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Lacrosse

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The Smithtown West girls’ lacrosse team took a group photo after beating Northport for the first time in school history. Photo from Carrie Bodo

By Desirée Keegan

On her wall in her office, Smithtown West girls’ lacrosse coach Carrie Bodo has an old photo of one of her Hofstra University teams posing for a group photo, with her lying on the turf field.

Her girls asked her several times about the significance of it. Bodo said her Pride team had never beaten the University of Delaware, and that photo was taken after the first time the team had done it. She has wanted to replace that photo for a long time now. Her Bulls team had also never beaten Northport, so she told the girls that if they did this season, she’d swap out one winning photo for another.

The Bulls made a goal, and achieved it, outscoring Northport 11-7 on April 29, and Bodo took a photo lying down on the turf field with the girls behind her. The girls also had a goal to win the school’s first ever Suffolk County title. Although the team fell one goal shy, dropping the county title game to West Islip, 9-8, in the school’s first appearance in the finals, the team had a postseason success that made all the hard work of a 15-2 season all the more worth it.

Members of the Smithtown West girls' lacrosse team rally around head coach Carrie Bodo after she earned the Suffolk County Coach of the Year award. Photo from Smithtown school district
Members of the Smithtown West girls’ lacrosse team rally around head coach Carrie Bodo after she earned the Suffolk County Coach of the Year award. Photo from Smithtown school district

The Suffolk County Girls Lacrosse Coaches Association named Bodo the Suffolk County Division I Coach of the Year. She was also named Smithtown Central School District’s Coach of the Year. Although earning the recognition, she was more excited for her team than herself.

“They wanted it for me more than anything,” she said. “For me, anything I get is truly because of them. It was nice because they were so excited for it.”

Before coming to Smithtown in 2006, Bodo was the head women’s lacrosse coach at Hofstra University for 14 years, and was also the field hockey coach for almost half of her time there. She had played lacrosse since she was in seventh grade, and even played for Hofstra, before becoming a graduate assistant on the team and taking over the helm when she was just 24 years old. When the time came to choose which sport would be her focus, the decision was easy.

“The sport is such a part of me,” she said. “The big joke is I’ve never had a spring break since seventh grade. It goes to show how much I love it. I love everything about the game. I love playing it, I love watching the girls, and being with the girls, seeing them achieve, seeing them go to college.”

Although leaving the sport briefly when she had children — two boys — she began teaching and was soon asked to take over the West team when the school split. Her athletes are happy she agreed to take over the program.

“When it comes to the game, she is smart and always gives us so much motivation to win. One thing that I love most about her is that she loves to have fun and she has a big heart. Even when we lost, she would tell us to keep our heads up and always have a positive outlook.”

— Kayla Kosubinsky

“I have to say I’ve never had such a good relationship with one of my coaches, both on and off the field,” said Kayla Kosubinsky, who has played under Bodo since eighth grade, but knew her from back when she would attend the booster club camp that her coach runs every year. “Bodo has impacted Smithtown lacrosse just like she did when she coached Hofstra. When it comes to the game, she is smart and always gives us so much motivation to win. One thing that I love most about her is that she loves to have fun and she has a big heart. Even when we lost, she would tell us to keep our heads up and always have a positive outlook.”

This sort of parent-daughter relationship she’s created with her girls is crucial to Bodo and her players, and is an integral part in the team’s success.

“We have this joke that I’m their mom,” Bodo said, laughing. “They always call me mom, and I call them my family. I love that part of it more. Just hearing about their boyfriends, and the prom and that kind of stuff. It’s that girl atmosphere I don’t get in my personal life. That’s what makes us closer as a group.”

Although it took some years to get the Bulls to the level they’re at now after the school split, nine of the 12 starters from last year’s squad committed to play lacrosse. The younger kids in the area are seeing the older ones’ success, and want to emulate that, something Bodo hears at camp over the summer.

For players like senior Mackenzie Heldberg, who committed to play at Johns Hopkins University, leaving a coach like Bodo is bittersweet, but she will always be appreciative of what her longtime coach has done for her.

“I couldn’t ask for a better coach — she has taught me so much about not only lacrosse, but life, and has helped me develop into the player I am today,” said Heldberg, who played for Bodo for five years, but knew her for eight because her older sister also played for the Bulls. “As our coach, she always pushed us to our fullest potential and I dedicate our success this year to her, for she was the glue to our team. Having Bodo get this recognition is so heartwarming and amazing because she deserves it. This team has improved tremendously since I’ve been a part of it and the common denominator of it all is Bodo. She led us with pride and fearlessness to a county game and I couldn’t be happier I’ve gotten to play under someone as amazing as her.”

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Eddie Munoz holds the team back before celebrating the Long Island championship win. File photo by Desirée Keegan

Two of Ward Melville’s multisport athletes are taking their lacrosse talents to the national stage.

Junior Eddie Munoz and freshman Dylan Pallonetti made the Under Armour All-America Long Island highlight and command teams, respectively, and are the only two Patriots to represent the school this week in the underclass tournament from June 30 to July 3 in Baltimore.

“It’s a big honor to be representing my school and my team,” Munoz said. “It’s going to be awesome. These are the kids we’re going to be playing in college. We’re all committed to these very good Division I schools, so it’s nice to be able to play them now and then again when we get to the collegiate level.”

Munoz, who committed to Stony Brook University, originally started out playing baseball. His father Eddie Munoz Jr. said his son started to progress athletically at a young age.

Eddie Munoz maintains possession of the ball as he makes his way downfield. File photo by Desirée Keegan
Eddie Munoz maintains possession of the ball as he makes his way downfield. File photo by Desirée Keegan

“He started walking at 10 months old,” said Munoz Jr., who played baseball and wrestled at Newfield, and was a two-time All-County football player. “By 3 years old, I was throwing a football from 10 yards away and he was catching it with his hands. By the time he was 5 years old, he was switch-hitting at a batting cage and hitting 65 miles-per-hour fastballs. I’d bring him up to the field and would hit fly balls into the outfield and he would naturally be able to catch them.”

But Munoz’s mother’s cousin, who played lacrosse at Salisbury University, told the athlete, who was is an All-League, All-County and All-Long Island football player, that he needed to try lacrosse. Once he did, the rest was history.

“We put a stick in his hand in third grade and he never put it down,” Munoz Jr. said.

Munoz, who also wrestled as a freshman and won the New York State wrestling championship for youth in fifth grade, said he tried a few clinics and didn’t like them, but also said that once he got older and started playing in games, he fell in love with the sport.

“I love the chemistry of the game,” he said. “The way everyone is with each other, the respect factor and the competitiveness, physicality — it never gets boring, there’s no sitting around — it’s constant in-and-out subbing. It’s up-tempo and that’s my kind of game.”

Although already committed, the national exposure will help but will work more in the favor of those like Pallonetti.

Dylan Pallonetti cuts to the outside in a previous Ward Melville boys' lacrosse game. File photo by Bill Landon
Dylan Pallonetti cuts to the outside in a previous Ward Melville boys’ lacrosse game. File photo by Bill Landon

“This is good for him for the future,” Dylan’s mother Michele Pallonetti said. “We’re thrilled and I feel he’s very lucky. He’s worked hard for it, he deserves it, he loves the sport and he’s really passionate about it. He’ll really represent New York.”

Dylan Pallonetti also grew up playing a sport other than lacrosse. Since he was a child, his uncle had him on roller skates in the driveway, and it got him really competitive. He plays ice hockey for Ward Melville’s junior varsity team, and also played basketball. He was the fifth leading scorer in his hockey league this season.

“He’s been playing with his brother and uncle in the driveway for years, the neighbors make a joke about it,” Michele Pallonetti said.

Her son began playing lacrosse in fourth grade on the town team, and by seventh grade, he moved to the Long Island Express club team. This past season, Pallonetti made the varsity team, and earned Rookie of the Year for Suffolk County, which all came as a surprise being that it was his first year on the team.

“We’re super proud of him and most proud that he’s a freshman out there and handles himself confidently and he’s very calm,” his mother said. “He fits in with the older boys. He’s a very low-key, he doesn’t get hyped up over anything, which I think helps him deal with those types of situations, and we love watching him play. It’s very exciting.”

Dylan Pallonetti said that he’s learned a lot and believes he’s excelled at a faster rate in the sport because of all he’s learned from the older players. Although Ward Melville is nationally known, being that the team has consistently ranked high in New York standings, and was just goals shy of another New York State title this past season, he’s also excited to represent the school and more importantly, show what he’s made of.

“The competition is going to be good, a lot of coaches are going to be there and I’m going to try to just play like I always play,” he said. “I just can’t wait to play the game.”

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Award recognizes best girls' lacrosse team in Suffolk County

The Mount Sinai girls' lacrosse team earned the Founder's Cup after claiming it's second consecutive Class C state title. Photo from Al Bertolone

Mount Sinai is still dominating the girls’ lacrosse world.

For the second time since 2013, the Mustangs earned the Long Island Metropolitan Lacrosse Foundation’s Founder’s Cup, which is given to the best girls’ high school lacrosse team in Suffolk County.

“This team definitely overcame adversity to get back to where we wanted to,” sophomore Camryn Harloff said. “Considering we lost huge stars on our team, everyone wrote us off and never thought we could make it up there again, so this season has definitely meant a lot to us, showing everyone that we still have it in us. And we aren’t done yet.”

The Mustangs’ motto was “clear eyes, full hearts can’t lose,” and the girls stayed true to that, losing just three games — one being a Division II matchup — the entire season.

“It was an awesome feeling knowing the cup was back in our possession,” senior Caroline Hoeg said. “This final season is bittersweet. Leaving such an amazing team, season and career behind, back in Mount Sinai, makes me upset, but it makes me realize how lucky I truly am. I know there are great things ahead, but I will forever remember this team and season, and I know they’re going to keep continuing to prove people wrong.”

The Mount Sinai girls' lacrosse team won the Founder's Cup, which is given to the best girls' lacrosse team in Suffolk County. Photo from Al Bertolone
The Mount Sinai girls’ lacrosse team won the Founder’s Cup, which is given to the best girls’ lacrosse team in Suffolk County. Photo from Al Bertolone

After all the doubt, the girls topped stiff competition in Bayport-Blue Point and Cold Spring Harbor for the Suffolk County and Long Island titles, and took that momentum all the way to the state finals, where the team won its second consecutive title.

“It is a great honor and shows that hard work pays off,” junior Hannah Van Middelem said of winning the cup. “This season has been very special. We really came together as a team and played our hearts out.”

Harloff said her teammates stepped up and rose to the challenge, taking on leadership roles and doing what they needed to do to make this season go as smoothly as it did.

“Meaghan Tyrrell was a huge aspect in our offense, Emily Vengilio was a brick on defense and especially Hannah Van Middelem in net,” she said. “And of course, we can’t forget how clutch Erica Shea was on the draw. She came up big in the times that we needed her.”

Junior Leah Nonnenmann said that like head coach Al Bertolone said, the team doesn’t rebuild, it reloads, and that’s exactly what the girls did.

“My teammates and I were so anxious sitting at the awards dinner waiting for the winner to be announced and when it was us, you could see the excitement in all our faces,” she said. “And when you looked at our parents, you could see how proud they all were.”

Tyrrell said the entire experience and the feelings that come along with it are hard to put into words, but she’s proud of her team’s accomplishments, and is also looking forward to what lies ahead.

“It is one of the most honored awards a team can be given, so we were very proud of ourselves,” she said. “This season has meant so much to me because everyone thought that after our past seniors graduated, we would fall off the face of the lacrosse world. Coming back and working so hard to prove that we can be as great, and getting back up to states and winning just completed our season perfectly. It makes me excited to see what next season brings. And the season after that.”

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Mustangs' suffocating defense holds off Skaneateles, while offense racks up 12 goals in win, to prove these girls are just as strong as those on last season's squad

By Adrian Szkolar

Even though Saturday was her birthday, Hannah Van Middelem was focused on other things.

The Mount Sinai junior goalkeeper’s mindset was instead the same as her teammates’, and all they were thinking was: officially prove the many doubters wrong with the last game of the season.

Playing against Section III’s Skaneateles in the Class C state final at SUNY Cortland, the Mustangs played their usual strong defensive game, shutting down the Lakers’ offense on their way to a 12-3 win and second consecutive state title.

Mission accomplished.

“We just wanted to come out, play as a team and win,” said Van Middelem, who made five saves and was named the tournament’s MVP after the game. “No one ever picked us to win any games. We just wanted to prove everyone wrong.”

All in all, the MVP award and the state title were pretty good birthday gifts.

“It’s special to me, but really my defense helped me win it,” she said. “We communicated with each other and listened to each other. We just played a great team game today.”

After graduating seven players from last year’s state title-winning team, including last year’s state tournament MVP in Kasey Mitchell, few gave Mount Sinai the thought of being able to repeat.

To start, the team’s younger players had to step up to fill the void on offense, and the team would have to improve defensively.

“People doubted us all year, and rightly so, but it’s a testament to our program that our kids have been able to step up and fill the breach,” Mount Sinai head coach Al Bertolone said. “We didn’t rebuild, we re-loaded. We pushed them all year, and they accepted the challenge and every week, we kept getting better.”

The improvement the team made since the start the season was especially evident against Skaneateles.

After Mount Sinai senior midfielder Caroline Hoeg and Skaneateles’ Abby Kuhns exchanged goals to start the game, the Mustangs opened the floodgates.

First came a goal from senior midfielder Erica Shea, who took a feed from Hoeg in front while unmarked and easily finished at the 13:22 mark.

Then there was a goal from sophomore Camryn Harloff. Then senior Meghan Walker. Then junior Leah Nonnenmann. Then sophomore Meaghan Tyrrell.

The Mustangs went into halftime with a 6-1 lead, with six different goal scorers.

“From the beginning, we knew we had to come out strong because [Skaneateles] wasn’t going to let up,” said Shea, who is also the team’s primary draw taker. “We had to come out of the box roaring, and that’s what we did.”

Harloff, an attack, and junior midfielder Rayna Sabella tacked on two more goals to start the second half to put the game out of reach.

Tyrrell, an attack, finished with three goals for the second straight game, and added an assist. Shea also had three goals, Harloff netted two goals and an assist, and Hoeg contributed a goal and an assist.

While Mount Sinai, which came into the game ranked third in Class C in the New York State Sportswriters’ Association rankings, and was the favorite coming into the finals, that was far from the case back at the start of the playoffs.

Most observers saw Bayport-Blue Point, an unbeaten team featuring All-American Kerrigan Miller, along with Nassau County’s Cold Spring Harbor, a team with wins against bigger lacrosse powerhouses such as Garden City and Rockland County’s Suffern, as the favorites for the state title.

Back in April, the Mustangs were dismantled by Bayport-Blue Point in a 10-2 loss.

“When you have adversity in your season, it can either galvanize and make you stronger or break you up,” Bertolone said. “It made us stronger. We believe in pressure defense, and our kids bought into it.”

A month later, the Mustangs turned heads by shocking Bayport-Blue Point in the county final, and followed that up with an upset over Cold Spring Harbor in the Long Island championship to get back to Cortland.

After that, the road to the championship was paved. Before Saturday’s game, the Mustangs got a comfortable 10-3 win over Section V’s Honeoye Falls-Lima in Friday’s state semifinals.

“It feels good to be the underdog and come out on top,” Shea said. “This year, it’s really special; no one believed in us, and we proved people wrong, from counties all the way to here. And now we’re state champs.”

After Saturday’s game, Van Middelem said that the team’s celebration of the title win, her birthday and proving the non-believers her team could remain its own powerhouse, would be relatively low-key.

“We’ll just have a fun bus ride home,” she said.

A fine way to celebrate proving the critics wrong.

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Owen McAvoy gets checked while trying to create an open lane during Ward Melville's semifinal win over Lakeland-Panas. Photo by Bill Landon

Ward Melville is used to playing defense — it’s the name of the Patriots’ game.

But the boys’ lacrosse team became fatigued as Victor High School’s faceoff specialist T.D. Ierlan won 13 of 16 draws to give the undefeated Blue Devils a huge advantage in time of possession, and ultimately lead them to a comeback win in the New York State Class A final, 7-5, Saturday afternoon at Middletown High School.

Dylan Pallonetti drives to the crease during Ward Melville's semifinal win over Lakeland-Panas. Photo by Bill Landon
Dylan Pallonetti drives to the crease during Ward Melville’s semifinal win over Lakeland-Panas. Photo by Bill Landon

“It sucks when you know you’re in the good old days yet it still flies by,” senior midfielder and attack Owen McAvoy lamented on Twitter following the loss. “I’ll never forget this team.”

With 5:35 left in the first quarter, Ward Melville freshman attack Dylan Pallonetti put his team on the board, followed by junior attack Dominic Pryor, who found the back of the net from the left side of the cage, to give the Patriots a 2-0 lead after 12 minutes.

Senior attack and midfielder Connor Grippe bounced in a good goal before Victor scored unassisted with its first goal of the game for a 3-1 halftime advantage over a team that averaged 16 goals per game up to that point.

Victor proved why it is undefeated though, and scored three unanswered goals before Grippe moved the ball to the middle and stretched the netting unassisted, to knot the game at four goals apiece with 5:08 left in the third.

The teams remained in a stalemate until the fourth, when junior attack Eddie Munoz rocketed a shot between the pipes from up top to give the Patriots a 5-4 advantage, but again, the Blue Devils proved what they are really made of.

The Patriots went over eight minutes without an offensive touch, and tried four different guys at faceoff, but couldn’t get the ball. The Blue Devils rallied back with three more unanswered scores for the win.

“And just like that, my high school sports days are over,” senior defender John Day posted on Twitter. “It’s been real, Melville.”

Chirs Grillo fires at the cage for the score in Ward Melville's semifinal win over Lakeland-Panas. Photo by Bill Landon
Chirs Grillo fires at the cage for the score in Ward Melville’s semifinal win over Lakeland-Panas. Photo by Bill Landon

Victor, which was the Class B state champion last year with a win over Manhasset, proved that moving up a class could not bring the team down, as the Blue Devils are currently riding a 44-game winning steak into next season.

Maryann Holsberg took to Twitter to voice her opinion of Ward Melville this season.

“[Ward Melville lacrosse], [Connor Grippe], you played with heart and made the Patriots family proud,” she wrote.

Senior defender Sean Thornton also lamented about the fact that the Patriots’ defensive unit will be split up next year.

“I don’t wanna believe that I just had my last high school lacrosse game today,” he wrote. “Love you boys.”

Despite the loss, and the many losses Ward Melville may realize next year without its 16 seniors it will have to replace following graduation this June, some of those current seniors are confident in the team’s ability to get back to the state finals next season.

“Thank you for the memories,” senior attack Chris Grillo wrote. “I wouldn’t have wanted to do it with any other group of guys. Take it down next year boys.”

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Wildcats can't overcome one-goal deficit as stellar season comes to an end

By Bill Landon

A one-goal Yorktown advantage proved too much for the Shoreham-Wading River boys’ lacrosse team to overcome, as the Wildcats’ stellar season came to an end with a 7-6 loss in the New York State semifinals Wednesday at Hofstra University.

As he’s done all postseason, junior midfielder Kevin Cutinella helped the team get on the board first, when he dished the ball to senior attack Jason Curran, who fired at the cage seven minutes in. Yorktown evened the scored with 29 seconds left in the opening quarter, but Shoreham retook the lead when eighth-grader Xavier Arline spun in front of the cage and, with an NBA-like jump shot, scored from high above the keeper’s stick to retake the lead. On the ensuing faceoff, Yorktown went the distance to retie the game, to mark the third goal scored in less than 20 seconds.

It was a new game heading into the second stanza, but neither team could pull away with a clear advantage. After a Yorktown goal, Shoreham-Wading River senior midfielder Jon Constant flicked the ball to junior attack Chris Gray, who fired a shot past the goalkeeper to even the score at 3-3 game.

“It’s been a fun ride,” Constant said previously of making it to this point with his team.

Again, Yorktown answered, but the Wildcats countered again, when Curran fed Gray on the cut, and drove his shot into the netting.

With both teams in a stalemate, Curran fed Constant on the cut this time, for a Wildcats lead in the first minute of the second half, but again Yorktown battled, scoring once at the end of the third, and again halfway through the fourth, for a 6-5 advantage.

“We made a mistake late in the game after a timeout where we didn’t have enough guys on the field,” said Shoreham Wading River head coach Mike Taylor. “I’m not sure how that happened, but someone wasn’t paying attention from the huddle and by the time I subbed a guy from the box it was too late.”

“It’s been a fun ride.”
—Jon Constant

With 1:11 left in regulation, the Wildcats went a man down for a slashing penalty that proved costly. Yorktown capitalized on the advantage to make it a two-goal game for the first time all afternoon.

With 11 seconds left and Shoreham back at full strength, Curran went the distance and buried a shot to draw within one goal with few precious seconds left. With five seconds remaining, the Wildcats ran out of time.

“This is a big-time moment in lacrosse and I think we were nervous at the beginning of the game,” Taylor said. “Yorktown is resilient — they’re methodical, they do several things well and they wear you down — they take advantage of when you make mistakes and every time we made a mistake they capitalized.”

Shoreham-Wading River finished the regular season 14-2 and had a tough postseason schedule leading up to the state semifinal round, picking off Eastport-South Manor, Comsewogue and Sayville for the Suffolk County Class B crown, before defeating Garden City for the Long Island Championship title to finish with an 18-2 record.

“It’s something special,” Taylor said previously of the team’s season. “I wish this could go on forever.”

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After outscoring Section I's Lakeland-Panas 16-6, Patriots will take on Section V's Victor

By Bill Landon

Looking at the Ward Melville boys’ lacrosse team now, you would never guess that it struggled early in the season.

On Wednesday at Hofstra University, the Patriots scored 16 goals against Section I challenger Lakeland-Panas in the New York State Class A semifinals, to earn them a spot in the championship round Saturday.

“We had our ups and downs this season, which started very quickly,” junior midfielder Dominic Pryor said following the win. “We knew we weren’t doing what we needed to do to play up to our potential, so we had a meeting and we said we have to start playing Ward Melville lacrosse. And that’s what we did tonight.”

Once again, it was junior attack Eddie Munoz who stole the show, scoring five goals in the 16-6 victory. But he too said things started off a little shaky for the Patriots.

“At the beginning of the year, we had trouble finishing,” he said. “That first game against Smithtown West we took 31 shots and scored just one goal, so there’s no excuse for that.”

This time, the team had no problem lighting up the scoreboard.

The Rebels may have hit the the board first, four minutes into the contest, but the Patriots countered with four unanswered goals with less than four minutes left in the opening quarter to take the 4-1 advantage. Pryor, who led the team with six points off a hat trick and three assists, scored twice during that run, while senior attack Chris Grillo found the net off an assist from senior midfielder Owen McAvoy, and senior defender Sean Thornton stretched the net off a feed from Pryor.

“At the beginning of the season you always have the mindset that you’re going to [make it to] states, but early on we weren’t playing at the level,” Grillo said. “As the season progressed we played better and that hope of making it to states became more of a reality.”

Lakeland-Panas countered with two quick goals in the closing minute to cut the deficit to trail by one, and sophomore midfielder Zach Hobbes opened the scoring in the second quarter with a solo shot before a penalty put the Patriots down a player. Lakeland-Panas cashed in on the man advantage to trail 5-4, but Munoz’s stick spoke next when he split the pipes to take a two-goal lead.

“Eddie Munoz comes out and snipes one left, and he’s worked hard at it, and he’s elevated his game,” Negus said.

From there, the Patriots never looked back.

“Our offense works — especially when you’re dodging, you’re banging around the outside because it gets everyone energized and we spread the scoring around,” Munoz said. “Earlier in the season it was tough to find the back of the net, but this game was the best we’ve played all year.”

A loose ball caused a scrum in front of the Rebels’ goalkeeper, and freshman attack Dylan Pallonetti swatted in the ball for a three-goal lead.

Ward Melville outscored Lakeland-Panas 4-1 in the third quarter. Grillo notched two goals during that spurt for the hat trick, and Pryor added his second before assisting on junior attack Andrew Lockhart’s shot.

Munoz drilled home his hat trick goal early in the final quarter to help the Patriots break out to a 12-5 lead.

“It’s un believable what they’re capable of,” Ward Melville head coach Jay Negus said. “We’re trying new things and it’s working.”

Lakeland-Panas managed one more goal in the game, but the Patriots dominated the final period of play.

Pryor finished with his third goal of the game when he did a spin move just outside the crease and drilled his shot past the keeper, and junior Dylan Krieg scored his first goal of the season with the final goal of the game.

“At the beginning we were forcing some shots and I had to keep telling them ‘it’s not the first thing, it’s the best thing’ and that takes experience and maturity. I’m starting to see that,” Negus said. “They’re buying into the game plan and early in the season we didn’t know our team’s identity. But I’ve seen some flashes of brilliance throughout the playoffs.”

Ward Melville will face Section V’s Victor High School on June 11 at Middletown High School at 4 p.m.

Mustangs win second consecutive Long Island title with 7-5 win over Cold Spring Harbor

Senior midfielder Erica Shea crouched along the sideline below the stands and whispered as she pulled up her hands to pray.

“Let’s go,” she shouted, after stepping out onto the field and clicking her stick against those of her teammates. “Can’t lose,” she and her team said as they exited the huddle before the start of the game.

Her prayers were answered or maybe not even needed, but either way she’s right — her Mount Sinai girls’ lacrosse team can’t lose. The Mustangs played a man down for the last 10 minutes of the game and, despite letting up three goals in that span, still came away with the Long Island Class C championship title with a 7-5 win over Cold Spring Harbor on June 5 at Stony Brook University.

The team proved that defense still wins championships.

“We’re always defense first,” head coach Al Bertolone said. “We have a very strong nonleague schedule — we were in a lot of tough games. Our kids learned how to play gritty and tough in these moments.”

Mount Sinai scored three goals to open the first half. Immediately following a Hannah Van Middelem save just minutes into the game, sophomore attack Camryn Harloff scored first after carrying the ball down the back side of the field for a goal. Senior midfielder Caroline Hoeg scored off a Shea feed minutes later, and junior attack and midfielder Leah Nonnenmann tacked on the third unassisted with 18:35 still left in the first half.

After a brief hiccup in which the senior goalkeeper let up a rare goal, senior attack and midfielder Meghan Walker dumped the ball in up front off a pass from Nonnenmann, after the junior couldn’t squeeze past defenders, pulled back and saw the open look for Walker.

Next, junior midfielder Rayna Sabella took the ball from the left side of the goal and passed it up to Harloff on the far right post. She sent the ball flying into the netting for a 5-1 advantage.

“We knew that [Cold Spring Harbor] wanted to come out and crush us because last year they lost to us in triple overtime,” Harloff said. “So we knew we had to come out stronger and have that intensity to beat them.”

Sabella added a free position goal to extend the lead to 6-2, but Cold Spring Harbor was able to pull apart the defense just for a brief moment to draw within 6-3 after a good goal.

“We game-planned pretty well — on defense we knew their personnel and we knew who we had to stay strong on at all times,” Sabella said. “Throughout this season we’ve been known as a ‘second-half team,’ so we knew in order to win we’d have to pick it up in the first half and keep that momentum throughout.”

Shea added to the offensive onslaught when she pressed against the defense and sent a buzzer-beating shot rocketing into the cage to end the half.

“We knew we had to give 100 percent the entire time because we knew they weren’t going to give us any let-ups,” she said. “We had to go full throttle.”

The second half started slower, and Mount Sinai found itself plagued with yellow cards, being down a player for two minutes at a time on several occasions through the 25 minutes. Cold Spring Harbor scored two goals but calm is contagious, according to Bertolone.

“We were poised and we pulled it out,” he said.

The Mount Sinai team had graduated a significant amount of talent following last year, and had its fair share of doubters heading into this season.

“No one thought we could do it, but we thought we could,” Harloff said. “We believed in ourselves. No one thought we would get here and it feels great to prove them all wrong.”

D.J. Kellerman said the Syosset fans kept him entertained all night.

“I don’t even want to repeat it,” he said of what his opponent’s fans were shouting to him while between the pipes. “Everyone was frustrated with me and my defense, our offense and our faceoff guy — we just dominated.”

The Ward Melville boys’ lacrosse team held Syosset to its lowest amount of goals in two years, outscoring the team 9-5 for the Patriots’ 17th Class A Long Island championship title on June 4 at Hofstra University.

Kellerman made 11 saves and the defense was smothering, silencing fans quickly as Ward Melville jumped out to a 4-0 lead midway through the second quarter.

“I was dialed in,” Kellerman said. “We pride ourselves on our defense. We elevate our play from each other and that’s why this unit is successful.”

Both teams came out with intensity, but with Ward Melville’s leveled offense, four different players were able to score while Kellerman made three saves before Sysosset got on the board. Kellerman made his final save of the first half with 8.2 seconds left during a man-down situation.

“We wanted to jump out early on them,” said junior midfielder Eddie Munoz, who earned a hat trick. “We got the momentum going and then, when they made defensive stops, it got us a little juiced up and motivated to put some more goals in. Every time they get a little bit of life, you’ve got to take it right back and my teammates found me the open looks.”

Kellerman made another big-time save with seconds left in the third stanza, and Munoz followed it up with scoring seconds into the fourth, off an assist from senior attack and midfielder Connor Grippe.

“This is the greatest day of my life right now — I said that on Wednesday when we won counties, but this is 10 times better,” said Grippe, who finished with two goals and two assists. “Each game I come in with an open mind, not thinking about it being my last game, but thinking ‘on to the next one.’”

He too thought his team’s defense, with help from players like Kellerman, John Day, Andrew McKenna and Sean Thornton, were key in the game plan to take the title home.

“These guys lock out every single opponent,” he said, also noting the correlation between the defense and offense’s success. “Once the defense makes the stops, it gets us going and it’s a recipe for success.”

What head coach Jay Negus said is the reason for his Patriots’ triumph, on top of the team’s defensive coach and the boys executing his game plan, is the Patriots’ progress.

“The effort, the heart and the accepting of all of the things we throw at them on a daily basis to rise them to the level they need to be at — to see their growth from the first day of practice to now — they really are peaking at the right time,” he said. “I told the guys we need to absorb [Syosset’s] energy because this is a game of momentum and we need to dig in and then counter attack, and we did a good job of doing that today.”

But as Negus said, and the boys know, it’s back to work until the team takes on Lakeland-Panas in the state semifinals at 8 p.m. on June 8 at Hofstra University.

But Munoz just wanted to bask in the moment a little longer.

“Last year a lot of people said we had a better team, but I feel like this year it’s been more of a team effort, and it feels really good to come back here,” Munoz said. “This is where we belong, and we’re going to be here for a while.”

Kevin Cutinella leads Wildcats with four goals, receives championship plaque from parents

Jimmy Puckey doesn’t even like lacrosse. But now, he’s a champion.

“It’s not my favorite sport,” Puckey said. “It’s nothing like football, but you have to do what you have to do. You have to play.”

What would get him to like the sport more?

“More hitting,” he said. “Less getting hit with the ball also helps.”

What Puckey does between the pipes is special. And he did it for his Wildcats, making save after save when it counted to help Shoreham-Wading River to its first Long Island championship title since 2012, with an 8-6 win over Garden City Saturday at Hofstra University.

“Jimmy might not like lacrosse, but he’s playing for his friends, and he has such a passion for his brothers that he doesn’t want to let them down,” head coach Mike Taylor said. “He might not like lacrosse, but he loves his friends.”

It was a different first quarter from what teams have recently seen from the Wildcats, and junior Kevin Cutinella stole the show, finishing the game with four goals on five shots.

The midfielder scored early unassisted, and junior attack Chris Gray added a tally off an assist from senior attack Jason Curran with a man-up advantage for the 2-0 lead.

“He doesn’t panic, and we lean on him because he calms everyone down,” Taylor said of Cutinella. “He’s just a great kid.”

Puckey clipped the ball and made a save seven seconds later, and at the 5:42 mark, Cutinella scored his second goal off a pass from senior midfielder Jon Constant to finish a 3-0 run.

Garden City saved a shot by junior midfielder Joe Miller, and Puckey made another block before Garden City put its first point on the board with 1:40 left to end the scoring for the first quarter.

“Communication was key, not making too many errors on offense and just playing fast,” Cutinella said. “Just playing our game.”

Garden City scored four unanswered goals to take the lead, but Cutinella wasn’t having any of it, and passed the ball to junior Joe Miller who, with a back-door cut, leaped in front of the net and dumped it in for the tying goal with 22.8 seconds left in the first half.

“We have said that we haven’t really played four complete quarters, and I think even today, we played a great first quarter, a poor second quarter, and then a great third and fourth,” Taylor said. “I’m still waiting for four full quarters and when we do that I think we’ll win a state championship.”

Gray received two feeds from Miller, but both shots were blocked with Garden City heavily defending the team’s top scorer.

With 4:52 left in the third, Cutinella scored unassisted for his hat trick goal.

“They had the long pole on Jonny [Constant] which led me to have the shortstick defensive midfielder on me and I just took advantage of that,” Cutinella said. “We weren’t talking in the beginning and then we changed that around, and when our defense plays good, our offense plays good.”

After a few missed Wildcat shots, Constant scored unassisted for a 6-4 advantage with 27 seconds left in the quarter.

“We never beat Garden City and it was great to beat them here in my senior year,” he said. “We had to stop them on defense first and then we had to put them in on offense with great ball movement. The chemistry is good and it’s been a fun ride.”

Puckey, knowing what to do to secure the lead, batted the ball out of bounds to his left with 1.2 seconds on the clock.

“He just showed up and is playing his A game,” Cutinella said. “He likes lacrosse now.”

Cutinella’s parents, pre-planned, but surprisingly to their son, presented the team with the championship plaque.

“Seeing them on the field made my day even more,” he said. “You can’t really put the words together for that stuff. It’s a great experience and I love them. They’ve been there for me.”

Cutinella said this win means everything, adding that the team had one goal at the beginning of the season, and they’ve almost achieved it.

Taylor is also proud to see his team come through with this kind of success after the school scored its second consecutive Long Island championship crown in football this school year.

“This is what you work for the entire year and to see all the hard work pay off and to get to this moment, this is what you play for,” he said. “We’ll celebrate today, but I think now we have unfinished business. I have a lot of the football players on this squad and I think some of their successes is translating over onto the lacrosse field. The kids are playing well in big moments.”

He’s sad to see this season coming to a close, but couldn’t be more thrilled for the special moments these boys have had throughout this memorable season.

“The saddest moment is realizing right now I have four more practices left with these kids,” he said. “Having limited time with a special group of kids, I wish it could go on forever.”

One of the most special moments so far, was for him to see Cutinella receive the plaque from his parents, especially after the game he’d had.

“That’s an ironic moment — especially when it was planned prior to this — for him to have that type of game,” he said, fighting back tears. “These kids have been through so much tragedy, they just deserve this. I think someone might be looking down from above.”

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