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Lacrosse

Mustangs threepeat as Class C crown-holders win 10-4 win over Wantagh

With a defensive unit like Mount Sinai’s, the girls’ lacrosse team knows it only needs a small cushion to rest easy. The Mustangs’ Class C Long Island championship game was a textbook example, as Hannah Van Middelem’s five stops sparked a potent offensive rush — led by Meaghan Tyrrell’s four goals and two assists — on the way to the team’s third straight Long Island crown. The feat was achieved with a 10-4 win over Wantagh June 4 at Adelphi University.

“I felt good because I know I have one of the best defenses in the country in front of me,” Van Middelem said. “And our offense really stepped up to help.”

The Mustangs’ defenders and offensive players see it a little differently.

Hannah Van Middelem makes a save. Photo by Lisa Nonnenmann

“She’s a great goalie,” sophomore Morgan Mitchell said of Van Middelem. “She picks us up. When she makes those big saves and gives us another chance with the ball, we get pumped.”

The senior goalkeeper’s first save of the game following an opening draw win by Wantagh led to Tyrell’s first goal, and the junior attack put Mount Sinai ahead 2-1 minutes later. Senior Veronica Venezia tied the game, 3-3, off a feed from Mitchell. Van Middelem made another save before Mitchell and Venezia — who finished with three goals — scored on assists from Tyrrell in the final two minutes of the first half, for a 6-3 Mustangs lead.

At the 23:05 mark of the second half, Van Middelem intercepted a Wantagh pass across the front of the cage, and deflected a shot with 10:10 left to play during a six-minute span of Warriors possession, until they lost the ball after an attacker stepped in the crease.

“Hannah is always there to make a stop,” senior defender Emily Vengilio said. “She’s the best. When we have a breakdown on defense, I wouldn’t want anyone else in goal.”

Tyrrell, who led the team with 57 goals and 35 assists during the 2017 season, good for sixth on Suffolk County’s points leaderboard, added two more unassisted shots as she circled around the left side of the goal to put Mount Sinai up 8-3.

“You’re trying to shake off the defenders and get open for your teammates,” the junior said. “It’s kind of cool.”

Meaghan Tyrrell moves the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Draw wins and ground ball pickups by senior Rayna Sabella and Tyrrell’s younger sister Emma also helped the team jump out to its lead midway through the second half.

“Once we got the ground balls it led to great offensive opportunities,” Meaghan Tyrrell said. “Whenever a goalie makes a big save in a big moment it’s an intensity increaser. Our defense played confidently, and it showed on the field.”

Mount Sinai head coach Al Bertolone noted the difficulty in achieving the back-to-back-to-back championships.

“I’m really proud of the kids — they dug in there and the culture here is built to last,” he said. “This is the group that’s been in the mix since 2014, so we’ve had a lot of these kids around creating and sustaining the culture.”

Bertolone said the key to the win was limiting the touches of Wantagh’s dynamic offense — highlighted by a quartet of scorers.

“We needed to get in and out of a lot of defenses depending on which one had the ball,” he said. “Defensively, I don’t know if Wantagh matched up with the things we were doing down there. Once we get the lead, with the defense that we have, we’re pretty good.”

Leah Nonnenmann races between Wantagh defenders. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Mitchell was also impressed with the defense, led by Vengilio, senior Haley Dillon and twin sisters Meaghan and Kirsten Scutaro, which has held opponents to 3.7 goals per game this season, including two shutouts in April.

“Our cuts, picks and screens were the best they’ve been all season,” Mitchell said. “This senior group, they mean the world to me, and I wanted their last year to be a special one.”

Leah Nonnenmann, who added two goals in the win, said she remembers losing in the county final game her freshman year, and the motivation she had to come back and change the result the following year.

“All I could think about was coming back next season and winning it all,” she said. “It wasn’t an easy ride — we had to work hard — and we continue to prove everyone wrong. We fought for the respect we deserve.”

That longtime mission was accomplished, according to Vengilio.

“It feels better than all the other ones,” she said of the win this season.

Tyrrell agreed: “Three LICs in a row — how much better can it get?”

The Mount Sinai girls’ lacrosse team outscored Wantagh, 10-4, for the Mustangs’ straight Long Island championship win. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Patriots power through Massapequa for second straight Long Island title

Call him Perry the protector.

In the final three minutes of the third quarter, with Ward Melville’s boys’ lacrosse team up 5-4 over Nassau County champion Massapequa, Perry Cassidy, the senior goalkeeper, made three saves and opened the fourth quarter with another, before his team scored three goals in three minutes en route to an 8-5 Class A Long Island championship victory. The Long Island championship win for Ward Melville was its second straight and 18th in program history.

“I was trying to do anything to keep our team in it,” Cassidy said of his back-to-back-to-back saves on the left corner to end the third. He made 10 stops in the win. “I didn’t want to go home not being able to play with my brothers again.”

At the 6:14 mark of the stanza, senior Andrew Lockhart put the Patriots ahead for the first time, 5-4, when he cut to the crease and received a backdoor pass from sophomore Dylan Pallonetti.

“We talked about it,” Pallonetti said of connecting with Lockhart. “We said we were going to watch each other on the crease, and back-doored them two times, and got them.”

Pallonetti also assisted on Lockhart’s game-tying behind-the-head goal at the 6:38 mark of the second quarter, to knot things up 3-3.

“I love playing with Dylan, he’s a great player and we have great chemistry,” Lockhart said. “He did all the work — gave me the ball where he knew I could shoot and score.”

Up to that point, Ward Melville had been playing catch up, with Pallonetti and senior Zach Hobbes (three goals) scoring the first two goals to tie the game at 2-2 to end the first quarter. Hobbes had another tying goal with 9:21 left in the first half, to make the score 4-4.

Ward Melville knew it was only a matter of time before a high-powered Massapequa offense would make another move. But Cassidy was up to the task.

“I always have the best shooters trying to score on me during warm-ups,” Cassidy said. “I felt good.”

He said the sideline chants and cheers motivated him to keep protecting the cage, along with the motivation to remain on the playoff ride for as long as possible. Lockhart said it was the saves that fueled a three-goal run from the 10-minute to six-minute mark of the fourth, with the game-winner coming off the first of those goals, from senior Liam Davenport with 9:41 left to play.

“Perry stood on his head like he’s been doing all season,” Lockhart said. “He kept us in the game, which got us pumped for our second-half run.”

He added that for him, being able to put on the practice pinnie on Monday was all the motivation he needed.

“All of us seniors have been talking about this moment since we were kids,” Lockhart said. “And we’re dictating the terms to our opponents.”

Cassidy said to be between the pipes during the championship game win this year made the victory all the more sweeter, and now, it’s back to work as Ward Melville prepares for the Class A state semifinals at the University at Albany June 7 at 4 p.m. But Cassidy said the team doesn’t need the run-through.

“We’re ready,” he said.

 

In lacrosse, there’s a term “take it to ‘X,’” when a player brings the ball directly behind the goal crease. But Shoreham-Wading River was taking the ball to a different “X” Wednesday.

The X-Man, Xavier Arline, was the Wildcats’ superhero May 30, as the freshman used speed and skill to stymie an Islip surge — the Buccaneers scored four fast goals to pull within one and make it a close game — to lift Shoreham-Wading River to its second straight Suffolk County Class C title with a 13-7 win over Islip. The title marks the 12th in program history.

Arline had a highlight reel play at the 7:48 mark of the fourth quarter, after Islip opened with four goals in a two-minute span, he stole the ball from the opposing goalkeeper on a ride, and no-look passed behind his back to senior Chris Gray for an empty-netter.

“I was just trying to help my team win,” he said. “I wasn’t trying to do too much, I wasn’t trying to do too little. I was just making the plays to help my team win.”

He said during practice, head coach Mike Taylor lets the team be free and creative, which made the eye-popping play feel routine.

“When I saw Chris out of the corner of my eye, I picked it up and threw it like it was natural,” he said. “I didn’t even think twice.”

Gray said Arline’s play wasn’t surprising to him either.

“Xavier is a beast — he used his athleticism,” he said. “And he’s only a freshman, which is really scary.”

Arline had two goals and two assists before that score that extended Shoreham-Wading River’s lead to 9-7. Senior Kevin Cutinella followed with his hat trick goal on a man-up opportunity, and from there, it was Gray’s turn to step up.

Gray went coast to coast, scored off a pass from Arline after Cutinella carried the ball into Islip’s zone, and added another unassisted goal to cap off the five-goal Wildcats run. Gray finished with five goals and one assist.

“We used a lot of teamwork,” Gray said. “We told ourselves we wanted to jump out on them early, get a fast lead, then kind of take the air out of the ball and let our offense do its thing — because we have one of the best offenses on the Island, I have full confidence to say that. They make me a better player.”

He said the team’s defense doesn’t get a lot of credit, especially being that Gray is second in Suffolk County scoring behind Smithtown East’s Connor DeSimone, but it was hard to miss senior James Mirabell locking down a strong Islip offense, and racing to ground balls that led to crucial possession. The defense, also led by Dan Cassidy and Kyle Higgins, helped protect goalie Andrew DePalma, who made five saves.

“I think it’s the best defense we played all year,” Arline added. “We faced some adversity but we buckled down.”

During the lapse that saw Islip pour in four straight goals, Cutinella said his team fell flat.

“We were complacent,” he said. “And getting a penalty drained us.”

He credited Arline’s goal for sparking Shoreham-Wading River to get back on its game.

“You can’t teach that,” Cutinella said of the Arline to Gray play. “He’s making plays, getting everyone rowdy. It changed the game. That lights us up.”

Taylor said the Wildcats closing out the show the way they did was something he expects from his high-powered offense.

“They were resilient — Islip was battling back and I’m so proud of how they stood their ground,” he said. “We bent but we didn’t break.”

The head coach added that his team will celebrate, but just for a short time before getting back to work, because after last season’s state semifinal loss, the team feels it has some unfinished business. Arline said after being a part of the county and Long Island championship-winning team last year getting to that level almost becomes an addiction.

“It’s a feeling you want to get back every single year,” he said. “Our goal is to get a state championship and we’re one step closer.”

Shoreham-Wading River will play Cold Spring Harbor in the Long Island championship at Stony Brook University June 3 at 3 p.m.

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Mount Sinai edged out Bayport-Blue Point, 9-6, for the program's third consecutive Suffolk County Class C title. Photo by Desirée Keegan

With her team’s early 3-0 lead turning into a 5-3 deficit, Meaghan Tyrrell knew somebody had to take charge.

“I got the ball in our offensive end, and I knew somebody had to do it,” Tyrrell said. “And I just stepped up.”

She had a five-goal performance and two assists to lead Mount Sinai’s girls’ lacrosse team to its third consecutive Class C county crown, with 9-6 win over Bayport-Blue Point May 30. The junior scored unassisted to pull her team within one, 5-4, and assisted on senior Leah Nonnenmann’s game-tying goal less than 30 seconds later. She knew her team was on its way to the Long Island championship as she raised her hands toward the sky following two unassisted goals soon after her assist.

Meaghan Tyrrell moves the ball into Bayport-Blue Point’s zone. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“We wanted this so bad,” Tyrrell said. “We know Bayport, we’ve seen them before, but each time it’s different. When they started coming back we realized something had to change.”

The key was not only Tyrrell taking charge, but locking down on defense, and the Mustangs had one of the county’s top defenders in senior Emily Vengilio to do just that.

“We never give up,” Vengilio said. “[Bayport-Blue Point has] a great offense, so we knew our defense had to step up. Three years ago when we lost to them [11-9 in the county final] in the last 10 minutes, we knew what it felt like, so we fought hard to make sure it didn’t happen again.”

Phantom Kelsi LoNigro was the target, and Vengilio and twin sisters Meaghan and Kirsten Scutaro made every step the senior tried to take difficult.

“Our kids are tough — they’re all veteran players,” Mount Sinai head coach Al Bertolone said. “We tried to take [Kelsi LoNigro] out of the mix because she’s a catalyst for their offense.

We took their best punches. At the end of the day you have to have kids that fight, and they fought.”

Mount Sinai jumped ahead 3-0 with two goals from senior Veronica Venezia. Tyrrell assisted on the first and scored the second goal of the game. But Bayport-Blue Point picked up steam to tie the game by halftime. Nonnenmann said her teammates were in their own heads, including herself — even while racing toward the circle to grab a pass from Tyrrell for her goal that made it 5-5.

Meaghan Tyrrell scores. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“I was thinking ‘I should get this,’” she said. “I had a lot of pressure on my shoulders. But when it was me and the goalie I knew I had it.”

Mount Sinai’s objective just a couple of years ago was to “prove people wrong.” Now, the Mustangs are synonymous with championship-level lacrosse.

“We’d always been overlooked, but that’s changed now,” Vengilio said. “We wanted to make the full circle. Each win feels great, but this one especially. Now we’re definitely on top.”

It was hammer time for Middle Country’s Jamie Ortega, as the sideline sang her goal-scoring song five times in the girls’ lacrosse team’s 13-3 win over Northport May 30.

“You can’t touch this,” they screamed louder and louder with each goal.

Ortega stepped out on the field Tuesday ready to finish what her older sister Nikki had started more than five years ago — win the program’s first Class A Suffolk County championship. Nikki Ortega had led the Mad Dogs further and further into the postseason over her six-year varsity career until she graduated two years ago, and her younger sister has been steering the wheel ever since.

“I wanted to do this for her,” Jamie Ortega said. “And I wanted to play for all those seniors that didn’t have the opportunity to. We finished it for them. We didn’t want that feeling again.”

That feeling she referred to was the devastation after each loss at the hands of West Islip over the last three seasons — twice in the semis and once in the finals.

This time, although the foe wasn’t as familiar, Middle Country knew it couldn’t take its opponent lightly. No. 5 Northport was fresh off an 8-7 upset over nationally ranked No. 1 Ward Melville.

“We were nervous,” said senior Ava Barry, who scored a goal and had five assists. “It’s hard to beat a team twice. Any team can win on any given day.”

Middle Country is also ranked nationally, featuring the top lacrosse recruit in the nation in Ortega. The senior pulled out a similar showing to when the Mad Dogs completed a 14-5 win over the Tigers May 8. Ortega finished that game with four goals and two assists.

She scored three goals and had one assist at the end of the first half in the final. She completed her hat trick when, after passing to Barry who couldn’t find a clear lane near the circle, sent a pass back to Ortega and who fired her shot home for a five-goal lead, 6-1.

“It’s my last year and I knew that this was the time to step up and play ‘all in,’” the University of North Carolina-bound midfielder said. “I’m so proud of this team.”

The team was “all in” from one end of the field to the other. The defense held Northport to 12 shots, and senior goalie Emily Walsh made nine saves. Jennifer Barry, Ava’s younger sister, led Middle Country to a 13-5 draw advantage, with Ortega also pulling away with some draw wins. The offense had nine assists on its 13 goals.

“Our defense was great, we came up so big on so many stops in goal and had so many extra possessions that we took advantage of,” Ortega said. “We knew if we got the extra possession and made them turn over the ball that we could calm down and make a good play out of it.”

Barry had passed to Ortega for her second goal and dished the ball to senior Rachel Masullo for a 7-1 lead. Ortega and Barry made another pass-back move on the opening goal of the second half, after Ortega forced a turnover behind Northport’s goal.

“My teammates were making great cuts, got open really well and helped me be able to make the passes to them,” Barry said.  “When the sidelines get involved in the game it’s fun, it’s exciting. You always want your sideline to be cheering your team on.”

After a brief second-half hiccup, with Northport’s Emerson Cabrera putting her team’s first goal on the scoreboard since the 11-minute mark of the first half, Middle Country got right back to work. Head coach Lindsay Dolson never slowed down her team, saying the girls like to use their speed, and the team racked up three more goals before Northport scored its final goal of the game. She also said the win gave the team some needed confidence. But Ortega said she told her team they were capable all along.

“I told my teammates we shouldn’t be nervous,” Ortega said. “This was our game, our time. I told them we’re not losing today, everyone believed it and we proved it.”

Twin sisters Rachel and Amanda Masullo added three goals apiece and Jennifer Barry assisted on two goals.

Middle Country will face the winner of the June 1 Massapequa-Port Washington game for the Long Island championship at Adelphi University June 4 at 7:30 p.m.

“Our mentality has been just putting in every ounce of effort and not stopping until we seal the deal,” Rachel Masullo said. “So many of our seasons got cut short. Now, we’re ready to barrel through anybody that gets in front of us.”

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By Bill Landon

Despite leading by three goals entering the fourth quarter — giving the No. 2-seeded Eastport-South Manor boys’ lacrosse team a run for its money — No. 6 Comsewogue was outscored 6-1 in the final 12 minutes, to fall 10-8 in the Suffolk County Class B semifinals May 26.

It wasn’t an easy road for the Warriors, which made the postseason with a 6-8 record in league play, and got in because of power points earned against top-seeded teams, according to athletic director Matt DeVincenzo. But Comsewogue showed resiliency, and knocked off No. 3 Harborfields with a 6-5 win May 18, and continued to battle through the bracket Friday.

Sophomore Sean Kennedy got things going for the Warriors when he spotted Nick Donnelly jumping out front from behind the cage, and flicked the ball to the junior, who buried his shot. But the Sharks answered back quickly. Kennedy found senior Ryan Dorney on the cut minutes later, but again Eastport-South Manor had an answer.

Sophomore Tom Heller — making 11 saves on the day — had his hand full protecting the net, and prevented several shots from passing him by to keep the score tied heading into the second quarter.

Senior Will Snelders ripped a shot from 35 feet out to put his team out front, and junior Richie Lacalandra scored off a feed from Dorney to extend the lead. The Warriors kept attacking, and Snelders sent a pass to junior Sean Power, who was able to redirect the ball to the back of the cage off a flick pass for a 5-2 advantage with 7:51 left in the first half.

Twenty seconds later, the Sharks’ Brandon Stiles sent a shot just inside the pipes, but the Warriors stymied any attempt at a comeback, as Lacalandra and Snelders scored unassisted goals to put Comsewogue up 7-3 with two minutes left.

“Everybody doubted us all year,” Comsewogue head coach Pete Mitchell said. “We didn’t get a lot of accolades — we’re just a group of blue collar kids — and I’m proud of them.”

Eastport-South Manor’s Ryan Weiss scored with 31 seconds on the clock to cut the deficit to three goals by the break. And after discussing with their coaches, two different teams entered play in the third quarter, as the defenses battled to a stalemate.

Things changed drastically in the fourth, and Eastport-South Manor’s Tom Szalkowski ended the scoring drought in the opening minutes, and teammate James Sherwood split the pipes 20 seconds later to pull within one goal, 7-6.

Kennedy found Donnelly again on a cut across the cage for an insurance goal, but the Sharks wiped it away by tallying four unanswered goals off faceoff wins.

“The faceoff ‘X’ was bad in the fourth quarter — we made a couple of mistakes clearing the ball,” Mitchell said. The head coach put the blame on himself for the outcome.

“That’s on me,” he said. “As the coach, to not make an adjustment on the faceoff when I could have — I take that one because I need to put them in the best position to succeed.”

Mitchell, whose team finishes its season at 7-9 overall, continued to convey pride for a team that accomplished what it did, extending its postseason and battling to some close games this season, like 7-6, 9-8 and 11-10 losses to No. 4 Mount Sinai, No. 3 Miller Place and No. 1 Shoreham-Wading River, respectively.

“They’ve worked hard,” Mitchell said. “And they’re going to be successful in whatever they do in life because of how hard they worked and the lessons they’ve learned [playing] Comsewogue lacrosse.”

Ward Melville to face Smithtown East in Suffolk championship May 31

As the crowd and sideline erupted over a stretch of three minutes in the third quarter, it seemed like the Patriots couldn’t miss.

In fact, they didn’t, as the Ward Melville’s boys’ lacrosse team scored six times on six shots during that span, on the way to a 15-6 Class A semifinal win over Half Hollow Hills East May 25.

“We’ve been here before, and we were pumped up,” junior Zach Hobbes said. “We knew we had to come out fired up, because there was a chance we were going to go home.”

An early ouster from the playoffs seemed like a remote possibility coming into the game for two-loss Ward Melville, after Hills East gave the Patriots all they could handle in a triple overtime, 8-7 thriller during the regular season, but the second-half scoring spurt erased that possibility. Hobbes found the back of the net for the first of the six goals, which was his third of the game. Junior Matt Grillo scored twice to complete his hat trick, and junior Michael Giaquinto also scored twice, directly off faceoff wins.

“We played more unselfish,” Grillo said. “Last time we played them, we had a lot of individuals doing their stuff, and this time we looked for the open man, and it worked.”

The Patriots were riding a 6-2 halftime advantage into that 6-0 run. The last goal of the second quarter fired up Grillo and senior Eddie Munoz, inspiring the team to come out even quicker after the break.

Grillo intercepted a Hills East pass attempt by the goalkeeper, and with Kyle Bockelman outside of his posts, Grillo saw the opportunity at an empty-netter with Munoz at his side.

“I saw the rusty pass and I ran over to pick it off,” Grillo said. “Eddie’s always there to put it in, and I knew he was going to finish.”

Giaquinto, who split 10 faceoffs in the first half, won seven of eight in the third, and got lower on the draw to help him win 18 of 25 faceoffs overall in the game.

“I give Michael Giaquinto a lot of credit,” Hobbes said. “Those possessions were key.”

Munoz said his teammates have been hearing all season long how they’re the next resilient bunch to vie for the state championship, and he said he knew the next step toward getting back to where the Patriots were last year wasn’t too far out of reach.

“To be so close to another county championship — we needed to win,” he said. “Our drive is what got us here, and our confidence is through the roof, but you can’t be too cocky. We’re soaking it in, enjoying the moment, but once we get on that bus — get back to the school — we have work to do. It’s all about staying focused.”

Ward Melville will face Smithtown East May 31 at Stony Brook University at 3 p.m. with a chance for redemption. The Bulls halted the Patriots’ playoff push two years ago, with an 11-10 county final victory.

“We feel we have a standard to uphold at Ward Melville,” Hobbes said. “We need to get back to where we were last year, and take that title this time. We’re ready to play.”

Harborfields' Grace Zagaja hugs coaches Mary Santonmauro and Kerri McGinty following the win. Photo by Desirée Keegan

By Desirée Keegan

For the first time in four years, the Tornadoes are touching down on semifinal turf.

With a 14-7 win over Comsewogue May 23, the No. 4 Harborfields girls’ lacrosse team advances to take on No. 1 Eastport-South Manor May 25 at 4 p.m.

Harborfields’ Falyn Dwyer shoots. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“The whole season we’ve had a team first mentality,” senior Falyn Dwyer said. “We win as a team, we lose as a team. We knew it was a do or die situation, so we really picked up the intensity.”

That passion showed. In the first 10 minutes, Harborfields was already up 4-0. At the 13:41 mark, Dwyer scored her hat trick goal. Senior Katherine Alnwick followed her up with back-to-back goals less than a minute apart, and soon the Tornadoes were ahead 7-0.

“Last time we faced them we had a lot of trouble scoring, so we worked on a lot of offenses to capitalize on finding the open girl,” Dwyer said. “A lot of the time [my teammates] clear out for me if I have the ball and they know I have a lane. They do a good job of letting me use my speed. We moved the ball a lot better than we have in the past and we put our plays in well.”

Comsewogue junior Hannah Dorney found the back of the net with 9:13 left in the first half to put the Warriors on the board, freshman Olivia Fantigrossi set up eighth-grader Ava Fernandes off a free position and Dorney scored again off an assist from senior Julia Tuohy to cut the lead to 8-3 at the end of the first half.

Comsewogue’s Hannah Dorney moves the ball across the field. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The successive goal scoring seemed to work well for the Tornadoes, and sophomore Hallie Simkins kept it going with back-to-back goals to open the second half.

“Coming off the draw strong really helps us get the momentum going, and getting a few goals boosted our confidence,” she said. “It’s great that we even got here, so the fact that I got to put a few goals in the back of the net just makes it an even more amazing feeling.”

Harborfields head coach Kerri McGinty also thought her team was resilient from start to finish.

“We had a mind-set when we stepped out on the field today and it carried through,” she said. “We took smart shots, we finished, we had some huge defensive stops that led to goals — so it was that culmination of everything happening together. All of the girls were playing for each other. That’s the best thing you can ask for a team.”

Harborfields’ Hallie Simkins crashes into Comsewogue’s Hannah Dorney as she carries the ball into the Warriors’ zone. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Senior Grace Zagaja’s turnover led to her second goal of the game, and junior goalkeeper Erin Tucker made half of her eight saves in the game’s final minutes to halt the Warriors’ threat. Zagaja and senior Kailey Broderick were also key to grabbing ground balls that gave the Tornadoes extra possessions, which led to even more goals in the final minutes.

Dwyer finished with four goals, Broderick had two goals and two assists and Alnwick added two goals and an assist.

“There was a lot of hustle and a lot of heart,” Dwyer said. “Now we have one day to prepare, so we have to put in a lot of work tomorrow.”

Simkins said if the team plays like it did against Comsewogue, they’ll be successful in the next round.

“It was a good team win — we put all the pieces together,” she said. “It’s nice when everyone shows up, and I’m confident in the way we play when that happens. Getting this first-round win is a major barrier we finally climbed over.”

Jamie Ortega. File photo by Bill Landon

By Desirée Keegan

For the fourth straight year, the Middle Country girls’ lacrosse team will be making it to the semifinals of the Class A playoffs. But this time, West Islip won’t be standing in their way.

Amanda Masullo. File photo by Bill Landon

No. 3-seeded Middle Country outscored No. 6 Sachem North 9-5 May 22. Because of the seeding, No. 9 West Islip was on the opposite side of the bracket, and No. 1 Ward Melville took care of the dirty work for the Mad Dogs.

“With Ward Melville eliminating West Islip, I think it has taken some pressure off of the team, because we finally have West Islip out of our hair,” senior Rachel Masullo said. “But no matter who we verse, we can’t take our foot off the gas. We have to keep giving it our all.”

West Islip eliminated Middle Country the last three years — twice in the semifinals, and in the 2015 finals. Sophomore Sophie Alois said that with the team continuing to improve year after year though, the Mad Dogs weren’t as frightened of the Lions as they had been in the past.

“Although West Islip has been our kryptonite the last few years, they don’t intimidate us anymore,” she said. “We know we can play with them, and beat them, and we’ve shown that.”

The sophomore was referring to the team’s 13-9 win over West Islip April 20.

For now, she’s glad the team can continue its season.

“I know none of us are ready for it to end,” Alois said following the win over Sachem North. “Today was just another notch in the belt, and now we’re focused on Wednesday.”

Sophie Alois. File photo by Bill Landon

Alois led the team with four goals. Masullo had the most points, with five on two goals and three assists.

“Coming into this matchup we knew we had to limit our turnovers in the midfield and have a really strong defense, which we did,” Masullo said. “Our composure also played a big part in this win.”

The senior added that coming into the matchup, she replayed the loss to Sachem North, an 11-8 defeat May 2, over and over in her mind, and knew the Mad Dogs couldn’t let it happen again.

“It definitely wasn’t a feeling I wanted to go through again,” she said. “The loss really fired us up.”

Because a handful of the girls have been playing together for three or four seasons, the team has a strong connection. Having a few sister pairings, and the No. 1 women’s lacrosse draftee in the nation in Jamie Ortega, doesn’t hurt either. The University of North Carolina-commit finished with a goal and an assist. Senior Ava Barry added a goal and three assists, and Masullo’s twin sister Amanda rounded out the scoring with a goal of her own.

Sophie Alois. File photo by Bill Landon

Alois said that head coach Lindsay Dolson tells the team “your attitude is contagious, and all it takes is one person to get everyone going.”

The sophomore said now more than ever, the team is heeding those words.

“I know none of us are ready for this season to end,” she said. “We don’t want to feel how we have the last few seasons, having our runs cut short. We are sick of losing, we want to win. The energy from my teammates is motivating, and we’re all contributing to the exciting atmosphere.”

Middle Country faced No. 2 Smithtown East May 24, but results were not available by press time.

“It’s going to be hard to stop us,” Alois said. “We’re full steam ahead right now, and we won’t stop until we’ve won.”

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The East Bulls will battle crosstown foe Smithtown West in semis May 25

By Bill Landon

Being down early doesn’t faze the Smithtown East boys’ lacrosse team. And despite the 4-0 lead visiting Connetquot had in the opening round of the Class AA playoffs May 19, the Bulls bounced back for a 12-10 victory to advance to the semifinals.

Connor Desimone rockets a shot into Connetquot’s goal. Photo by Bill Landon

“That’s kind of been our M.O. this year — we’ve allowed our opponent to jump up on us early in games and these guys have done a good job all year staying together, [being] positive and chipping away at it,” Smithtown East head coach Jason Lambert said. “When we got down 4-0, I said, ‘hey guys, we’ve been here before, we’ve done this before — we’ll come back.’ And with our seniors and the leadership we have here, there’s never panic with this group.”

Smithtown East didn’t find the cage until two minutes into the second quarter, when senior midfielder and co-captain Luke Eschbach slammed home a solo shot. Senior Michael Latini attacked next, with 5:05 left in the first half, to cut the lead in half. Senior faceoff specialist Brian Herber won the ensuing battle at the ‘X,’ and dished the ball to classmate and co-captain Connor Desimone who buried his shot 20 seconds later to pull within one, 4-3.

At the 3:15 mark of the second quarter the Thunderbirds struck again, but so did a lightning bolt, which suspended the game for 30 minutes. Connetquot picked up where it left off when play resumed, to double Smithtown East’s score, 6-3.

“That half hour stop was almost a blessing in disguise,” Lambert said. “It allowed us to gather ourselves, talk to the kids and tell them exactly what we were seeing, and hear what they were seeing.”

Desimone passed to Latini, who on the cut shot the ball behind his back, catching the keeper off guard to make it a 6-4 game.

Brian Herber wins a faceoff and fires at the net. Photo by Bill Landon

“I’ve done it in practice and I’ve never tried it in a game,” Latini said. “But I always wanted to try it, and today, it went in.”

After another Herber faceoff win, Latini scooped up the flick, and senior Dominic Pizzulli drilled his shot into the netting as the Bulls trailed 6-5. The four-goal deficit early in the game had little effect on Herber or the rest of his team.

“I was a little nervous,” Herber said. “But I know this team and knew we would definitely come back — we always do.”

With 26 seconds left before the break, Desimone leaped from behind the cage dove in front to bury his shot and make it a new game.

Smithtown East goalkeeper Thomas Harkin, who had eight saves on the day, commended his opponent for the tough battle.

“They brought a lot of ball movement, they moved well inside — they are very good at doing that, but we prepared for that,” Harkin said. “We knew we had to step it up, wake up a bit. We knew the next ground ball, the next pass, the next shot, the next anything, it’s ours.”

Two minutes into the second half, Desimone gave his teammate’s words meaning when he scored his hat trick goal to give his team its first lead, 7-6.

Thomas Harkin makes one of eight saves. Photo by Bill Landon

“Our guys have a ton of heart, starting with our goalie,” Desimone said.

Smithtown East’s lead wouldn’t last long though, as the Thunderbirds scored three unanswered goals for a 9-7 advantage with 2:30 left in the third.

Senior Bobby Burns put an end to the Connetquot rally, and Herber’s faceoff win led to the game-tying goal by senior Mike Marino. Marino tied the game again minutes later, 10-10, and the Bulls’ defense stood strong in the final eight minutes, cutting off all lanes to the cage.

“[Anthony] Voelker played great on [Connetquot junior attack George Wichelns],” Herber said. “He’s a big part of Connetquot’s team and [Brian] Cosgrove was playing great off ball, which really slowed them down.”

Desimone passed to Eschbach for the game-winning goal, and Desimone put the game away soon after.

“It all starts in our cage with our goalie Thomas Harkin — he’s been great all year, and our faceoff kid Brian Herber battling giving us chances, giving us the ball, giving us the opportunity to play offense,” Lambert said. “It was a total team effort, but those two guys, they’re the backbone of our team.”

Smithtown East will face crosstown rival Smithtown West in the semifinals May 25 at 6:30 p.m.

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