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Lacrosse

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Mount Sinai’s Dan Keenan maintains possession and changes direction in the Mustangs’ 6-5 win over Shoreham-Wading River Tuesday. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The Mount Sinai boys’ lacrosse team is hoping its proficient experience will pave the way for the Mustangs to race off to a successful season.

With a team full of seniors, Mount Sinai head coach Harold Drumm said his players are comfortable and playing more relaxed this year.

“By doing that, I think they’re starting to get a sense of the ability that the overall team has and I think if we continue to work hard and play physical with the lacrosse ability we have, I think we’ll do really well,” Drumm said.

Mount Sinai’s R.J. Voos tries to control the loose ball as a Shoreham-Wading River defender goes to block him in the Mustangs’ 6-5 win over the Wildcats Tuesday. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Mount Sinai’s R.J. Voos tries to control the loose ball as a Shoreham-Wading River defender goes to block him in the Mustangs’ 6-5 win over the Wildcats Tuesday. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Mount Sinai started off the season with a 6-5 loss to Comsewogue and bounced back with a 12-7 win over Bayport-Blue Point before falling to Miller Place, 11-3, prior to entering Tuesday morning’s game against Shoreham-Wading River.

Although the Mustangs raced ahead to an early lead, the Wildcats battled back to close within one goal twice, but ultimately couldn’t level the score as Mount Sinai walked off the field with a 6-5 victory.

“This is a great win for our program,” Drumm said. “We beat Shoreham one time in the last 11 years I think, so it’s a great win for us.”

After Mount Sinai shot off three goals in the first quarter, Shoreham-Wading River junior Jason Curran put the Wildcats on the board with 2:48 left to play in the second quarter, to bring the score to 3-1.

Coming out of the halftime break, Shoreham-Wading River went into the huddle shouting “Takeover on 3. 1… 2… 3… Takeover!” And the team tried to do just that.

With 10:32 remaining in the third, Shoreham senior Ryan Bray found the back of the net to make it a one-goal game.

Three minutes later, Mount Sinai senior Dan Bullis saw a Shoreham-Wading River defender slide away from the crease and snuck in front of the net, and lobbed the ball in past the goalkeeper for a 4-2 advantage.

Bullis followed up his goal with two assists as he first passed the ball to senior Dan Keenan on the left side of the cage who whipped it in, and then dished the ball to junior R.J. Voos with 9:50 left to play for a 6-2 advantage.

“We played pretty good, it was a quality game,” said Mount Sinai senior goalkeeper Charlie Faughnan, who made seven big saves. “I just wanted to stop the ball. I don’t really think about it and just make the saves. I felt good [between the pipes] and the defense played [well].”

Shoreham-Wading River sophomore Chris Gray scored the next two goals to pull his team within two points, and Bray added his second goal of the morning with 52.6 seconds left to play to make it a one-goal game for the second time.

Mount Sinai’s Dan Bullis, who scored a goal and added three assists, makes his way around the cage while Shoreham-Wading River’s Bobby Puckey waits prepared to make a save. The Mustangs topped the Wildcats Tuesday, 6-5. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Mount Sinai’s Dan Bullis, who scored a goal and added three assists, makes his way around the cage while Shoreham-Wading River’s Bobby Puckey waits prepared to make a save. The Mustangs topped the Wildcats Tuesday, 6-5. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“We turned the ball over to them four or five times in the last 10 minutes very unnecessarily, and against teams like Shoreham, it could have very easily come back and the next thing you know we lose the game by a goal,” Drumm said. “So we have to learn from all of those mental mistakes.”

Junior Shane Walker’s multiple wins in a row at faceoff kept the team in the game.

“The beginning of the game was a little rough,” Walker said. “I was a little slow, but toward the end of the game I had some big wins that helped get us the ‘W.’ I think our offense is shooting well. A few of the shots were over the pipes so I think we need to show lower a couple times, but overall it was a good game.”

Bray and Gray finished with two goals and an assist each for Shoreham-Wading River, while Curran finished with a goal and an assist. Senior goalkeeper Bobby Puckey made nine saves in the game.

For the Wildcats, Bullis scored a game-high four points off one goal and three assists, Keenan added a hat trick, senior Zack Rudolf tacked on a goal and senior Tony DiMonti rounded out the scoring with an assist, as Mount Sinai improved to 2-2 in League III. The Mustangs handed the Wildcats their first loss of the season, as Shoreham-Wading River dropped to 2-1.

“I want to look at the season game by game, and just try to play comfortable and play hard,” Drumm said. “We want to keep going and keep winning.”

This version corrects Shane Walker’s grade level and the spelling of Tony DiMonti’s name.

Northport's Heather Engellis shoots the ball past North Babylon's goalkeeper in the Tigers' 11-5 win Monday at Veteran's Park. Photo by Desirée Keegan

It’s going to be tough to stop these Tigers.

The Northport girls’ lacrosse team is on a three-game winning streak after topping previously undefeated North Babylon, 11-5, Monday at Veteran’s Park in East Northport.

The Tigers came out with seven straight goals and big saves from senior goalkeeper and co-captain Kristen Brunoforte, keeping North Babylon at bay, until the team scored its first goal of the game with 16 seconds remaining in the first half.

Northport's Olivia Carner beats out two defenders and bounces the ball into the net in the Tigers' 11-5 win Monday at Veteran's Park. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Northport’s Olivia Carner beats out two defenders and bounces the ball into the net in the Tigers’ 11-5 win Monday at Veteran’s Park. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“We’re excited about the win,” Northport head coach Carol Rose said. “Any time you beat someone in your conference it’s a good thing, so we’re happy about that. We started off and executed really well in the beginning of the game, but the second half we got really sloppy, a lot of turnovers and I wasn’t happy with that.”

Rose said her team lost focus of what they were trying to achieve and setting up the offense, as Northport turned over the ball four times in a row to start the second half.

“I think we fell behind a little bit but we always pick it up at the end of the game,” said junior attack Courtney Orella, who scored a hat trick in the game. “We have good balance, we go to goal and I knew we were going to win because we always pull through at the end.”

With 13:28 left to play, Brunoforte made one of her 18 saves on the morning, but after a foul call, was unable to make the stop as North Babylon edged closer, 7-3.

Northport eighth-grade midfielder Olivia Carner beat out defenders to the left side of the net and scored in front at 9:03 to make it a 8-3 game before North Babylon answered back less than a minute later.

But Orella knew the game was the Tigers’ to win.

“We need to work on not getting rattled,” she said. “As soon as they start to come back, I think we all sort of fall to their level. I think we need to realize how good we actually are and pick it back up, because we’re such a great team.”

Northport's Natalie Leangella moves the ball into North Babylon's zone in the Tigers' 11-5 win Monday at Veteran's Park. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Northport’s Natalie Leangella moves the ball into North Babylon’s zone in the Tigers’ 11-5 win Monday at Veteran’s Park. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Orella scored her second and hat trick goals back-to-back at 5:24 and 4:08, and seventh-grade attack Danielle Pavinelli passed to junior midfielder Natalie Langella off a foul for an 11-4 advantage before North Babylon scored the final goal of the game to bring the final score to 11-5, with a minute left to play.

Behind Orella, senior attacks and co-captains Emily Yoo and Heather Engellis netted two goals apiece, while senior attack and co-captain Gabbi Labuskes tacked on a goal and an assist. With the win, Northport improved to 3-0 in Division I, while North Babylon dropped to 3-1.

“I think our defense was strong,” Engellis said. “Our goalkeeping was insane; our transition was good.”

The team agreed it needs to work on its shooting, because despite scoring 11 goals, the team was 7-for-18 on attempts in the first half alone.

But Rose does like the strengths she sees.

“I thought in the beginning of the game is where they showed their strength,” she said. “They were passing and they were running the offense on their own, calling their own plays, so they executed really well in the beginning of the game. They’re fully capable of going that the entire game, but we’re still working on that.”

As long as the team can improve it’s shooting percentage and play a full game, Rose believes the sky is the limit for her team. The team traveled to Florida today for some bonding and practice over the break, with the hopes of returning even stronger on the quest to achieve its goal.

“The weather’s been really cold so it’s hard to work on anything, so we’re looking forward to going to Florida,” she said. “The team is looking to get back to the county finals, so that’s our goal.”

Kings Park’s Ben Variano maintains possession while Harborfields’ Terrence Haggarty tries to knock him off balance. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

The King Park boys’ lacrosse team struck first in a League III matchup on a muddy field in a wet, wintry mix, and led twice early in the game, but Harborfields found its rhythm and stomped over the Kingsmen Tuesday to win the game, 12-4.

Kings Park junior midfielder Jimmy Gadaleta hit the scoreboard first to take an early lead, but Harborfields senior attack Terrence Haggerty answered back with an unassisted goal to tie the game. It was Haggerty’s first of five goals to lead his team in scoring.

With less than five minutes left in the quarter, Kings Park retook the lead when senior attacks Joe Hines and Alex Marino connected on the next play. Hines dished the ball to Marino, who found the cage to retake the lead, 2-1.

Harborfields midfielder Andrew Derasmo fed a cross to Haggerty, who fired between the pipes to tie the game at 2-2 to start the second period.

Kings Park head coach J.M. Simpson said Harborfields runs a solid program and have a system that they’ve been successful with for years.

“We kind of knew what we were going to get ourselves into today, but we didn’t do a very good job of executing our game plan,” he said. “We knew they were going to come out and pressure us and we weren’t able to handle that pressure.”

Kings Park's Jac Cutillo drives around Harborfields’ Connor Bennardo. Photo by Bill Landon
Kings Park’s Jac Cutillo drives around Harborfields’ Connor Bennardo. Photo by Bill Landon

Harborfields senior attack Connor Bennardo struck next when he scored unassisted to put his team back out in front by one. Haggerty, with the hot hand, hit next to edge ahead 4-2 when Kings Park senior midfielder Ray McQuillan answered with a goal of his own off an assist by senior attack Liam Winwood to trail by one, 4-3.

“Today’s game plan was to work hard and beat them to the ground balls and outrun them on the field,” Haggerty said. “In the second half, offensively we got rolling, we scored in transition and with a man up, and we were able to outrun them.”

Both teams had trouble getting traction on a wet, muddy field, but Bennardo scored again to edge ahead 5-3 to end the half.

“From a talent standpoint we’re about even, but I think we outworked them — we got the ground balls and our middies were running all over the place,” Bennardo said. “And that makes us look good on attack, so I can’t thank them enough.”

The second half was all Harborfields, as Haggerty dove around the circle from behind the cage and slipped one in-between the pipes to break out to a 6-3 advantage with seven minutes left in the third.
Harborfields head coach Glenn Lavey chose not to brief his team about Kings Park from a recent scouting report.

“We lost [our opener] by nine goals against Shoreham, so it was more about us, even though there were some things I would’ve liked to prepare them for from the scouting report, but it was more about where Harborfields needs to be,” Lavey said. “So we didn’t tell them one thing about our opponent. We just showed up and played our style.”

Harborfields senior midfielder Tristan Capes-Davis added one of his own halfway through the third to surge ahead 7-3, and by that time, there was no stopping the Tornadoes. Senior midfielder Cameron LaPorta found the cage for the next two scores, to jump out to a 9-3 lead with nine minutes left to play, when Kings Park sophomore midfielder Jac Cutillo tacked on his team’s final point, to trail 9-4.

Before it was over, Harborfields tacked on three more goals with Haggerty’s fifth, Bennardo’s third for the hat trick, and junior attack Quintin McKenna added one of his own to put the game away.

“We made them earn everything today and they gave us a couple of opportunities in transition, and that was the difference,” Lavey said. “Our kids did a good job at grinding and controlling the speed and the tempo of the game, which gave our middies a chance to rest.”

Kings Park senior goalkeeper Harrison Bower had a busy day, and when the dust settled, he had notched 15 saves.

“Harrison Bower’s a senior and a first-year starter who’s been waiting in the wings for a couple of years now,” Simpson said. “He’s been tremendous in our first three games this season, so I give a lot of credit to him.”

With the win, Harborfields improves to 1-1 in League III, after suffering an 18-9 loss to Shoreham-Warding River, while Kings Park dropped to 1-2 in League III, after an 8-6 loss to Elwood-John Glenn and a 10-9 win over Westhampton.

Kings Park will look to bounce back on Tuesday, April 7, when the Kingsmen host Islip. The game is currently slated with an 11 a.m. start time.

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Freshman midfielder Thomas Mark evades the Panthers. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Despite a 14-4 loss at the hands of Babylon on a rainy Tuesday, the Port Jefferson boys’ lacrosse team is looking on the bright side.

“I think a young team like this, not ever experiencing the competition at the varsity level, especially a team that is the reigning county champions, it’s an uphill battle every single time,” Port Jefferson head coach Taylor Forstell said. “It was quite a learning experience. They competed until the last whistle and that’s all I could ask of them.”

A young team, the Royals are looking to improve day by day, to prove that they can hang with — and one day rule over — the other varsity teams.

Junior attack Spencer Woolley passes the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Junior attack Spencer Woolley passes the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

To get to that level, junior attack and co-captain Taylor Chiarelli said the team has been doing a lot of running during practice, something the team likes to call “lacrosse country,” while also working on stick skills and ball movement to learn the basics.

“We just need more practice, more movement and more calling out,” he said after the loss. “We didn’t win the game, but it’s all right. We tried our hardest and that’s all that matters.”

Forstell said competitiveness is one thing his athletes don’t lack, adding that although the score of the game may not show it, his Royals never gave up on a play and pressured Babylon until the last whistle.

The Panthers started off with eight unanswered goals until Port Jefferson junior attack Marco Scarda received the ball off of a pass and, from about 20 yards out, sent a straight shot past the goalkeeper to put his team on the scoreboard.

Babylon scored once more in the first, three times in the second and once in the third to take a 13-1 advantage into the final quarter.

“I feel like we kind of lost the game before we got out here, mentally,” said junior goalkeeper and co-captain Connor Fitterer, who made six saves on the evening. “We knew they were going to be a tough team. There’s a lack of experience for a lot of these players. Some of them picked up the stick for the first time last year or this year, so it’s been difficult, but it’s been fun.”

The Royals had something to smile about when Scarda scored again with 10:44 remaining in the game, off a pass across the field that he whipped into the back of the cage.

Sophomore midfielder Chandler Sciara looks downfield to make a play. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Sophomore midfielder Chandler Sciara looks downfield to make a play. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Babylon scored again but Port Jefferson sophomore midfielder Chandler Sciara countered with a goal of his own.

With five seconds remaining, Port Jefferson freshman midfielder Thomas Mark passed the ball from the far left side to sophomore attack Brian Mark, his older brother, who was in front of the goal and managed to lob the ball in overhead to bring the final score to 14-4.

With the loss, Port Jefferson moves to 1-2 overall and 1-1 in League IV, having lost the first game of the season to Bellport, 16-3, but bouncing back with a 16-6 win over Southampton/Ross in its second matchup.

“We definitely could’ve pressured harder, we definitely could’ve been playing a little tougher against them — we didn’t come out with as much fire as they did — but next week’s a new week and we’ll see them again,” junior midfielder and co-captain Max Scandale said. “We just need a little bit of practice, a little bit of time and we’ll definitely get there.”

Senior attack Zach Harned races around Riverhead players as he tries to get an open look at the net to score a goal, in Middle Country’s 12-4 loss to the Blue Waves Monday. Photo by Desirée Keegan

After starting off last season with a 10-0 losing streak, the Middle Country boys’ lacrosse team has already turned its game around this year, despite having it’s 2-0 record snapped by Riverhead at home, 12-4, on Monday.

The Mad Dogs first edged out Commack, 10-9, on March 25, and followed it up with a 10-2 victory at Patchogue-Medford on March 27, to remain undefeated at 2-0 in League I.

In Monday’s nonleague game against Riverhead, which stands 1-2, 0-1 in League II, the boys started off strong to begin the first and second half, but its efforts weren’t enough once the Blue Waves started rolling.

With 6:35 remaining in the first quarter, senior attacks Zach Harned and Bobby Emerson connected on a play where Harned passed the ball across the net to Emerson, who placed it in the right goal side for the 1-0 lead.

Junior attack Cole Demaille maintains possession as he races up the field with a Riverhead player reaching to force a turnover. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Junior attack Cole Demaille maintains possession as he races up the field with a Riverhead player reaching to force a turnover. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Two minutes later, Riverhead evened the scored, but Emerson scored again with 8:22 remaining in the second stanza when he scooped the ball up off an offensive rebound and rocketed it straight up the middle for a 2-1 advantage.

Riverhead scored three unanswered goals to end the second and take a 5-2 lead into halftime, and the Mad Dogs were disappointed.

“That wasn’t our usual game plan that we have,” senior defender Mike Durkin said. “We usually communicate more on defense and we were just off today.”

Middle Country turned it around after halftime, and 30 seconds into the quarter, senior midfielder Brandon Thomas fed the ball to Emerson, who scored.

Just over a minute later, Thomas crossed into Riverhead’s zone and whipped the ball into the cage from about 20 yards out, to pull the Mad Dogs within one point, 5-4.

“I thought we came out strong,” Thomas said. “Coming out in the second half I thought we gave it a good push, we just finished off a little slow. We’ve got to stick together.”

Middle Country continued to move the ball around and was strong on the clears, but ran into trouble at the faceoff and couldn’t capitalize on some of its opportunities.

Riverhead scored three unanswered goals to end the third, and scored four more in the fourth. Junior goalkeeper Christian Brody made six saves for the Mad Dogs, and backup J.D. Kane finished with three.

Senior midfielder Brandon Thomas added a goal and an assist in Middle Country’s 12-4 loss to Riverhead Monday. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Senior midfielder Brandon Thomas added a goal and an assist in Middle Country’s 12-4 loss to Riverhead Monday. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Thomas said the team needs to slow down its plays on offense, while Durkin believes the rotation, sliding and communication needs to be stronger on defense if the Mad Dogs want to go far this season. The boys believe they can improve on last season’s 2-14 overall and 2-12 league records though, and see playoffs as a possibility in the future.

“We’ve been coming together,” Durkin said. “We’ve been playing together since we were 5 years old so we all know each other and we know where each other is going to be [on the field].”

Thomas added: “We’re a good, close-knit group. The goal is to make the playoffs, and that’s what we’re looking to do this year.”

Irina DeSimone works her way around a Sayville opponent last season. File photo by Kevin Freiheit

Expectations are running high for a strong season, and for good reason — the Huntington High School girls’ lacrosse team returns many talented players to the field this spring.

Coached by Kathy Wright and Molly Burnett, the Blue Devils were relegated to the gym for the first week of practice since snow covered their outdoor field. Players made the best of the situation, but the squad is looking forward to warmer temperatures.

Huntington compiled a 15-3 overall mark last spring, with a 12-2 record in Division II, reaching the Suffolk Class B Final Four before losing in overtime at home to Sayville, 14-13.

Caitlin Knowles races to scoop up a ground ball. File photo by Kevin Freiheit
Caitlin Knowles races to scoop up a ground ball. File photo by Kevin Freiheit

Junior midfielder Emma DeGennaro, senior midfielder Samantha Lynch, junior midfielder Katie Reilly and senior goalkeeper Anna Tesoriero were named All-County.

Senior attack Alyssa Amorison, junior midfielder Irina DeSimone, senior defender Caitlin Knowles and sophomore defender Camille Stafford won All-Division honors. Senior defender Cassidie Gianmarino and junior defender Brianna McDonald were recognized as All-Tournament. Junior defender Hailey Bengston was Huntington’s Unsung Hero Award recipient. Lynch, Knowles and Tesoriero also garnered Academic All-American honors.

All of last season’s postseason honorees are back on the field this spring.

“I think the team is already looking really good,” said Reilly, who had 49 goals and 85 assists last year. “We have so much talent in every position. Emma, Irina, Alyssa and Samantha will have huge roles this year for the offense and the defense is looking better than ever.”

Reilly’s 134 points led the team last season. Lynch notched 86 goals and 17 assists. DeGennaro (54 goals; 17 assists) and Amorison (30 goals; 16 assists) were also potent offensively. DeSimone had 12 goals and four assists and played a key role on both ends of the field.

Gianmarino, Bengston  and Knowles continue to be integral to Huntington’s aggressive defense, while Stafford is currently sidelined from an injury.

Alyssa Amorison maintains possession while carrying the ball into Shoreham-Wading River’s zone last season. File photo by Kevin Freiheit
Alyssa Amorison maintains possession while carrying the ball into Shoreham-Wading River’s zone last season. File photo by Kevin Freiheit

Tesoriero recorded 140 saves in goal last year and looks to improve as a senior. The Blue Devils will also be relying on senior attack Mackenzie Maloney, freshman midfielder Emma Greenhill, junior goalie Taylor Moreno and senior faceoff and defensive specialist Heather Forster, along with several skilled underclassmen.

“The team is excited and hopeful about the upcoming season,” Lynch said. “We are returning almost every player and have some great new additions in our underclassmen. The team worked especially hard … in our first outdoor practice, in preparation for [the first] two scrimmages. With a tough schedule ahead of us, the team plans to focus on one opponent at a time. We are looking to top last year’s county semifinal appearance with a trip to the finals.”

As the Blue Devils settle into outdoor practice, players are already returning to top form.

“It was a little unfortunate that we had to play indoors for the first week, but that makes it that much better to finally be on the turf,” Reilly said.

The team took to the field today at Islip at 4:30 in the first Division II game of the season, but results were not available by press time.

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Brian Willetts moves the ball around the cage in the Suffolk County Class A championship game against West Islip last season. File photo by Bill Landon

The Bulls have come charging out of the gate.

The Smithtown East boys’ lacrosse team proved it’s still a force to be reckoned with, dominating its season-opening, nonleague game against East Islip Tuesday, 17-6.

Last season, the Bulls went 16-4 overall, 12-2 in Division I and nabbed the school’s first Suffolk County Class A boys’ lacrosse championship; and as the team’s motto says, the Bulls are hungry for more.

“We had great leadership, we had a really close team, everyone was there for each other and it shows that we may not have had the best players in the league last year,” senior midfielder John Daniggelis said. “But we definitely had the best team, and we worked as one, which allowed us to get to the county championship, win it, and then move on to the Long Island championship.”

Despite graduating 16 seniors off the roster, many of the team’s key playmakers have returned, especially on offense. Daniggelis said five out of six starters are back this season and they possess a lot of firepower.

“We have kids that are experienced, which is something that you can’t teach on the varsity level,” he said. “We know that our offense can be very explosive and can put up a large sum of goals, and the big key is going to be on defense. We’re really buckling down and focusing and paying attention to detail so that we can hold teams to a low score.”

This vision came to fruition Tuesday as the team scored nine straight goals in the first quarter before East Islip scored its first, which helped many Bulls see playing time. Senior goalkeeper Sean Turner, who is starting between the pipes for the first time this season, made three saves and only let up the one goal before he was taken out.

“[He] played a great game,” senior attack Brian Willetts said of Turner. “The defense was busy today and it was nice to see them come together and work together, but offensively we moved the ball great, we won faceoffs — it was a great overall game and a great team win.”

John Daniggelis maintains possession in a game against Northport last season. File photo by Bill Landon
John Daniggelis maintains possession in a game against Northport last season. File photo by Bill Landon

Junior midfielder Gerard Arceri, known for dominating at the “X,” combined with sophomores Steven Cuccurullo and Brian Herber to win 20 out of 23 faceoffs in the game.

“He was phenomenal least year,” Smithtown East head coach Jason Lambert said of Arceri. “We’re pretty fortunate that right now we have three kids that take faceoffs for us that are committed to play Division I already, which is very rare and we’re very lucky, so we feel most confident, as far as having the most depth on our team, at the faceoff ‘X.'”

The team said it remains confident on offense, and it showed. Willetts, an offensive co-captain, scored five goals and added an assist in the game; junior attack Dan Rooney added two goals and four assists; sophomore midfielder Connor Desimone tacked on two goals and two assists; and Daniggelis, the second offensive co-captain, finished with two goals.

And on defense, the Bulls said they thought they needed the most work on the back end of the field. But that didn’t seem apparent during the game.

“We have new defenseman coming in, [seniors] Ryan O’Connor, Cole Valinoti, and [sophomore] Sean Yorke, who can hold down the fort and are all good defenseman,” senior defenseman and Smithtown East’s final co-captain, James Sarrocco, said. “We couldn’t get outside the first few days of practice and we had to be in the gym, which was kind if tough, but once we got outside, we were rolling right from the beginning and it carried over into the first game.”

Willetts, a four-year varsity starter, said the offense has been clicking, while being unselfish and sharing the ball, and even some young, skilled players have stepped up to help out, while the seniors continue to lead the way.

Daniggelis, another four-year varsity starter, said he thinks this senior leadership is important to the Smithtown East program.

“Being on the team for four years you get to see players come and go, and if you can take one lesson from each guy, you can instill it in these younger guys and hope they can take one thing from you,” he said. “Our thing has always been leaving the program better than you found it. So when I was a sophomore, we went to the semifinals, and last year’s seniors were able to take us to the county championship and Long Island championship, and I think our team has the full intention to go farther than that this year, leave the program better than we found it, and hopefully make a run in the playoffs.”

With the league structure changing, the Bulls will still go up against some stiff competition, and Lambert has also set up a tough nonleague schedule against teams like Locust Valley, Greenwich and Bronxville, to keep the playing level high. But according to the boys, one of its biggest tests will come in the form of Half Hollow Hills West on Friday at home at 4:30 p.m., against a team that returns 24 seniors.

“If we keep our heads down, if we keep our nose clean, if we just strive to push each other and get better in practice each day, everything else will take care of itself in the end,” Lambert said. “It worked well for us last year, so if we keep working hard, when the dust settles, we want to make sure that we put ourselves in a good position to be one of the few teams left standing in the end.”

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Jake MacGregor prepares to send the ball into play. File photo by Desirée Keegan

Comsewogue boys’ lacrosse players are returning a year wiser and are looking to avenge a bitter loss from the end of last season.

Despite starting a lot of underclassmen last year, the team made it to the Suffolk County Class B semifinals, where the Warriors fell to Miller Place, 6-5.

“We wanted to win the county championship, so I think it gives the returning players a little bit more of an edge this year to achieve that goal,” junior defender Matt Spahr said. “Every practice everyone comes out with a lot of intensity and energy. It makes everyone really compete for a spot. No one is ever complacent and everyone is always on their toes.”

Matt Spahr reaches for the ball. File photo by Bill Landon
Matt Spahr reaches for the ball. File photo by Bill Landon

The Warriors have benefited from a clean turf field this preseason. Persevering through the tough winter, the boys have shoveled snow off the field three times and haven’t missed an outdoor practice, which will get them off to a good start.

“It’s a lot better for us to be out there on the turf because some of the other teams don’t have the opportunity to play out there, so we’re getting a lot of touches and open field looks,” junior goalkeeper Jake MacGregor said. “It’s better than being in the gym and having all of those tight spaces where we can’t run and stretch our legs out a lot.”

According to Comsewogue head coach Pete Mitchell, the improvements the team made last year should carry over into this season and the Warriors are returning some strong players on defense, which is the heart of the team.

“Defense at Comsewogue is always a focal point,” MacGregor said. “We rely mainly on our defense. I feel like we could push lots of transitions and score lots of goals off our defensive turnovers.”

Mitchell will be leaning on three-year starters MacGregor, an All-County player; Spahr, who recently signed to play with the University at Albany; senior faceoff specialist Zach Deutsch; and junior defenseman Stephen Reed, who is also All-County.

All of those defensive returners will be crucial to pulling the team together to start the season, as the young offense continues to progress in outdoor practices.

“Our defense creates a lot of offensive opportunities for us, but we have to be able to score,” Mitchell said. “We’ve been working a lot with the offense, trying to hone their junior varsity skills into varsity skills. We’re still very young on that end, so there are going to be some growing pains at the beginning of the year.”

Zach Deutsch wins the ball off the faceoff in a game last season. File photo by Bill Landon
Zach Deutsch wins the ball off the faceoff in a game last season. File photo by Bill Landon

Another adjustment for the team will be new competition in Hauppauge and Kings Park, as a result of a league realignment. Comsewogue and the other Class B schools are now in League 3.

“I think the Class Bs are very, very good,” Mitchell said. “Our [league] is, I think, very diverse, and there are 10 teams that could be county champs this year. It’s very balanced, and it’s good for lacrosse — there should be a lot of exciting lacrosse games.”

MacGregor said although there will be a bunch of tough matchups, the guys are taking it one game at a time, with the first coming on Thursday, at Mount Sinai at 7 p.m.

“I’ve been playing with these guys since I was in third grade, so we know each other really well — we have good connections and chemistry,” he said. “I feel like it’ll transfer well into game-time situations. We have a lot of good players that can make some great plays, and we’re just focusing in on Mount Sinai right now.”

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Miller Place senior attack Jake Buonaiuto dives and whips the ball toward the net in the Suffolk County Class B finals against Rocky Point last season. File photo by Bill Landon

Coming off a 2012-13 season where the team made it to the Class B Long Island championship, and a 2013-14 season where the Panthers made it to the Suffolk County Class B finals, the Miller Place boys’ lacrosse team is looking to continue its string of successes.

“Last season was a good experience for us,” Miller Place head coach Keith Lizzi said. “We had a lot of eyes on us and had to deal with some different pressures that we never really had to deal with before, and going back to a championship game like we did showed the endurance of these kids.”

The boys went 11-3 in Division II and 13-6 overall, and despite graduating 14 seniors last year, Lizzi said this season he has one of his biggest rosters.

“We’re carrying 35 guys and we bring back a lot,” the coach said, despite losing two Division I defenseman who are both starting on their current college teams as freshmen. “I think our strength right now would probably have to be in our depth. We’re deeper than we’ve ever been.”

The Panthers’ head coach said that although his teams have gone on to do big things through out the last couple of years, there’s only been a few main players that highlight Miller Place’s team. This year, however, he said he can run six midfielders and feel confident in the team’s ability to get the job done. In addition, he can mix and match people in different positions.

Miller Place senior defenseman Jacob Bloom races behind a Comsewogue opponent in a game last season. File photo by Bill Landon
Miller Place senior defenseman Jacob Bloom races behind a Comsewogue opponent in a game last season. File photo by Bill Landon

On offense, he will be looking to senior four-year varsity starter Jake Buonaiuto, an attack, who has also shined on the school’s football team, and Thomas Liantonio, a senior attack who is coming into his third year on the varsity team.

He’s also looking forward to returning senior midfielder Christian Stalter, an All-County player last year who handles the face-offs.

“I feel like all the guys are coming back hungry and ready to go to give it one final run at it,” Liantonio said. “The experience of these guys that have been on the team will help us as we work together to balance as a team.”

The team is looking to bounce back from last season, and work to enhance its defense to get back into top form.

“Last year’s Long Island championship loss does not define us as a team,” Buonaiuto said. “Defensively, we have a couple of other guys who are stepping into big roles who are very talented, and offensively, I think we’re going to be even better.”

Returning to the team on defense are seniors Jacob Bloom, Jeff Bloom and Brad Williamson.

Senior Joe Bartolotto, who is the cousin of Liantonio, is a transfer from Mattituck and a Cornell University-commit who will also be contributing on defense.

“We have a really high lacrosse IQ, guys know where to be and how to play,” Jacob Bloom said. “Me, Thomas Liantonio and Jake Buonaiuto have all been on the team since we were freshmen — we’ve been on the team in years where we just barely made the playoffs and years when we made it all the way to the Long Island championship, so we know what losing feels like, and we know, definitely, what winning feels like, so we can take that and harness it and push everyone in the right direction.”

That knowledge is something Lizzi said he wants his team to focus on as it moves into a League 3 schedule, which comes with some new stiff competition.

“We want to tap into our big-game experience,” he said. “We are in definitely in the most competitive league where there’s 15 teams that can all beat each other. It’s going to be a grind, but if we can harness that big-game mentality, take it day by day and one game at a time, then everything else will fall into place.”

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Jimmy Kickel looks up the field to make a play. File photo by Kevin Freiheit

With 17 seniors returning to this year’s Ward Melville boys’ lacrosse squad, the team said it is confident that it can once again achieve the state championship-like caliber it had in the 2012-13 season, when the Patriots went 21-0-1 and won the school’s first state title since 2000.

“We have a ton of senior leadership, which is important and what all of the great teams have,” senior midfielder Jake McCulloch said. “Our chemistry is something that really stands out.”

A significant amount of this season’s returning players were also on that state championship-winning team, which should be a boost even despite 13 seniors graduating at the end of last season. Despite the small hiccup last season, the Patriots still said they are ready, and hungry.

“I think we underachieved a little bit last season, quite honestly, but we also had a significant amount of injuries,” head coach Jay Negus said. “In terms of looking forward, I’m very optimistic with this group. We have a great group of senior leaders and the initiatives that this group has taken thus far, in terms of shoveling the field by themselves, the way they warm up, the way that they’re practicing; they’re all business.”

The Patriots finished last season with a 13-6 overall record and 10-4 mark in League I play, losing in the quarterfinals of the Suffolk County Class A playoffs to West Islip, 7-5.

The boys said they are using the disappointment as motivation this season, and Negus said he has taken notice.

Jake McCulloch maintains possession in a game last season. File photo by Desirée Keegan
Jake McCulloch maintains possession in a game last season. File photo by Desirée Keegan

“They look really good, they’re whipping the ball around, they’re focused and they’re really absorbing all the stuff we’re throwing at them this early on,” he said. “Right now we’re hitting the ground running and we’re very excited about the season.”

Senior attack Danny Bucaro said the team has been going over the offensive plays and positioning in practice, and working on the simple things like ground balls, endurance, catching, throwing and shooting. The team only has two weeks to prepare for the start of the season, because of the weather, which Bucaro said differs from years past, where the team normally had three weeks to practice.

“We have to work hard all the time and give 110 percent effort,” he said. “The only thing that will bring you success is working hard. The young guys have a lot of talent and it’s really nice that we click in all aspects both on and off the field.”

As a result of this, McCulloch said he thinks the offense is going to improve because of the depth, which leads to more options to score.

Negus said Bucaro and McCulloch would be leading the way on that front.

“They are the two focal points of the offense that also lead by experience and get the rest of the guys on board,” he said, also noting other strong senior returners like midfielders Jimmy Kickel, Mike Cusmano and John Burgdoerfer, who he’s hoping will also contribute on offense.

On the other side of the field, senior Tommy Reilly is returning from back surgery, according to the coach, and will join forces with senior Michael Cirrone, junior John Day and sophomore Andrew McKenna to solidify the defensive end.

John Burgdoerfer makes a pass. File photo by Desirée Keegan
John Burgdoerfer makes a pass. File photo by Desirée Keegan

“We’re really focusing on the conditioning aspect, especially early on, to get the guys ready so that they’re in shape and that the injuries don’t happen,” Negus said. “The athleticism and the speed that this group has from offense to defense is something that is really going to help us separate from the competition.”What will also distinguish the team is the stiff competition the boys will be up against. Negus said he is following his pattern from last season and scheduled nonleague games against top teams Chaminade, West Islip, Ridgefield and Yorktown.”It’ll allow it to be the sort of litmus test for us to see what our strengths and weaknesses are,” he said. “When you go against a powerhouse like Chaminade, those things stand out right from the start.”After a scrimmage against Miller Place, the team’s first test will come in the form of Chaminade, on March 21 on the Patriots’ home turf.

Negus also kept these scheduled games as a result of the league realignment, which removed games against some top teams like Suffolk County champion Smithtown East.

“We scheduled a really difficult nonleague schedule to prepare us for that playoff push against some of the teams we’re not going to see during the year,” Negus said.

McCulloch said he is excited for the challenges ahead and is looking forward to going against high caliber teams that will show the Patriots what they need to do in order to achieve their goal.

“Even if we do come out ahead, they expose our weaknesses, and it’s better to get them out against good teams like that, and then we can work on them in practice, but playing the best competition brings out the best in us,” he said. “I think just playing as a team and the friendships that we build this year will be important, but a state championship is obviously the biggest goal.”

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