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The Tigers fought tooth and nail to top Sachem North, 14-12, on Tuesday afternoon.

Despite being down early, the Northport boys’ lacrosse team battled back to grind out another victory, to take a 16-0 win streak into the postseason, after going 11-0 in League I to earn the No. 1 seed.

“It’s very satisfying because the boys showed the traits they’ve had all season,” Northport head coach George Searing said of the win over Sachem. “They met some adversity, but the nice thing was that they didn’t fold. They persevered and they came back the way we were expecting them to.”

Northport scored an early goal, but Sachem countered a minute later, scored again, and didn’t trail thereafter until midway through the third quarter.

“It’s sort of been their trademark all year,” Searing said. “They don’t let this stuff bother them because they work real hard in practice and we prepare for situations, so it didn’t surprise me one bit that even though we got down and things were going against us, we still persevered and found a way to stick with the program, move forward and find a way to score those winning goals.”

Senior attack and co-captain Rocco Sutherland scored to tie the game at 2-2, and after two Sachem goals, one with 40 seconds left in the quarter, scored again with five ticks left on the clock to pull the team within one, 4-3.

Sachem pulled out to a 6-3 lead after Northport turned the ball over several times, and after a few key saves by senior goalkeeper and co-captain Scott Hatch, junior defender Finn Goonan recovered the ball at midfield and took it all the way for the score with 31 seconds left in the halftime, to close the gap 6-4.

The coaches pumped up their players in the huddle before they took to the field for the third time, shouting: “Take a look around you. I want to see people who are ready to go. Take it one play at a time. Focus. Who cares what they think is going to happen out there. We know what’s going to happen out there.”

Senior midfielder Nick Roros said something clicked for his team that the Tigers were able to pull it together.

“Our communication was weak in the beginning, but after halftime, we really communicated very well together and we understood what had to happen,” he said. “And we made it happen.”

Senior midfielder, faceoff specialist and co-captain Austin Henningsen also thought things changed for his team after halftime.

“We were down in the beginning, which was tough for us, but something really happened at halftime,” he said. “Coach got us fired up and we scored two goals in the first minute or minute and half, and we took off from there.”

Roros received a pass after a ground ball scoop up off the center draw, and rocketed a shot in at the 11:47 mark to pull his team within one goal, 6-5.

Two minutes later, senior attack Jake Carroll scored his second goal of the game while Sachem was a man down, to retie the game, 6-6.

After senior goalkeeper and co-captain Billy Kelly made a save in goal for the Tigers, Roros scored off an assist from sophomore Ryan Magnuson to give the Tigers their first lead since the first goal of the game.

Sachem tied the game and continued the pattern of last-second goals, scoring with nine seconds remaining in the third to pull ahead 8-7, but after Henningsen won the faceoff, senior attack Jack Sullivan answered with a buzzer-beater to tie the game, again.

Henningsen, who won 24 of 29 faceoffs, opened the fourth winning another, and faked a pass he took all the way to goal for the score and a 9-8 lead.

“I love throwing a fake pass, it’s a great play. I was running down off the faceoff, threw the fake pass to Roros and the guy fell for it, I kept going straight down and put it in the back of the net. But they have a great goalkeeper — he’s outstanding. I was even surprised it went in,” he said with a laugh.

Carroll and Magnuson connected for a goal for the second time in the game, this time to give the team its first advantage of the game, 10-8.

Kelly made another save, but Sachem grabbed the rebound and found the back of the net. The Tigers scored again, but Sachem countered with two goals to tie the game, 11-11.

Northport wouldn’t let Sachem take the lead again, and Henningsen won the ensuing faceoff and passed the ball to Roros in front for his hat trick goal.

“I think we all just realized that this could be our last game playing together,” Roros said. “We’ve all played together since we were little kids; we all love playing together and we didn’t want this to be our last time.”

Henningsen continued his dominating performance at midfield, leading to Sutherland’s third and fourth goal, as the Tigers pounced out in front, 14-11.

With 29 seconds left on the clock, Sachem gained possession after the ball rolled out of bounds, and scored with 11 seconds remaining in the game. Sachem called two timeouts in a row, but turned the ball over, and Northport held on for the 14-12 win.

“The biggest thing was Austin Henningsen on the faceoffs,” Searing said. “No matter what they did, we knew we would get the ball back, and that’s a very big confidence booster for a lot of our guys, because even if we make a mistake and we give up a goal, we know we’re going to get the ball back.”

Henningsen admits he started off a little shaky, but found his rhythm.

“They had some good defensive tactics on the faceoff today, but I figured it out toward the end,” he said of the team’s three-player lineup he was not accustomed to. “I knew what I was doing and I got comfortable with it, and kept winning. And the wing guys were phenomenal — boxing out so I could scoop it up.”

Searing continued to credit Henningsen, adding that because the team can continue to win possession after a score, as long as they don’t make too many mistakes and turn the ball over, teams don’t get on a scoring run against the Tigers, while, if Northport remains mistake-free, the team will continue to win faceoffs and score goals for runs of their own.

“He’s a very special player.” Searing said of Henningsen. “He’s got the heart of a lion and he was exhausted getting fouled and slashed, and he still persevered and sacrificed so the team could win this game.”

No. 1 Northport will host No. 4 Ward Melville at Veterans Park Friday at 4:15 p.m. in the Class A semifinal match, where the team hopes to keep its streak alive.

“We’re confident that we’re going to come out and play just the way we have been,” Searing said. “ It’s been a winning formula so far, so we’re hoping it can continue.”

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Eddie Munoz celebrates a goal. Photo by Clayton Collier

By Clayton Collier

With 13 goals in the first half, the No. 4-seeded Ward Melville boys’ lacrosse team made quick work of No. 5 Half Hollow Hills East in a 17-1 routing Tuesday in the Suffolk County Class A quarterfinals.

Ward Melville head coach Jay Negus stressed to his team the need for a full 48 minutes of quality play to best their opponent.

“I’m very, very happy with the team’s effort today,” he said. “All year long I’ve been on them to play four quarters of Ward Melville lacrosse together, and today was it. … We put it all together today and at the perfect time. This is a very dangerous team when we can do that.”

Hills East head coach Gordie Hodgson said the Patriots were in control of the game the whole way through.

“I thought Ward Melville dominated in every aspect of the game,” he said. “They dominated on the faceoff and counter possession, and we weren’t able to generate offense because of it.”

Dan Bucaro maintains possession with Half Hollow Hills East players racing to stop him. Photo by Clayton Collier
Dan Bucaro maintains possession with Half Hollow Hills East players racing to stop him. Photo by Clayton Collier

In retrospect, all the Patriots needed was a 10-minute stretch to put the game out of reach for the Thunderbirds.

Ward Melville senior attack Dan Bucaro notched the first goal of the afternoon with just over five minutes remaining in the first quarter, muscling past a pair of Hills East defenders to sneak one past Thunderbirds goaltender Jordan Eichholz on the left side of the net. The goal was Bucaro’s first of four on the day.

“I came out fast and ready to go — the team really got me going,” he said. “Everyone came together today.”

The Georgetown University-bound senior said his work isn’t done with Ward Melville, and his goal opened the floodgates for the Patriots, as they tacked on an additional eight goals over the next 10 minutes of play.

Sophomore midfielder Eddie Munoz, who was responsible for two of those eight goals, said Negus told the team at halftime that the kind of offensive output the Patriots had has always been possible for the team.

“He said this was one of our first games this year that we played a full half,” Munoz said of Negus’ message to the team, while up 13-1. “We started off slow this season, so he said it was the first time that we started a first half well, and told us to just keep going.”

Senior attack Billy McGinley had a trio of goals, while classmates and midfielders Jake McCulloch, James Kickel and John Burgdoerfer each scored twice as well.

The lone Thunderbirds goal came on a deflection from Ward Melville junior goaltender D.J. Kellerman.

“He had a goal,” Bucaro said, with a laugh. “He played great, really. He’s just got to keep it up.”

Kellerman made eight saves on the day.

The Patriots will head to Northport Friday for the semifinals, taking on the No. 1-seeded Tigers at 4:15 p.m. at Veterans Park. Ward Melville will enter the game with a chip on their collective shoulder. The last time the two teams matched up, Northport scored four goals in the final quarter to edge out the Patriots, 7-6. Bucaro said his team is hungry to get the win the second time around.

“I’m expecting a really tough game,” he said. “They’re a very good team. We’ve got to get payback; we’ve got to get angry and be ready to play.”

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The Mount Sinai boy’s lacrosse team embraces one another in celebration of the Mustangs’ first-round playoff win over Islip, 6-4, on May 18. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The bond between seniors Danny Bullis and Dan Keenan spans nearly eight years, and the connection between the attackmen was evident on the field Monday as the two connected for half of the No. 3-ranked Mount Sinai boys’ lacrosse team’s goals in a 6-4 victory over No. 6 Islip in the first round of the Division I Class A playoffs Monday.

Mount Sinai’s Griffin McGrath scoops up the ground ball off the faceoff in the Mustangs’ 6-4 win over Islip on May 18, in the first round of the Division I Class A playoffs. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Mount Sinai’s Griffin McGrath scoops up the ground ball off the faceoff in the Mustangs’ 6-4 win over Islip on May 18, in the first round of the Division I Class A playoffs. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“We practice together all of the time … and there’s a good connection there,” Bullis said. “I always know where he is on the field so I tend to feed the ball to him.”

With the game tied 1-1 to the start of the second quarter, the team’s leading scorers connected for their first goal of the evening.

Less than two minutes in, sophomore Nick Cesario scooped up a turnover in the Mustangs’ zone and carried it all the way down the field before passing it to Bullis. Milliseconds after receiving the pass, Bullis dished the ball outside to the left of the goal to Keenan, who whipped it in past the goalkeeper to break the tie.

Senior Tony DiMonti scored next from 30 yards out off an assist from senior Jason Vengilio, and senior goalkeeper Charlie Faughnan made two big stops — one while the team was a man down — to preserve the 3-1 advantage heading into the halftime break.

“Playoffs are playoffs and every game is going to be a battle,” Mount Sinai head coach Harold Drumm said. “Islip is an excellent team, and we’re just really proud of the kids. They worked really hard.”

Mount Sinai’s Charlie Faughnan deflects the ball away from the net in the Mustangs’ 6-4 win over Islip on May 18, in the first round of the Division I Class A playoffs. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Mount Sinai’s Charlie Faughnan deflects the ball away from the net in the Mustangs’ 6-4 win over Islip on May 18, in the first round of the Division I Class A playoffs. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Bullis tallied the first goal of the third stanza off an assist by junior Griffin McGrath, and after Islip scored the next goal of the game to cut the lead in half, Keenan found the back of the net off another pass from Bullis to give Mount Sinai a 5-2 lead.

Islip refused to go down quietly and kept pushing for a goal. The team got an open look at the net, but couldn’t capitalize and made one final attempt with nine seconds left in the quarter, but Faughnan came through with another save.

“Charlie’s been playing outstanding,” Drumm said of his goalkeeper, who finished the game with seven saves. “Charlie saves us and bails us out a lot. Our defense does a great job, but Charlie is the backbone of that and he makes some saves that I just have to thank him after the game for.”

Islip squeezed a goal past Faughnan with 8:55 left to play, and just over a minute later, Bullis and Keenan connected for a final time, for Kennan’s hat trick goal.

“Dan Keenan, when he shoots overhand, he has one of the best shots in the league, without question, and Danny Bullis is an excellent lacrosse player,” Drumm said. “[Bullis] can feed, shoot, dodge, he does a great job. He looks for anybody that’s open. They work in practice together all the time and they work well together, so it’s a nice matchup.”

Mount Sinai’s Danny Bullis shoots the ball over an Islip player for a goal in the Mustangs’ 6-4 win over Islip on May 18, in the first round of the Division I Class A playoffs. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Mount Sinai’s Danny Bullis shoots the ball over an Islip player for a goal in the Mustangs’ 6-4 win over Islip on May 18, in the first round of the Division I Class A playoffs. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Islip scored once more two minutes later and threatened late in the game, but Mount Sinai’s defense shut down any Islip opportunities and the offense continued to pass the ball around the outside to eat some time off the clock and preserve the win.

“It was a good team win,” Bullis said. “Our defense was really solid, and goalkeeping, and offensively we moved the ball well. [In the second quarter] we just started making better choices on offense like possessing the ball; moving the ball, and it just started to click.”

Mount Sinai extended an 11-game win streak into the postseason, and will have another home game Thursday, where the team will host No. 7 Eastport-South Manor at 4 p.m.

“We had an excellent regular-season for us and we’re real proud of the guys, but none of that really matters at this point,” Drumm said. “What matter is now and we won the game today and moving into [today] we play Eastport-South Manor … and we’re prepared. We’ll go into that game knowing it’s going to be a game liked this — a battle — and just try to win every play and hopefully come out with a ‘W.’”

This version corrects the spelling of Tony DiMonti’s name.

Northport's Olivia Carner dumps the ball into the cage over the Bay Shore goalkeeper’s stick. Photo by Desirée Keegan

These Tigers are showing their teeth.

The Northport girls’ lacrosse team capped off the regular season with a six-game winning streak, holding Bay Shore scoreless through the first half Tuesday and trampling the Marauders 13-4, to prove they’re not a team to take lightly in the playoffs.

“I thought they played with confidence,” Northport head coach Carol Rose said. “We played aggressive on defense, fairly patient on offense and we were able to execute some of these fast-break opportunities that we had and not have any letdown in the second half like we had in the past two games. Maintaining the momentum was good.”

Northport senior attack Gabbi Labuskes put the team’s first point on the board after a foul call, and from there the team kept the ball rolling, scoring four more unanswered goals — with Labuskes scoring the last one — to take a 5-0 lead into the halftime break.

Northport's Gabbi Labuskes moves the ball across the field past two Bay Shore players. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Northport’s Gabbi Labuskes moves the ball across the field past two Bay Shore players. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“I think a big part of our win was going to be who won the first draw of the game; who came out 100 percent,” Labuskes said. “Moving the ball up the field was probably our biggest help throughout the game because we were able to transition the ball with half-field passes really quick and get it over the defense’s head. I think that played a really big factor.”

The senior attack scored the opening goal of the second half after she bulled her way up the middle and lobbed the ball overhead for her hat trick goal.

Northport junior midfielder Natalie Langella was next to score, followed by eighth-grade midfielder Olivia Carner, who dumped the ball in top center over the goalkeeper’s stick for her second goal of the game.

“They felt good about themselves and I think that that was key, especially when we were losing draw controls” Rose said of her team’s ability to score. “I think we only won four out of 18 draws. That’s not so good. To be able to come out on top with a 13-4 win and lose all the draws is pretty amazing. It also shows a great defensive effort.”

Northport junior attack Courtney Orella whipped one past the keeper next, and with 11:36 left to play, Bay Shore finally put a point on the scoreboard to avoid the shutout.

Labuskes took over on the draw and helped her team win possession, and on the next scoring play, two of Northport’s youngest players connected for a goal. Carner dished the ball in front of the net to seventh-grade attack Danielle Pavinelli, who scored for a 10-1 advantage.

Bay Shore tacked on another goal when an opponent beat out Northport eighth-grade goalkeeper Claire Morris. Labuskes followed with her fourth goal of the game, after clashing with two Bay Shore defenders and shooting over a cluster of defenders while sliding into the turf, and Bay Shore scored again to bring the score to 11-3.

“I think the defense has come a long way,” Rose said of her team. “They’ve been experimenting with three or four different types of defenses and they’re finally comfortable with a couple of them.”

Labuskes scored her fifth goal of the game off an assist by senior midfielder and co-captain Victoria D’Amato. After a Bay Shore goal, Pavinelli tallied the final goal of the game on a bounce shot with 23 seconds left on the clock.

Heading into playoffs, Rose would like to see her team focus on winning more draws and limiting the turnovers, but she’s confident in her Tigers, who finished the regular season 12-4 overall with an 11-3 mark in Division I.

“We only had three loses in the regular season — they were close, and I think it’s anybody’s game,” Rose said of heading into the postseason. “Whoever plays with the most head, heart and hustle will come out on top.”

The No. 3-seeded Tigers will face off against the winner of Saturday’s No. 6 Ward Melville versus No. 11 Half Hollow Hills game at home on Tuesday, May 19. The opening draw is scheduled for 4 p.m.

Like her coach, Labuskes is sure her team has what it takes to make a run this postseason.

“It feels deserved,” Labuskes said of the win. “I think this team can do whatever we want it to do. I think we have the potential to go all the way if we want to put the work in and if we want it that bad.”

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Holly Regan bounces the ball in for a Patriots goal. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

After a slow start, the Ward Melville girls’ lacrosse team kicked it into high gear to top Sachem North, 14-6, on the Patriots’ home turf Tuesday in their final game of the regular season.

After a senior day celebration for the 13 girls graduating on the roster, Ward Melville went to work.

Kayla Purdy fires at the cage for Ward Melville. Photo by Bill Landon
Kayla Purdy fires at the cage for Ward Melville. Photo by Bill Landon

Senior attack Samantha Nemirov dished one off to fellow classmate Alex Vignona, an attack and co-captain, who drove the ball home. Five minutes later, Ward Melville senior midfielder and co-captain Kayla Purdy found the back of the cage unassisted, to help her team pull out in front, 2-0.

Sachem North fired two straight shots to tie the game, but Ward Melville senior attack Katlyn Scarpinella, on a penalty play from the circle, faked a shot and flicked the ball over to Nemirov, who dumped it into the corner to help her team pull out in front, 3-2, to end the scoring in the first half.

“We came out strong early in the game. but they had a lot of good looks at the cage and they really ran our defense well,” Ward Melville head coach Kerri Kilkenny said. “We came out on fire in the second half, we sparked it on transition, we were more aggressive on the draw controls and we pushed forward.”

Ward Melville senior Catherine Smith, an attack and co-captain, got the ball rolling two minutes into the second half with a shot between the pipes, and Vignona and Nemirov connected on another play, this time, with Vignona assisting, as the team edged ahead 5-2. Nemirov returned the favor and dished one off to sophomore midfielder Kerry McKeever, whose shot found its mark with 19:30 left to play.

Ward Melville sophomore attack Kaitlin Thornton hit Nemirov, who was cutting across the front of the net, and whipped it in for her hat trick goal, and junior attack Holly Regan scored unassisted to give her team a commanding 8-2 lead.

“I think we started off a little slow early in the game,” Nemirov said, “But then we were able to put the pieces together and finish strong.”

Alex Vignona shoot for Ward Melville. Photo by Bill Landon
Alex Vignona shoot for Ward Melville. Photo by Bill Landon

With 13 minutes left Sachem North notched two unanswered goals, but Ward Melville’s Thornton and Nemirov scored next to bring the score to 10-4.

“We stepped it up in the second half,” Thornton said. “We won the draw and we pushed the ball to the cage.”

Sachem North’s defense picked off a pass near the crease and with three quick passes, the team advanced the ball the length of the field and found the net to trail by five.

Plagued by penalties, Ward Melville’s opponent was down two players, and Kilkenny said she was impressed with her team’s poise against Sachem North’s aggressive style of play.

“The girls held their composure through all of their yellow cards and aggressive play, and I was pleased with their discipline,” she said.

Another yellow card left Ward Melville up three players, and the Patriots looked to cash in on the opportunity.

Regan scored on a penalty shot, Nemirov tacked on another, and Purdy also scored off a penalty shot to bring the score to 13-5 with 1:32 left in the game.

“In the second half we just went to goal more — we were smarter with our passes,” Regan said. “We were making smart looks in the middle and our shooting percentage went up.”

Sachem North wouldn’t go quietly and stretched the net once more before Vignona tacked on the final goal of the game in the closing seconds, to put it away, 14-6.

“We were very excited at the start of the game because it was senior day,” Vignona said. “In the second half we picked it up, we were hitting our passes and we hit the back of the net, so it was just awesome for our senior day to win this one.”

With the win, the Patriots improve to 10-4 in Division I. As the No. 6 seed, the Patriots will play No. 11 Half Hollow Hills West on Saturday, May 16, in the first round of the playoffs. The opening draw is scheduled for noon.

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Mount Sinai’s Sydney Pirreca moves the ball deep into Rocky Point’s zone with Christina Bellissimo at her hip. The Mustangs pulled away with a 10-5 win over the Eagles on May 9 to go undefeated in Division II. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

The Mount Sinai girls’ lacrosse team finished an undefeated, perfect season in Division II with a 10-5 win over Rocky Point Saturday, while also squashing the Eagles’ hopes of a postseason appearance.

Rocky Point led by two early on, but the Mount Sinai Mustangs rallied and continued to answer back until the team took control of the game to earn a first-round bye with a 15-1 overall mark and 14-0 conference showing.

Rocky Point’s Madison Sanchez maintains possession of the ball at Mount Sinai’s Sydney Pirreca checks her, in the Mustangs’ 10-5 win over the Eagles May 9. Photo by Bill Landon
Rocky Point’s Madison Sanchez maintains possession of the ball at Mount Sinai’s Sydney Pirreca checks her, in the Mustangs’ 10-5 win over the Eagles May 9. Photo by Bill Landon

“We lost a nonleague game to St Anthony’s earlier [in the season], and with a playoff loss last season, we’ve only lost two games in the last three years,” Mount Sinai head coach Al Bertolone said. “Right now, there’s a culture that’s developed. They really believe in themselves, they believe in the plan and I’ve got winners in each grade level, so every year, the next group has taken over.”

The Mustangs struck first when senior co-captain Kasey Mitchell found the back of the cage 30 seconds in to get her team on the scoreboard.

Rocky Point freshman Madison Sanchez answered back three minutes later to tie the game at 1-1, and Rocky Point eighth-grader Brianna Carrasquillo scored the next two goals. First, she snagged a rebound off the pipe from a penalty attempt and buried her shot to retake the lead, and fired again five minutes later for the score with an assist from sophomore attack Christina Ferrara, to put her team out in front, 3-1.

“We really should have focused on the ground balls and the draws,” Carrasquillo said. “Our offense was good early on, but we needed to continue that in the second half.”

Mount Sinai’s Pirreca rocketed a shot between the pipes, and freshman attack Meaghan Tyrrell found the back of the cage next to retie the game, 3-3.

Mount Sinai continued to score, and this time, it was senior Jessica Demeo’s turn when she scored off an assist from Mitchell, but the lead didn’t last for long, as Rocky Point’s Brianna Lamereux sent her shot home with 7:57 left in the first to bring the score to 4-4.

Mount Sinai freshman Camryn Harloff answered the call to put her team out front 5-4, and give the team an advantage that would last for the rest of the game.

With 25 seconds left in the half, Mitchell fired a shot from the right side that hit the back of the net and game her team a 6-4 lead heading into the halftime break.

Mount Sinai’s Kasey Mitchell heads up the field around Rocky Point’s Brianna Lamereux in the Mustangs’ 10-5 win over the Eagles on May 9 that gave the team a perfect 14-0 mark in Division II. Photo by Bill Landon
Mount Sinai’s Kasey Mitchell heads up the field around Rocky Point’s Brianna Lamereux in the Mustangs’ 10-5 win over the Eagles on May 9 that gave the team a perfect 14-0 mark in Division II. Photo by Bill Landon

“We knew they were going to play a full 50 minutes — they’re a complete team and it’s no accident that they’re number one in the league,” Rocky Point head coach Dan Spallina said. “They’ve got great leadership; just look at the talent they have up and down their roster.”

Seven minutes into the second half Demeo scored again for her second goal of the game.

According to Rocky Point’s Sanchez, in order to have a chance against a powerhouse like Mount Sinai, her team would had to contain two of the team’s top players.

“We knew about Sydney Pirreca and Kasey Mitchell, and in order to win, we had to stop them,” she said. “But we couldn’t.”

Pirreca hit the scoreboard next off an assist from Tyrrell to surge ahead 8-4 with 12 minutes left to play, and Demeo split the pipes for her hat trick goal, to put her team out front 9-4 with just under 11 minutes left.

“It’s all about team chemistry,” Demeo said. “As good as the players are that we have [individually], the only thing that matters is the team. We do so much together off the lacrosse field and that really makes us better.”

Rocky Point wouldn’t go quietly, and freshman Christina Bellissimo found the net to trim the deficit to 9-5.

Pirreca shot the ball to the back of the cage a final time for a hat trick of her own, and put the game away 10-5.

From there, Mount Sinai burned time off the clock until the game was over. As the No. 1 seed, the Mustangs will open the postseason at home on Wednesday May 20.

Pirreca said her team will continue to do what it’s done all season, which she credits as the reason why her team went undefeated.

“[We] work hard and we work as a team,” she said. “We have a very strong bond between us, our coaches are great and we take it day by day. We only focus on one game at a time, and we never look ahead.”

Middle Country’s Christine Gironda races Smithtown West’s Natalie Lynch for the ground ball off the draw in the Mad Dogs’ 17-13 win over the Bulls on May 8. With the win, Middle Country goes undefeated in regular season play. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The Middle Country girls’ lacrosse team has made history, finishing a perfect season Friday with a 17-13 win over Smithtown West, to go undefeated for the first time in district history.

“The girls played awesome today, and honestly, at practice yesterday, we didn’t even talk about being undefeated,” Middle Country head coach Lindsay Dolson said. “These girls are smart, great lacrosse players. I don’t do much but steer the ship. Now we’re back to 0-0, and let the playoffs begin.”

Middle Country’s Nikki Ortega gains possession of the ball in the Mad Dogs’ zone, in her team’s 17-13 win over Smithtown West on May 8. With the win, Middle Country finished the regular season undefeated at 16-0, with a 14-0 mark in Division I. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Middle Country’s Nikki Ortega gains possession of the ball in the Mad Dogs’ zone, in her team’s 17-13 win over Smithtown West on May 8. With the win, Middle Country finished the regular season undefeated at 16-0, with a 14-0 mark in Division I. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The victory places the team first in Division I.

The Mad Dogs were off to a strong start as usual, lighting up the scoreboard and rattling off seven unanswered goals before Smithtown West midfielder Mackenzie Heldberg, a junior, put the Bulls’ first point on the board. Each team scored four more goals in the first half, to bring the score to 11-5 heading into the break.

“Every game we’re growing, we’re coming together and our chemistry is amazing on and off the field,” senior midfielder and attack Nikki Ortega said. “We’re best friends off the field, and it really shows when we play on the field. I’m so proud of the team, and it’s really all come together.”

Ortega got the ball rolling in the second half after senior goalkeeper Ashley Miller made a big save. Ortega passed the ball to classmate Allison DiPaola, who knocked a shot in early for the 12-5 advantage.

Senior midfielder Christine Gironda continued to aid the Mad Dogs in gaining possession off the draw, which helped her team continue to score and maintain its lead.

“Momentum is everything in this game, and winning the draws gave us so much more momentum and really put us up,” Ortega said.

Ortega continued a series of strong assists when she passed the ball to her younger sister, Jamie, a sophomore midfielder, and Miller followed with two saves to keep the Bulls at bay.

Middle Country’s Amanda Masullo squeezes between Smithtown West’s Kalya Kosubinsky and Katie Aldrich as she moves the ball up the field in the Mad Dogs’ 17-13 win over the Bulls on May 8. With the win, Middle Country goes undefeated in regular season play. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Middle Country’s Amanda Masullo squeezes between Smithtown West’s Kalya Kosubinsky and Katie Aldrich as she moves the ball up the field in the Mad Dogs’ 17-13 win over the Bulls on May 8. With the win, Middle Country goes undefeated in regular season play. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“That’s not how they play — they were definitely intimidated, without a doubt,” Smithtown West head coach Carie Bodo said of her team. “I think they put so much pressure on themselves, but in the second half, they were pissed, and they came out and played, and we outscored [Middle Country] in the second half.”

It took a little while for the Bulls to find their groove, and after Nikki Ortega scored off an assist from her younger sister to make the score 16-6 with 15:45 left to play, Smithtown West came back to score five unanswered goals — two by sophomore midfielder Kayla Kosubinsky — and force Middle Country to call a timeout.

“I think in the second half we really stepped it up,” Kosubinsky said. “I think we needed to figure out what we needed to do quicker in the game before there wasn’t much time left, but these girls are amazing and every person has their own role on this team and I think we all work so good together.”

The Mad Dogs regrouped in their huddle.

“This’ll show how much you want it,” Nikki Ortega said to her team. “If we want it, we’ll win.”

Jamie Ortega dished the ball to DiPaola for her hat trick goal, and although the Bulls tacked on two more to end the scoring for the game, Miller made two more stops, leaving the Mad Dogs with an undefeated season at 16-0 with a 14-0 mark in conference play.

Middle Country’s Jamie Ortega shoots the ball over a swarm of Smithtown West players in her team’s 17-13 win over the Bulls on May 8. With the win, the Mad Dogs finished the regular season undefeated at 16-0, with a 14-0 mark in Division I. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Middle Country’s Jamie Ortega shoots the ball over a swarm of Smithtown West players in her team’s 17-13 win over the Bulls on May 8. With the win, the Mad Dogs finished the regular season undefeated at 16-0, with a 14-0 mark in Division I. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“Once you have your first save down you have the adrenaline to keep going,” Miller said. “We all try to stay positive and we don’t get down on each other, but bring each other up. I feel like we have good motion going on, and we’re going to keep it going.”

Nikki Ortega finished the game with four goals and five assists, while Jamie Ortega also finished with nine points, off five goals and four assists. Behind DiPaola’s hat trick was sophomore Ava Barry and eighth-grader Sophie Alois with two goals. Sophomore midfielder Amanda Masullo tacked on a goal and an assist, and her twin sister Rachel rounded out the scoring with an assist, while Miller finished with a game-high eight saves.

“It’s something I never dreamed of ever doing,” Nikki Ortega said of going undefeated. “Although it puts a lot of pressure on us for playoffs, it’s the most incredible feeling.”

She feels her team still needs to work on being more composed, especially when its opponent applies pressure and comes back in a game. However, she thinks her team has what it takes to go further than its semifinal appearance last season.

“We have to keep our heads up,” she said. “Every game I play like it’s my last. This is how I’d want to end my season and my career at Middle Country. I think if there was any year that we could go all the way, it’s this year.”

Miller Place's Mike Bodnar maintains possession with a longstick midfielder pressuring to try and force a turnover. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The Panthers pounced early, and despite letting their advantage slip away, the Miller Place boys’ lacrosse team came away with a 7-4 win over Westhampton Beach Monday to improve to 11-2 in League III.

“Westhampton came here and they always play us tough,” Miller Place head coach Keith Lizzi said. “They come in, they run a tough defense and they had us thinking and trying to do different things every possession, but we were able to score in spurts and pull away at the end.”

Miller Place's Jake Buonaiuto makes his way past a swarm of Westhampton players. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Miller Place’s Jake Buonaiuto makes his way past a swarm of Westhampton players. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The first spurt came in the opening minutes of the first quarter. Miller Place senior midfielder and co-captain Brendan Callahan stuffed the ball in, less than a minute into the game, off an assist from senior midfielder and co-captain Thomas Liantonio. Just 30 seconds later, the team did it again. This time, sophomore midfielder Kevin Gersbeck scored off an assist from junior attack Chris Nielsen.

Next, it was senior attack and co-captain Jake Buonaiuto’s turn, when he scored unassisted for an early 3-0 lead.

Miller Place’s defense drove Westhampton to take difficult shots as the Panthers surrounded their opponents and forced turnovers, but with 5:56 left in the quarter, Westhampton put its first point on the board.

Liantonio scored a goal of his own next, after Buonaiuto picked up an offensive rebound and passed it out and across the field to the senior midfielder, who whipped it in for the 4-1 advantage to end the first 12 minutes of play.

“The quick goals were definitely a good momentum booster, but we didn’t really take it and run with it,” Liantonio said. “We stalled out.”

Forced turnovers and saves by Westhampton’s goalkeeper, who made 13 during the match, kept Miller Place scoreless in the second, while the Hurricanes tacked on one goal to cut the Panthers’ lead to 4-2, heading into the halftime break.

“In the opening minutes we came out hot and then we kind of settled in,” Lizzi said. “Their defense settled in I think, too, and it was just trying to figure each other out offensively and defensively.”

Westhampton was able to get the ball rolling, and in the opening minutes of the third stanza, the team scored two quick goals to tie the game, 4-4.

Kevin Gersbeck pulls back to fire the ball across the field for Miller Place. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Kevin Gersbeck pulls back to fire the ball across the field for Miller Place. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Miller Place won faceoffs and scooped up some ground balls, but bad passes that bounced out of bounds helped the Hurricanes regain possession.

“We got a little complacent,” Buonaiuto said. “We thought we could just score, score, score, but obviously, that didn’t happen. We just needed to relax, find and get back into our rhythm, and find our way, which we did.”

With 5:45 left in the third, Buonaiuto, from behind the cage, passed the ball to Gersbeck in front, whose shot was saved by the goalkeeper, but bounced back behind the net. Buonaiuto scooped it up and again passed it in front to Gersbeck, whose shot hit its mark this time, for a 5-4 advantage.

Miller Place made a few big saves to preserve the lead heading into the fourth, and the Panthers held the Hurricanes scoreless, while Buonaiuto and Liantonio connected for another goal. This time, Liantonio assisted after scooping up a ground ball in the Panthers’ zone and taking it all the way up the field before passing to Buonaiuto, who rocketed his shot into the back of the cage. With 2:51 left to play, Nielsen connected with Gersbeck for the final score of the game, and Gersbeck’s hat trick goal.

Junior goalkeeper Jake Bowrosen finished with seven saves, while classmate Joe Kessler made five.

“Defensively, we really had a good game I thought,” Lizzi said. “Both goalies played excellent and [senior] Christian Stalter played great at the faceoff ‘X.’”

With two regular-season matchups left before the playoffs, the Panthers will first travel to Harborfields Friday at 4:45 p.m. and follow by hosting Elwood-John Glenn on Tuesday, May 12, at 4:30 p.m. Miller Place is looking to take wins and momentum into the postseason.

“Our fundamentals weren’t there — passing and catching, we didn’t clear the ball well, didn’t catch, threw the ball out of bounds a lot and had a lot of turnovers today,” Liantonio said. “Every guy here brings something different to the team. We need to play a full game, cut down the turnovers and try to find a way to win.”

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Smithtown West’s Jimmy Caddigan dives and shoots the ball past Riverhead’s goalkeeper in the Bulls’ 14-0 win over the Blue Waves on Friday, May 1st. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

The Smithtown West boys’ lacrosse team blew the Riverhead Blue Waves out of the water in a dominating performance on its home turf Friday afternoon.

In a tune up game for the playoff-bound Bulls, the team controlled the draw, the clock and the time of possession, and shut out Riverhead, 14-0, to improve to 8-2 with two games left to play in regular season, League II play.

Smithtown West’s Jarrod Wilkom maintains possession with a Riverhead defender at his hip, in the Bulls’ 14-0 win over the Blue Waves on Friday, May 1st. Photo by Bill Landon
Smithtown West’s Jarrod Wilkom maintains possession with a Riverhead defender at his hip, in the Bulls’ 14-0 win over the Blue Waves on Friday, May 1st. Photo by Bill Landon

Smithtown hit the scoreboard quickly and often, and freshman attack Kyle Zawadzki put away a pair in just over three minutes of play. The first, was off a feed from senior midfielder Jarrod Wilkom.

The Bulls rattled off five more goals to take a 7-0 lead into the second quarter.

Smithtown sophomore attack Jimmy Caddigan got on the scoreboard first, and sophomore midfielder Danny Riley tacked on the next. Senior attack Brennan Laforge found the cage twice — on his second, the ball ricocheted off the pipe and he snagged the rebound and drove his shot home — and Riley struck again for the final goal of the quarter.

“In the second half we took over on offense, but they’re a tough team,” Riley said.

Smithtown junior midfielder Dan Caroussos fed a diving Zawadzki in front of the cage, and while airborne, Zawadzki buried his shot before touching ground, for his hat trick to put his team out front 8-0.

Zawadzki wasn’t finished, and scored his fourth goal of the game off a feed from senior midfielder Garrett Brunsvold, to lead by nine to end the half.

The Bulls opened the second half with possession thanks to junior midfielder Danny Varello’s mastery at the faceoff “X,” and from there, they slowed the tempo of the game. Smithtown’s passing remained solid and deliberate throughout the game, as the team circled the cage looking for any opportunity. Opportunity came knocking three minutes into the third quarter, and Caroussos fired a shot between the pipes to surge ahead 10-0.

“We played very well today, our defense communicated very well and Zach Lamberti, our goalie who’s been playing great all season, had some big stops,” Smithtown West senior defenseman Chris Weider said. “Dan Varello at the ‘X’ won almost all of our face-offs today, and when you do that it means time of possession.”

With the heavy lead, Smithtown went to work on running down the clock. The team’s assistant coach, Tom Rotanz, barked from the sideline: “Zero-zero, get big, get wide,” as the Bull’s offense dropped back, spread out and snapped the ball around the circle, first one way, and then the other, as time bled off the clock.

Smithtown West’s Brett Disalvo passes the ball in the Bulls’ 14-0 win over Riverhead on Friday, May 1st. Photo by Bill Landon
Smithtown West’s Brett Disalvo passes the ball in the Bulls’ 14-0 win over Riverhead on Friday, May 1st. Photo by Bill Landon

Riverhead’s goalkeeper, fresh off a big stop, looked to clear the ball to a defender at his right, only to have Smithtown junior attack Nick Cascone take flight and snatch the ball from the defender’s waiting stick.

Upon landing, Cascone fed the ball to Caddigan in front of the cage. Caddigan snapped one by the startled keeper and put his team up 11-0.

“One of the things we’ve focused on all year is limiting our turnover,s because when you play the better teams, they’re going to beat you on it,” Caddigan said. “When you have the ball, they don’t, and when you have a face-off guy like Varello, you control the game.”

Rounding out the final three goals for Smithtown was freshman attack Matt Miller, Laforge, for his hat trick, and junior midfielder Brett Disalvo.

Smithtown head coach Bob Moltisanti was pleased with all aspects of his team’s game, and in particular, that of his senior goalkeeper.

“Danny Varello had an excellent game at the ‘X,’ and Zach Lamberti did a nice job in the cage turning away some of their good chances,” he said. “Our defense played close and we were able to shut the door on [Riverhead] a few times. Our attack did an excellent job on the ride — turning them over — and that created scoring chances for us in transition.”

With two games remaining in the regular season, Moltisanti said his strategy is to continue to take the season one game at a time.

“I’m happy if we get better every time we’re on the practice field, and we get better every game we play,” Moltisanti. “And right now, all we’re thinking about is getting ready for Copiague.”

Smithtown West hosted Copiague Wednesday, but results were not available by press time. The Bulls will conclude the regular season with a game at West Islip on Tuesday, May 12, at 5 p.m.

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Corey Aviles, after forcing a turnover, races across the field and fires a shot across the net for a Patriots goal. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Being down 3-1 early against championship-caliber boys’ lacrosse program in Chaminade didn’t scare the Ward Melville Patriots.

The host team bounced back to tie the game in the second quarter and eventually edged ahead, holding onto a marginal lead to pull away with a 7-5 nonleague win.

“Chaminade is a great program,” Ward Melville head coach Jay Negus said. “It was a slugfest and our boys took a big step beating a powerhouse like Chaminade and I’m very proud of them. Even though it wasn’t as pretty as I would have liked in terms of execution — we had some breakdowns — we just wanted to put four quarters together and we did that today. We got the result we were looking for.”

Danny Bucaro maintains possession of the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Danny Bucaro maintains possession of the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Both teams came out on fire right off the opening faceoff, and Chaminade scored two quick goals before Ward Melville put its first point on the board to cut the deficit in half. The two teams traded possession with some passing miscues, and at the end of the first quarter the score remained 2-1.

The Flyers (now 8-2, 5-0 NSCHSAA AAA) scored again in the opening minutes of the second to edge ahead with a score of 3-1, but the Patriots (now 10-2, 6-2 League I) answered back with two quick goals. The first was a stick-side high left shot by junior midfielder Owen McAvoy to cut the lead to one. The second was a rocket from the right goal post by senior midfielder Corey Aviles after he forced a turnover in the Patriots zone, carrying it all the way down the field for the tying goal at 3-3.

“It’s great to get a big win against a school like Chaminade,” McAvoy said. “It’s the first game we really came out here and went balls to the wall — and put it to them.”

McAvoy added another goal off an offensive rebound that shocked the Chaminade goalkeeper, and Aviles tallied his second point with nine seconds left in the half to give his team a 5-3 advantage heading into halftime.

Negus addressed his team during the break and explained to his athletes that the game was all about seizing the opportunities when they were presented to them.

“You guys are taking that next step to be at that level with this team,” he said. “We got to give the defense a rest. Bury the ball and make this game out of reach.”

Still struggling to win possession at the faceoff, Chaminade capitalized early in the third to make it 5-4, but Ward Melville junior goalkeeper D.J. Kellerman came through with two big saves to preserve the one-goal advantage.

D.J. Kellerman attempts a save. Photo by Desirée Keegan
D.J. Kellerman attempts a save. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“I felt confident,” Kellerman said. “A little shaky in the beginning, but my defense really shut it down. I love them — they’re great.”

Ward Melville ripped another crossing shot to bring the advantage back to two, 6-4, and Kellerman caught another save to maintain the lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Senior midfielder Jake McCulloch rocketed a shot from nearly 20 yards early in the final stanza, and Chaminade scored once more a minute later. Kellerman made three big saves in the final minutes to keep the Flyers at bay and seal the Patriots’ 7-5 victory.

“It’s a big win for us as a program,” Kellerman said. “We had a tough loss against Northport [6-7, on April 22] but we bounced back. Coach did a great job getting us ready and we’re a hardworking team.”

What McAvoy said he thinks continues to lead the players to success is that ability to continue to fight, even when the team is down.

“We were fighting for ground balls and hustled all over the field,” he said. “We were fired up in the locker room and thought this could be a big statement make for us. We laid some bodies all over the field and really made them feel our presence.”

Aviles and McAvoy finished with two goals each, and McCulloch and senior attack Danny Bucaro tacked on a goal and an assist apiece, while Kellerman made 13 saves on the evening.

Ward Melville was scheduled to host Brentwood on Wednesday. The Patriots will travel to Patchogue-Medford on Friday, and the opening faceoff is scheduled for 4:30 p.m.

“We’ve been talking about fighting back against adversity and that shows the character of the team,” Negus said. “Today we showed that we can battle back against the best of them.”