By Bill Landon
Tyler Gatz took home the Division II title for Mount Sinai.
With the Mustangs down 3-2 in the final minutes, the freshman midfielder assisted on classmate Brendon Ventarola’s game-tying shot before scoring the go-ahead goal as the buzzer sounded for a 4-3 home win over Comsewogue May 11.
The game-winning play called for the ball to end up in the stick of senior JoJo Pirreca, but Gatz said he saw an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.
“The play was sideways,” the freshman said. “I saw that they over-pursued me, so I put the stick in my left hand, got top side and just let it go.”
Mount Sinai was tied with Islip at 12-1 atop the league leaderboard heading into Friday’s game. Harborfields and Comsewogue were tied for second (10-2), but the Tornadoes took down Islip earlier in the evening (13-7) to leave the Mustangs to battle it out with the Warriors for sole possession.
“Comsewogue played great defense tonight — they did a great job, so I feel fortunate that we were able to get this win,” Mount Sinai head coach Harold Drumm said. “It’s easy when you win 10-1, but [we were] playing a tough team and things [were] not going our way. Our team showed it had a lot of heart, and that’s what tells you if you have a team or not.”
After a scoreless first quarter, Comsewogue senior Anthony Passarella broke the ice, and juniors Chris Wolfe and Sean Kennedy scored next to give the Warriors a 3-0 lead with 4:11 remaining until the halftime break. Known for its stout defense, Comsewogue remained solid until eighth-grader Joseph Spallina’s solo shot rocked the back of the cage to end of the quarter.
Not wanting his age to be paired with inexperience, the team’s scoring leader proved his prowess when he struck again four minutes into the third on an assist from junior Dominic Boscarino to pull his team within one, 3-2.
“When we were down 3-1 we really weren’t moving the ball,” said Spallina, who ranks seventh among all Suffolk scorers with 76 points on 34 goals and 42 assists.
The freshman said his team wanted to take it slow, thinking back to the lone loss of the season, a 10-9 defeat at the hands of Islip April 11, and wanted to redeem that loss by taking sole possession of the division crown. Comsewogue went a man-down on three separate occasions and Mount Sinai was unable to capitalize.
The tables turned when Spallina was flagged for an infraction and served a one-minute penalty to close out the third, and his team again went a man-down with under three minutes left in the fourth, but Comsewogue couldn’t find the net.
“We had one devastating loss against a really good team,” Spallina said of the loss to Islip. “So we were thinking, ‘Just make one stop at a time.’”
Mount Sinai gained possession with less than 40 seconds left and moved the ball around the cage to let time tick off, allowing for just one last shot before a looming overtime period, which is when Gatz made his move.
“They play hard, they’re very well-coached,” Drumm said of Comsewogue. “We know they have great athletes on the field and we knew we had to tighten up a little in the crease, and even down 3-1 we [knew we’d have] opportunities on offense. We needed to keep believing, so I just tried to stay the course.”
The Mustangs earn the No. 1 seed with the win. Mount Sinai will host the winner of Thursday’s matchup between No. 4 Shoreham-Wading River and No. 5 Sayville in the Class C semifinals May 23 at 4 p.m. Comsewogue, the No. 2 seed, will compete in the Class B semifinals , hosting the winner of the No. 3 East Islip and No. 6 Half Hollow Hills West game May 23 at 4 p.m.