controlled the tempo of the game by doing that.”

Nine minutes later, Rogers-Healion’s stick spoke again, when the forward took a crossing pass from junior Kerri Thornton and drove her shot home to put her team out in front 2-0.

Nelin, who had a quiet day in the box, said her team prepares the same way for each game, no matter who they face.

“We don’t underestimate any team that we play — regardless of the skill level,” Nelin said. “If we played them before, if we beat them before, [it doesn’t matter]; so we came out like we do for any other game.”

Sachem North controlled the middle of the field though, which forced Ward Melville’s attack to counter.

“Sachem North is an awesome team and we knew we had to come out strong,” Rogers-Healion said. “Seeing that they had a great hold on the center, we were able to pass around that using the outside and [send] the ball back.”

Kiera Alventosa clears the ball by sending it downfield. Photo by Bill Landon
Kiera Alventosa clears the ball by sending it downfield. Photo by Bill Landon

Senior Hannah Lorenzen was the last Patriot to light up the scoreboard, when the midfielder took a cross from Rogers-Healion and smacked the ball past the keeper to go up three goals with five minutes remaining in the first half.

Lorenzen said that Sachem North was much stronger in the final 30 minutes of play.

“We expected that they’d come out harder in the second half — they always do,” she said. “We knew that we had to step up our game — every single one of us — and keep the level of intensity up and just play our game.”

Sachem North struggled to find Ward Melville’s end of the field, and the Flaming Arrows had their hands full fighting off Patriots attackers for the remainder of the game.

“Although it was a solid win, I think that the girls would agree with me this wasn’t our best midfield game today, as far as our passing game,” Ward Melville head coach Shannon Watson said. “[Sachem North’s] strength was in the middle — they did a really nice job of stepping up and beating us to a lot of balls today.”

Watson said there is little discussion about her team’s undefeated performance [10-0 overall, 9-0 in Division I] with five league games left before the playoffs. The Patriots are just going to keep playing their game.

“We focus on possession and when we do that we’re more successful on the attacking end,” Watson said. “I think we did a nice job of keeping it out of our defensive end today.”

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Athletic director Debra Ferry leaves Port Jefferson after nine years

Deb Ferry volunteers at Miracle League with athlete Brittany Fox. Photo from Ferry

A new year will also bring a new athletic director to Port Jefferson.

After nine years, Debra Ferry is leaving the school district to tackle the athletic department at Half Hollow Hills.

Debra Ferry helped establish the lacrosse program at Port Jefferson and has led its other teams to success. File photo
Debra Ferry helped establish the lacrosse program at Port Jefferson and has led its other teams to success. File photo

“I’m excited and nervous,” Ferry said. “It’s surreal. I established a lot of close relationships and friendships here in Port Jefferson and I’m going to miss the people that I work with. The teachers and the coaches are top-notch; they’re dedicated and compassionate. I love Port Jefferson, but I’m ready to move on and expand my career.”

The Port Jefferson Board of Education accepted the resignation of Ferry at its Nov. 10 meeting, effective Jan. 3. Board President Kathleen Brennan thanked her for her service at the meeting.

Superintendent Ken Bossert also thanked her when reached by phone this week, and wished her luck in her new position.

“I think she did an excellent job being visible within the school community and being a top supporter of our student-athletes,” he said. “We wish her well in all her endeavors. I’m sure she’ll be a great success, and we hope to find someone as committed to Port Jefferson as Debra was.”

Because the school district is small, everyone knew who Ferry was and she had the opportunity to know every student-athlete out on the Royals’ field. Ferry even attended most of the games.

“The kids are sometimes surprised to see her at games, especially making the hike all the way upstate for big playoff competitions, but she was there,” said Rod Cawley, the boys’ cross country and track and field coach. “In my 32 years at Port Jefferson, she’s been our best athletic director. She’s very honest, she’s supportive and she’s fair.”

Originally a teacher, working in Manhattan for one year and in the Bronx for two before becoming a physical education teacher at Northport in 1999 — while also coaching the varsity field hockey program and working as an assistant for the girls’ lacrosse team — Ferry wasn’t sure administration was the route she wanted to take, but soon changed her mind. After looking for positions, she found an opening at Port Jefferson, where she built the foundations of an ever-growing program and learned the ins and outs of the position.

Among her numerous accolades, she was the 2008 Athletic Director of the Year for Eastern Suffolk County Hoops for Hearts and was a Port Times Record Person of the Year in 2012.

“I love athletics,” she said. “I love the kids on the field and sports and the rules and regulations. The intimacy of a small school district and knowing the kids is definitely a benefit.”

Another benefit was learning how to manage her time, juggling her duties as athletic director, attending games and being the 1st vice president for Section XI, among her other responsibilities and roles as a member of many of the section’s committees.

Athletic Director Deb Ferry snapped this photo of Port Jefferson wrestler Matteo DeVincenzo pinning an opponent.
Athletic Director Deb Ferry snapped this photo of Port Jefferson wrestler Matteo DeVincenzo pinning an opponent.

“It’s a lot of commitment and it’s about prioritizing,” Ferry said. “Being on the field is important to me, not just to show support for Port Jeff but to show support to all of the kids. I see them in the halls the next day and it’s fun to talk about the games with them. Every year is different, every team is different, but the success of the athletics here is all about the coaches and the students.”

The Royals experienced such success this fall, when the girls’ soccer team took home the school’s first state championship title in that sport. Ferry was at the game, and also attended a cross-country competition the same weekend, according to Cawley.

“Going up to states, I felt like I was part of the state championship team,” Ferry said. “The kids make you feel very welcomed and supported. It’s rewarding.”

Although it will be different in the bigger Half Hollow Hills school district, with two middle schools and two high schools, Ferry is looking forward to the new chapter.

For the coaches she leaves behind, it’s bittersweet.

“I kept busting her chops, telling her I’m not letting her go,” Cawley said, laughing. “But I want her to do the best she can do and achieve whatever she wants to achieve and be wherever she would be happy.”

Mike Maletta, a wrestling coach who has been a teacher at the school for 23 years, said he will miss Ferry, who he called a stable force for the program she helped build, including helping to establish the boys’ and girls’ lacrosse teams.

Maletta saw the effects of Ferry’s leadership firsthand, especially with his wrestlers.

“Every time I was at the state tournament with my wrestlers, you could see her walking around with a camera around her neck, taking pictures,” he said. “A lot of those pictures make it to the end-of-the-year senior awards banquet and it went above and beyond what a lot of athletic directors do. She was always there supporting our program and those pictures meant a lot.”

He also said she was a big help in staying all day to be an announcer and handle paperwork at the team’s Bob Armstrong Memorial Tournament.

The Port Jefferson girls’ soccer team admires their plaque after winning the state championship this fall. File photo by Andrew Wakefield
The Port Jefferson girls’ soccer team admires their plaque after winning the state championship this fall. File photo by Andrew Wakefield

“That right there will be a huge loss for me,” he said. “She was there making sure everything was done, because during the day, I’m all over the place and it’s nice having someone there helping out the program. There’s a comfort level with having someone you’ve known for nine years, and her leaving is really going to affect me.”

Ferry will remain Section XI’s vice president, but other roles will change, as her new school district is in a different conference. She will also remain involved with the New York State Public High School Athletic Association as the female representative for Section XI.

The outgoing athletic director said it’s been nice to feel appreciated and recognized for the job that she’s done, but feels most proud of the kids and the coaches for the working relationships everyone had and for making her feel supported.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to have developed professionally at Port Jefferson,” she said. “I hope I left a mark here. … I am part of the program, but I feel it’s more than that. That’s the benefit to working in Port Jefferson. The coaches and players make you feel like you’re part of the team.”

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