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Longwood

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By Bill Landon

It was a battle of the titans Feb. 27 as the Mustangs of Mount Sinai (21-3), the Class A small school champions, squared off against the Longwood Lions (21-2), the Class AA large school winners, for the overall Suffolk title.

The Lions outpaced the Mustangs for most of the way to capture the overall Suffolk crown at Walt Whitman High School with a 70-45 victory. They will advance to the Class AA Long Island Championship round.

Senior Gabby Sartori, who had led the way for several games in the playoffs, again set the pace of her team in scoring with two triples, two field goals and five from the line for 15 points. Senior Brooke Cergol hit three field goals and two treys for 12 while senior Margaret Kopcienski banked 11.

Mount Sinai lives to fight another day as they too will compete against Nassau County’s best in Class A action March 9 at Farmingdale State College. Tip-off is at noon.

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The Ward Melville girls volleyball team celebrates a point.

By Desirée Keegan

The Patriots are starting to roll, and aren’t showing any signs of slowing down.

The Ward Melville girls volleyball team pulled away from Longwood 25-11, 25-20, 25-14 for its fifth sweep and sixth straight win of the season Sept. 19 to remain undefeated.

Allie Sturgess continues the volley. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Head coach Charlie Fernandes said he hasn’t been afraid his team was going to lose, but thought in earlier games this season the Patriots eased up on its opponents. As of late, he said he’s enjoying seeing his Patriots (6-0 overall, 4-0 League I) play with fire to the end of matches.

“We want to play everybody as hard as we can and I thought in an earlier match this year we were performing well, but we let up a little,” he said. “Today we played all out the whole time and that’s what we’re looking for.”

Ward Melville jumped out to an early 8-4 lead and scored four straight points before a Longwood hit slammed into the middle of the Patriots defense. The Lions hit out of bounds on the next serve and then an out-of-bounds hit handed Ward Melville two of its next three points before Longwood called timeout. The team still couldn’t regroup from there, and the Patriots cruised to the end of the set.

“Game one was very efficient and we started filtering the other kids in,’” Fernandes said. “I thought everyone did a great job.”

Ward Melville junior middle blocker Morgan Persky, who had four blocks, said her team wanted to bring the same high level of play and energy onto the court against Longwood that it did Sept. 15 at Smithtown West. After winning the first set against Longwood by 14 points, she said she thought her team again took its foot off the gas.

Molly Fernandes serves the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“We came into the second set a little bit more relaxed, and we made some unforced errors,” she said.

The teams stayed neck and neck throughout most of the set. Ward Melville held advantages early and jumped ahead by five points at 11-6, but Longwood closed the gap over the next few minutes to tie the set at 12-12 and again at 16-16. Fernandes called timeout to get his players on the same page, and despite jumping ahead again, Longwood tied the game at 20-20 before the Patriots closed the set scoring the final five points. Sophomore libero Molly Cronin finished with 10 digs, and senior libero Molly Fernandes and sophomore outside hitter Jamie Agostino each had eight digs.

“After the timeout at 16-16 in the second set we realized that we needed to step it up,” Persky said. “I felt that we played much better after that and took control of the court from that point forward. This year, we have been very strong offensively from both the net and the service line.”

The team had holes to fill in the lineup after most of the starters were lost to graduation before this year, but senior setter Courtney Heaney said her team has adjusted well.

“A lot of us have been playing together for a long time,” she said. “We all play club together, and I think we have really good energy on the court, and togetherness, which helps to fill in those gaps left from last year.”

Courtney Heaney sets the ball up for an Anna Brun kill. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Fernandes said the return of two now senior outside hitters in Ashley Fuchs and Ryen Cinski has also put the team in the position it’s in.

“No one knows about them because they both sat out last year with ACL injuries,” he said. “On the court and off the court we have a tight-knit group and that always matters. I think something good is happening here.”

Heaney also gave a glowing review of her two teammates returning from injuries.

“They’re better than ever,” she said of the two outside hitters. “They’ve been doing really well — [they provide] big energy out there. Our biggest players are our outsides. We’re doing really great things this year and I’m really excited about it. We’re on a really great path.”

Persky said the team is working on maintaining its aggressiveness no matter who is on the other side of the court or what the scoreboard says, and Fernandes said he expects that killer instinct to come in time.

“We’re going to work on our defense,” he said, laughing. “It’s mid-September, so the coaches and I joke that there’s certain things we haven’t even worked on with the team yet in practice, and we’re already this good. For the first time in a long time we have a bench that I go to without blinking. We’re a good, strong volleyball team. Heck, this is a tremendous volleyball team, and I think we’re going to be in it at the end.”

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Taylor Tripptree races ahead of the pack and drives the lane for the layup in the Patriots' 56-18 win over William Floyd on Jan. 12. Photo by Desirée Keegan

With 10 players contributing to the score and more than half the points coming from three-pointers alone, the Ward Melville girls’ basketball team had no problem cruising to a 56-18 win over William Floyd Tuesday.

“We worked well together,” junior guard Hannah Lorenzen said. “We really stepped up our defense, and we have a lot of shooting guards that can make threes; we did that pretty well today.”

Kira Sells nails one of her four three-pointers on the evening in the Patriots' 56-18 win over William Floyd on Jan. 12. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Kira Sells nails one of her four three-pointers on the evening in the Patriots’ 56-18 win over William Floyd on Jan. 12. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The Patriots started the game off by scoring eight straight points, with senior forward Heidi Scarth scoring half of them. The team was stealing passes and forcing William Floyd turnovers, but the Colonials bounced back to score five straight points.

Ward Melville re-extended its lead by the end of the first quarter, with senior guard Kira Sells and junior guard and forward Taylor Tripptree knocking down a three-pointer apiece to give their team a commanding 14-5 lead.

“It’s definitely one of our strongest points to our game,” Sells said of scoring three-pointers. “I know I could do better. So I’m just working on getting better every game.”

Sells did do one better, though.

After Shannon Berry banked three field goals to swing the tempo of the game, Sells swished two more treys to help her team further its lead to 30-10 by halftime.

Lorenzen said her teammates did a good job of passing outside if they couldn’t enter the paint.

“It does help a lot, because if we can’t penetrate through the paint, we can kick it and depend on our shooting guards to make the threes, which helps us get ahead,” she said.

But Ward Melville head coach Bruce Haller said a team that wants to go up against the best-of-the-best in Suffolk County, like Brentwood, Longwood, Sachem East and the county-best Commack, would need to play with a more balanced attack.

“It’s a double-edged sword,” he said. “The three is a great weapon, but if you fall too much in love with it and your three isn’t going in that particular game, now what? It’s all or nothing. That’s why we’re focusing on getting the ball inside a little more and getting some second shots. When those threes get missed, someone needs to be hitting the board from the weak side to get some putbacks.”

Hannah Lorenzen remains in control as she sets up a play in the Patriots' 56-18 win over William Floyd on Jan. 12. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Hannah Lorenzen remains in control as she sets up a play in the Patriots’ 56-18 win over William Floyd on Jan. 12. Photo by Desirée Keegan

What did work for the team, though, was getting enough ahead that more bench players were able to see minutes.

“The kids work really hard in practice all the time and it’s nice to get them out on the court, get them some playing time and have them make some shots,” he said. “We have a very talented, deep group.”

Six of the 10 players that scored on that deep roster banked trifectas, and 31 of the team’s total points came from the five bench players that scored.

Bre Cohn and Maggie Zanone came off the bench in the fourth to score six points and three points, respectively, while stealing passes and dishing assists to close out the scoring for the game.

“We’re all close on and off the court,” Lorenzen said. “We have classes together, eat lunch together — so we’re all friends.”

Haller said his team has come a long way, making the decision to come together and step up to replace the injured freshman leading scorer from last year’s team: Lauren Hansen.

“They could have felt sorry for themselves,” he said. “Instead, a number of players are stepping up and taking over responsibilities or a bit of a different role that we didn’t anticipate them having in the preseason, and they’ve done a good job of it. Instead, they decided that they’re going to make a run for this thing.”

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Northport senior wide receiver John Tabert makes a diving catch in a previous game. File photo by Bill Landon

By Joe Galotti

After losing a perfect season in last year’s playoffs, No. 2 seeded Longwood looked like a team on a mission in their return to the Suffolk Division I semifinals on Friday night. Visiting No. 3 Northport allowed the Lions to strike for 14 points in the game’s opening minutes, and was never able to recover from the early blow, falling 48-21.

Northport senior quarterback Andrew Smith passes the ball up the middle in a previous game. File photo by Bill Landon
Northport senior quarterback Andrew Smith passes the ball up the middle in a previous game. File photo by Bill Landon

The loss not only marked the end of the 2015 season for the Tigers, but also the finish of the high school careers of many of the team’s key offensive players. Quarterback Andrew Smith, running back Dan Preston, fullback Rob Dosch, wideout John Tabert, center James Clemente and guard Rob Fontana will be moving on this spring.

“With all the struggles and all the work that we put in over the season, it’s tough coming to the end,” Preston said. “We gave it our all to get to the Long Island Championship, but we came up short.”

Northport dug itself an early hole in the contest, allowing a 75-yard touchdown run to junior Latrell Horton on Longwood’s first play from scrimmage. Then, on the Tigers next possession, Smith was intercepted by senior cornerback Mike Linbrunner, who proceeded to run the ball into the end zone to make it 14-0.

Later in the opening quarter, Longwood’s offense was deep in Lions’ territory, threatening to expand their early lead even further. But, Northport forced a fumble, which junior linebacker Andrew Havrilla was able to recover.

The play seemed to help settle things down for the Tigers, and the team was able to cut into the Lions’ lead soon after. Just seven seconds into the second quarter, Preston reached the end zone on a 7-yard touchdown rush, trimming Longwood’s advantage to 14-7.

“We showed our pride,” Preston said. “We’re not the type of team to just give up and lie down.”

With 7:40 remaining in the second, the Lions expanded their lead back to 14, when senior halfback Tahj Clark ran 31 yards for a touchdown.

But Northport continued to show fight, and with 4:41 remaining before the half, was able to pin the Tigers down in their own end zone and come away with a safety. Havrilla once again was responsible for a crucial play, this time making the tackle in the end zone.

Northport senior fullback Rob Dosch rushes up the field with the ball in a previous contest. File photo by Bill Landon
Northport senior fullback Rob Dosch rushes up the field with the ball in a previous contest. File photo by Bill Landon

With 1:48 left in the second quarter, Smith made it a 21-15 game, when he connected Tabert for a touchdown.

The Lions added another touchdown before the end of the half, but Northport still found itself within striking distance entering the third quarter.

“After they scored early on in the game, I was happy with the way we were able to fight through like we always do,” Smith said.

Unfortunately for the Tigers, it would be all Longwood in the second half. Clark added two more touchdown runs, to help give his team a commanding lead.

Dosch provided Northport’s only score in the final 24 minutes, registering a four-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.

The Lions move on to the Suffolk Division I finals to face off with No. 1 Lindenhurst at Stony Brook University. The Tigers meanwhile, finish with a 6-4 record.

There was plenty of emotion on the Northport sideline after the loss, knowing that this was the end for many of the team’s leading players.

“We had a good season,” Smith said. “It’s been a long one, and we fought through a lot. I’m proud of this team and what we were able to do.”

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Kings Park pitcher Cassandra Cancemi slides safely into third base in the Kingsmen’s 6-3 loss to Longwood in the first round of the Class AA playoffs on May 18. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Trailing 6-1 in the bottom of the seventh inning with two outs, the No. 6-seeded Kings Park softball team rallied to score two runs to close the gap against visiting No. 11 Longwood, but the Kingsmen’s efforts were not enough, as the team fell 6-3 in the opening round of the Class AA playoffs Monday.

Kings Park outfielder Kristen Plant makes contact in the Kingsmen’s 6-3 loss to Longwood in the first round of the Class AA playoffs on May 18. Photo by Bill Landon
Kings Park outfielder Kristen Plant makes contact in the Kingsmen’s 6-3 loss to Longwood in the first round of the Class AA playoffs on May 18. Photo by Bill Landon

Longwood never trailed, scoring the first run in the opening inning. With a runner in scoring position though, Kings Park sophomore pitcher Cassandra Cancemi fanned the batter to retire the side.

Kings Park tied the game in the bottom of the second when junior first baseman Gianna Cancemi smacked the ball deep to right field for a stand-up double, driving in senior catcher Ariana Ambrosio, but that was all the team could do until late in the game.

Longwood knocked on the door in the top of the fourth, loading the bases with two outs, and if Cancemi felt the pressure on the mound, she didn’t show it as she calmly struck out the batter to end the inning.

In the top of the fifth, senior second baseman Cheyenne Giarraputo scooped the ball out of the dirt to get the force at the bag, and helped the team capitalize on the only double play of the game, when she threw the ball to first at a waiting Cancemi, to retire the side.

Kings Park sophomore Amanda DeLaura took over on the mound to start the sixth inning, and Longwood scored two runs early to jump out to a 3-1 lead, and scored its fourth on a passed ball at home plate.

The Lions looked to put the game away, and crossed the plate two more times to take a 6-1 advantage into the bottom of the seventh.

With their backs against the wall in the bottom of the seventh with two outs, Kings Park junior outfielder Kristen Plant wouldn’t let her team go down quietly, and drove in a run with a shot to right center, to pull within four.

Kings Park first baseman Gianna Cancemi catches an infield fly ball in the Kingsmen’s 6-3 loss to Longwood in the first round of the Class AA playoffs on May 18. Photo by Bill Landon
Kings Park first baseman Gianna Cancemi catches an infield fly ball in the Kingsmen’s 6-3 loss to Longwood in the first round of the Class AA playoffs on May 18. Photo by Bill Landon

Kings Park junior third baseman Taryn McGinley’s bat spoke next with a long shot that scored Plant, to close the gap 6-3.

“It was tough when we got the two outs in our last at bat, but we were hopeful that we could rally back,” Giarraputo said. “We’ve done it before this season.”

With a final smack of the bat, Kings Park hit one into shallow right field, where a charging outfielder was able to track it down to end the game, and Kings Park’s season.

“We rallied back there late and that’s what we’ve done all season — we’d come back from a deficit and we usually clinched it,” Kings Park head coach Kim McGinley said. “But you can’t have four errors in the field and expect to win the game.”

Kings Park concluded its season with a 12-6 record in League III play, and despite graduating five seniors, will return eight juniors and two sophomores to the roster next season, with the hope of avenging the early postseason loss.

“In the bottom of the seventh I wasn’t worried about winning as much as playing as hard as we could,” Ambrosio said. “We gave it our best, and left it all out on the field today.”

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Dan DeCastro rips one deep into the outfield. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Having beaten Longwood the day before by just one run, the Ward Melville baseball team invaded the Lions’ territory Tuesday and let its pitching and batting do the talking to prove the Patriots’ worth. When the dust settled, the Patriots handed Longwood a 12-2 loss in the second matchup of a three-game series.

Alex Betz hurls a pitch from the mound. Photo by Bill Landon
Alex Betz hurls a pitch from the mound. Photo by Bill Landon

Ward Melville sophomore pitcher Ben Brown led the way with an impressive performance on the mound to earn the win in his first varsity start. Longwood struggled with the entire Patriots pitching staff, managing just six hits. The Lions were also plagued by four errors over seven innings.

Ward Melville blew the game open in the second inning, scoring six runs on an RBI double by Dominic Lamonica, a two-run double by Troy Davern, and Nick Rizzi drove in a run and with the help of two Longwood errors to give the Patriots a 6-0 lead.

“Today our hitters did a good job in their approach; we got a lot of clutch hits,” Ward Melville head coach Lou Petrucci said. “Dominic Lamonica had a big double in the second inning; Jeff Towle, Troy Davern and the middle-of-the-lineup guys did a good job.”

The Lions tried to claw their way back and scored two runs in the bottom of the third.

Towle took control of the fourth inning, blasting a shot to deep center field, giving both Nick Vitale and Joe Flynn the opportunity to come home for an 8-2 advantage.

“Today, as a team, we had great bats all around putting the ball in play, making them work, putting pressure on their defense and that helped us out today,” Towle said. “[Longwood is] a solid team, but the ball didn’t roll their way. That could’ve happened to us, but we hit the ball hard.”

Flynn was also excited to see the team putting the ball in play.

“Today we came out swinging with the right mind-set; we had to put the ball in play and do whatever we have to do to win,” he said. “We’re not a strong hitting team and we’ve relied on pitching in the past, and that’s what we’re going to do this year, but today we came out with the bats and did a great job.”

Troy Davern makes a grab for the out. Photo by Bill Landon
Troy Davern makes a grab for the out. Photo by Bill Landon

The Patriots crossed the plate once more in the inning, to surge ahead 9-2.

Petrucci said he was pleased with his entire lineup.

“The top of the order guys — Joe Flynn got on base; Nick Vitale had a great day today — those guys got on base and did a good job for us,” he said. “The big hitters drove them in with clutch hits and we had more base runners and took advantage of that opportunity.”

The Patriots found the scoreboard once in the top of the sixth and twice in the seventh to put the game away.

Brown said his team misjudged Longwood in the first game of the series.

“I think we came out with a lot of intensity,” he said. “We took this team a little lightly yesterday. We really played hard, we had really good at bats, so that was the difference today.”

With the win, Ward Melville improved to 3-0. The Patriots conclude their three-game series with Longwood on Thursday at home, with the first pitch scheduled for noon.