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Miller Place

Miller Place seniors walked across the high school track with pride as the band played during the 2018 commencement ceremony June 22.

Superintendent Marianne Cartisano addressed the crowd along with valedictorian Nicole Cirrito and salutatorian Victoria Calandrino. Students and parents celebrated the class of 2018’s achievements and proudly displayed decorated caps that boasted phrases like “there’s nothing holding me back” and a field goal post to represent the steps taken toward reaching the next level of academic and athletic achievement.

File photo by Victoria Espinoza

Suffolk County police last night arrested four people after conducting State Liquor Authority inspections on June 20 in the Town of Brookhaven.

Seventh Precinct Crime Section officers conducted SLA inspections utilizing an underage police agent.

The police agent attempted to purchase alcoholic beverages from targeted businesses within the Town of Brookhaven.

The following businesses did not comply with the New York State Liquor Authority and sold an alcoholic beverage to an underage police agent:

  • 25A Gas Plus located at 613 Route 25A in Rocky Point
  • BP Gas Station located at 367 Route 25A in Rocky Pont
  • Handy Pantry located at 280 Echo Ave. in Sound Beach
  • BP Gas Station located at 1470 Middle County Road in Ridge

The following people were charged with NYS penal law 260.20 — first-degree unlawfully dealing with a child. They were issued field appearance tickets and will be arraigned at a later date.

  • Natwarbhai Patel, 55 of Rocky Point
  • Alican Mavruk, 54, of Port Jefferson
  • Amir Riaz, 55, of Riverhead
  • Nicholas Derosa, 16, of Miller Place

The following businesses complied with the New York State Liquor Authority and refused to sell an alcoholic beverage to an underage police agent:

  • USA Petroleum located at 681 Route 25A in Rocky Point
  • BP Gas Station located at 779 Route 25A in Rocky Point
  • USA Gas Selda Corporation located at 1146 Middle Country Road in Middle Island

17-foot long World Trade Center steel beam is focal point of monument remembering 9/11 victims

By Sara-Megan Walsh

A 17-foot World Trade Center steel beam stand in Cold Spring Harbor, more than 35 miles from New York City, as a solemn reminder of those who lost their lives in the 9/11 attacks.

The Cold Spring Harbor Volunteer Fire Department officially dedicated its 9/11 memorial in Fireman’s Park, directly across from its headquarters at 2 Main Street, in a June 16 ceremony. More than 2,750 people were killed in the terrorist attacks, which includes 42 residents from the Town of Huntington.

“We will never forget those who perished on 9/11,” said Thomas Buchta, chairman of the fire department’s 9/11 Committee. “We will remember the sacrifices of those who rushed into the building to fight the fires, to rescue those who were trapped, and the thousands of people who simple went to work that morning and never returned home.”

“[Peter Martin] left behind his wife and two young sons, but he also left behind a legacy. ”
– Chad Lupinacci

Two fire department members, brothers Dan and John Martin, are following in the footsteps of their father, Peter Martin, who died on 9/11. Peter Martin served as a lieutenant in the Fire Department of New York’s Rescue 2 in Brooklyn. He was 43.

“He left behind his wife and two young sons, but he also left behind a legacy,” Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) said. “He loved his occupation and left a record of how many fires he fought over the years and many stories to tell.”

Martin also served as a volunteer firefighter in the Miller Place Fire Department, where he lived with his family at the time.

“While our grief recedes with time and our lives move on in different ways and directions, our resolve and the memories of love friends, co-workers and family will never wane,” said Cold Spring Harbor Fire Chief of Department Daniel Froehlich.

The brothers both served as members of the 9/11 Committee which has worked for more than two years to erect the monument. In May 2016, the 17-foot by 4-foot artifact from World Trade Center Tower One’s 62nd floor was transported from where it was stored at John F. Kennedy Airport out to the Town of Huntington Recycling Center for safekeeping while plans for the memorial were finalized.

“Now 17 years later, think about whether we’ve slipped back into everydayness.”
– Tom Suozzi

Volunteers started constructing the memorial in the fall of 2017, featuring the nearly 18,000-pound beam in a shape reminiscent of a cross being lowered into the ground Sept. 9. Three saplings grown from offshoots of the Callery pear tree that endured the 9/11 attacks, called the “Survivor Tree,” were planted around the memorial with a plaque to explain their significance.

“When you look at it don’t forget the anguish and loss, but don’t forget about the other things this symbolizes, the strength and resilience of spirit,” said Greg Cergol, husband of Huntington Councilwoman Joan Cergol (D) and master of ceremonies. “Those are the things that unite and define us as Americans.”

The keynote address was given by U.S. Congressman Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) who recalled his own desire to help in response to 9/11 in his position as mayor of Glen Gove and visit to ground zero. He questioned if Americans were losing the focus and sense of community that united them in the days that followed.

“Now 17 years later, think about whether we’ve slipped back into everydayness,” Suozzi said. “Love matters. Forgiveness matters. Our friends, our families and our communities matter.”

After a moment of silence was held for the 9/11 victims, the Martin family rang the bell of Cold Spring Harbor Fire Department five times each in four intervals. It’s part of a long-held tradition in the fire department that signals the last alarm of a firefighter who has answered his or her last call.

By Bill Landon

After a New York City 30-yard Hail Mary touchdown pass, the team went for a two-point conversion to outright win its third straight Empire Challenge football game under Hofstra University’s Friday night lights, but Long Island’s James Lyons, of Sayville, batted away the two-point conversion pass in a 28-27 thriller.

Up to that point Westhampton running back Dylan Laube has been the center of all things Long Island offense June 15, powering his way to three touchdowns — accumulating 151 all-purpose yards. He was voted most outstanding player of the game.

He opened Long Island’s scoring running off left tackle on the opening play of the second quarter and punching into the end zone to help tie the game 7-all.

Miller Place’s Tyler Ammirato, Long Island’s defensive captain, called signals on the field in an attempt to contain an explosive NYC offensive attack. His plan ended up in a Long Island defensive stop to take over on downs, and Laube was back to work on offense. Farmingdale’s Bryan DeFelice made the extra-point kick following Laube’s second touchdown to put Long Island out front 14-7 with three minutes left in the third.

“It’s an awesome experience — you read the paper every week and you see all these guy’s names and to finally meet them and get to play with them,” Ammirato said. “I thought, ‘Our defensive stand right here will be the turning point of this game — we’ve got to get a stop right here,’ but our offense is [also very] talented, they’ll punch it in.”

After NYC retied the game, Harborfields wide receiver Gavin Buda ran a sideline route and grabbed a 39-yard pass from Northport quarterback Ryan Walsh to put Long Island in excellent field position.

Buda, the only athlete in history to be chosen for both the Empire Challenge and the Blue Chip Prospects Grand Slam Challenge baseball game earlier this month, said it was a fitting way to conclude his high school career.

“It’s sad, but this is one of the greatest games I’ve ever played in my life,” Buda said. “To meet all of these great superstars that I’ve played against and I’ve seen on the field, and to be friends with them now and to be their teammates, is just amazing experience that I’m going to remember for the rest of my life.”

Laube finished what Buda started for a 21-14 advantage to end the scoring for the third. A rare NYC miscue helped Westhampton’s Nola Quinlan pick off a pass and nearly return it for a touchdown before being forced out of bounds with 32 seconds left in the quarter. NYC’s defense was able to make a stop that forced Long Island to try for a 36-yard field goal attempt, which was blocked.

With just over eight minutes left NYC made it a new game 21-all, but Long Island let time tick off the clock on a long drive to three consecutive first downs before Oceanside wide receiver Derek Cruz’s old-school flea-flicker jump ball. Cruz faked continuing his run and tossed the ball back to quarterback Tommy Heuer, who waited for Massapequa wide receiver Owen Glascoe to break free.

Heuer hit Glascoe in the end zone for a 34-yard touchdown pass and DeFelice added his fourth extra-point kick for a 28-21 lead with 41 seconds left, which ended up being the game-winning point.

Ward Melville linebacker Zach Hobbes, who was instrumental in the Patriots’ rout of West Geneseein the state lacrosse championship the weekend prior, was euphoric taking part in his final football game.

“I can’t think of a better way to end my senior year,” Hobbes said. “Winning a state championship and then to play in front of 9,000 people for the last game of my varsity football career, and to get a win like that, it’s an unbelievable experience.”

With time running out NYC went hurry-up offense and hit three consecutive pass plays down the sideline, getting out of bounds each time to stop the clock and save what precious seconds remained. With five seconds left,  NYC quarterback Mike Nicosia threw the Hail Mary to the left corner of the end zone, where he found Titus Leo, who made the catch as time expired.

“That was a crazy experience — that’s just how I expected the game to go,” Buda said. “I knew both teams would put up a fight and right when we scored that last touchdown I knew you could not count them out. We had to make a defensive stop, but they drove down; they’re a great team. Our defense came up with a humongous stop and that sealed the deal.”

Shoreham-Wading River’s Tyler McAuley was unable to play in the 23rd annual Empire Challenge football game. Ward Melville outside linebacker Thomas Kutchma and running back Nicholas Messina; Miller Place defensive end Matthew McNulty; and Northport quarterback Ryan Walsh were other area athletes that took part in the senior all-star game.

Katherine Lee races in the 1,000-meter run during the indoor track and field season. File photo by Bill Landon

Katherine Lee was off to the races at the Suffolk County track and field individual championship/state qualifier June 2 and 3 at Comsewogue High School and crossed her senior season finish lines in typical
Wildcats fashion — by winning the 1,500- and 3,000-meter runs. She finished first in the 1,500 in 4 minutes, 34.25 seconds and the 3,000 in 9:58.42.

Mount Sinai’s Kenneth Wei leaps over a hurdle during an earlier meet this season. File photo by Bill Landon

Lee said her result was not what she’d hoped, saying she’s been under the weather, but hopes to finish stronger when she competes with the other winners in the state championship at Cicero North Syracuse
High School June 8 and 9.

Mount Sinai sophomore Sarah Connelly came in third in the 1,500, crossing the finish line in 4:38.07. Connelly also came in second in the 3,000 in 9:59.99.

Mount Sinai freshman Kaitlyn Chandrika used a quick start to roll to a 6:57.97 victory in the 2,000 steeplechase. Teammate Noreen Guilfoyle, a senior, placed fourth in 7:13.59. Chandrika also raced to a third-place finish in the 800 with a 2:16.31 behind Ward Melville seniors Allyson Gaedje (2:14.82) and Sam Rutt (2:14.93). Mount Sinai junior Kayleigh Robinson ended up second in a photo finish in the 400 hurdles behind Sachem East’s Kaitlyn Famiglietti. The Flaming Arrows runner clocked in at 1:03.33 while Robinson finished in 1:03.34.

The Mustangs’ 4×800 relay team earned second place with a time of 9:27.52. Miller Place senior Jillian Patterson grabbed second in the pentathlon with a score of 3,059.

Mount Sinai’s Kenneth Wei (14.49 seconds) was just edged by Longwood’s Jaheim Dotson (14.35) in the 110 hurdles. Sophomore Justin Wei, his younger brother, finished fourth (15.67). Kenneth Wei also came in third in the long jump (21-11) and third in the triple jump (44-1).

Miller Place sophomore Tom Cirrito placed fourth in the 800, clocking in at 1:56.20. Mount Sinai senior Jack Pilon came in sixth (1:59.11).

Miller Place residents listen to the board of education discuss the proposal of hiring armed guards and including it in the 2018-19 budget. File photo by Kevin Redding

Miller Place residents passed this year’s $72,685,864 school budget with 616 yes votes and 209 no. The second proposition, the library budget, passed 722-101.

“The budget increase at 2.1 percent maintains all current academic programs, clubs and athletics, as well as maintaining our capital project planning,” Superintendent Marianne Cartisano said in the weeks before the budget vote.

The budget saw a 2.8 percent increase to the tax levy. The increase stayed within the tax levy cap, so the budget only required a simple majority to pass.

The budget includes a $530,000 transfer to capital funds for initiatives such as new high school courses for honor chemistry, virtual enterprise — a course on learning about global business and enterprise — and Engineering Design using VEX Robotics, which includes design kits used to design automated devices and robots.

Incumbent trustee Keith Frank ran unopposed for his second three-year term and received 688 votes.

Frank ran on a platform of trying to offer programs for all students with different interests, especially including Science, Technology, Engineering and Math classes.

“We’re trying to balance the needs and the wishes of everyone, whether it’s arts, athletics or music — whatever the kids want to do,” Frank said before the election. “Kids should be able to go out and properly tackle the world.”

Board president Johanna Testa said she was happy to see Frank back for another term.

“We’re looking forward to the next couple of years with him here,” she said. “[Keith Frank] is an attorney and he’s had experience dealing with contract negotiations and things of that nature. That’s been a benefit to us.”

Vinny Altebrando with his wife Kristie and their four daughters. Photo from Kristie Altebrando

When it comes to handling students, the teachers, administrators and faculty members at South Huntington school district have a new mantra these days: WWAD, or “What Would Altebrando Do?”

It’s a tribute to a man who, as a physical education and special education teacher and renowned varsity wrestling coach at Walt Whitman High School for the last 15 years, consistently went out of his way to make students and student-athletes’ lives better — particularly the “underdogs” that struggled in and out of school.

Vincent Altebrando was somebody who once bought a tuxedo and prom ticket for a wrestler who came from a broken home and couldn’t afford them, and then dressed in a tuxedo himself, picked up the teenager and chauffeured him to the big event. He was a beloved local whose nine-hour wake service last month drew a crowd of 3,000 people, where hundreds more had to be turned away.

Vinny Altebrando, who was Walt Whitman’s wrestling coach, on left, with state champion Terron Robinson during the state tournament. Photo from Terron Robinson

The renowned coach, a Miller Place resident who died April 20 at Stony Brook University Hospital after being diagnosed with HLH, a rare autoimmune disease, at 51, had a big heart and an infectious laugh, an affinity for belting out Beatles songs, and a tough-love competitive spirit that not only put the district on the map athletically, but helped his players beyond the sport. There really was nothing he wouldn’t have done to help his students, according to those closest to him.

“He was always about the kids,” his wife Kristie Altebrando said. “He was always doing things for them. And just when you thought it was enough because his plate was full, he found more room on it. He’s changed a lot of lives.”

Both in school and at home, she pointed out, referring to their four daughters, each of whom compete in sports, from lacrosse to volleyball and field hockey.

“With his attitude, grace, helpfulness and encouragement, it’s all made them who they are,” she said. “I just hope he’s looking down, knowing that while he was alive he was doing all this for people.”

Robin Rose, Walt Whitman’s head varsity football coach and childhood friend of Vincent Altebrando’s, said the wrestling coach had a myriad of accolades. He won the sportsmanship award at this year’s Suffolk County Wrestling Coaches Association ceremony.

 “The best compliment is that Vinny turned athletes into state winners and he helped non-athletes become winners themselves,” Rose said. “He’s a guy this district can’t replace.”

Altebrando also played a large role in launching adaptive physical education and a Special Olympics program for the district’s special needs students.

Vinny Altebrando and his youngest daughter Mirabella. Photo from Katie Altebrando

“It’s an amazing void that he leaves in the school,” fellow Walt Whitman physical education teacher and childhood friend Scott Wolff said. “He was this big, tough, sweet guy; this big center of life in the building and that’s gone now, so we’re all trying to fill a little piece of it — just by building up spirits, being nicer to each other, spending more time with the kids who are struggling. I can already feel the effects.”

Wolff and Altebrando, who was raised by his mother and older brothers after the death of his father at a young age, both went through the Middle Country school system; graduated from Newfield High School a year apart; and were hired at South Huntington Elementary School on the same day in 1994. According to Wolff, Altebrando has been the same since he first met him.

“Vinny was always the best guy to be around — fun, humble and knew how to make everybody feel comfortable and special,” he said.

Terron Robinson, 19, knows that about the coach perhaps better than anybody.

The 2017 Walt Whitman graduate first met his coach as an eighth-grader as a budding wrestler. Robinson said he’d long been cast aside by teachers and other students at school due to his family background — two of his brothers had been to prison, and he thought everybody assumed he’d wind up there as well. He lost his mother at a young age and by the time he was in ninth grade, his father and a brother died, too. It didn’t take long, however, for him to have somebody to turn to.

“In my eyes, that man [Altebrando] was like my father,” said Robinson, who, under the guidance of Altebrando, was a state champion wrestler by 11th-grade. “He saw the good side of me when nobody else did. He was always there for me no matter what. Without him, I’d probably be in a jail cell.”

Altebrando made sure Robinson always had food and clean clothes. He pushed him to do well in school and treat everybody with respect. He took Robinson to the doctor when he was hurt. The coach would even take it upon himself to drive every morning from his home in Miller Place to where his student-athlete lived in Mastic Beach, pick him up and take him to school in South Huntington — where the two of them often worked out together before classes started.

“There was no greater bond I’ve seen between coach and player than the one they had,” Walt Whitman high school athletic director Jim Wright said. “Vinny just saw him as a kid with potential, as a wrestler and also as a person. He brought out the good qualities in Terron and turned him into a citizen.”

Vinny Altebrando, on right, with his oldest daughter Anjelia, who will be attending his alma mater, Springfield College, in the fall. Photo from Katie Altebrando

Altebrando graduated from Newfield High School in 1984. He was a star athlete on football and wrestling teams, the latter being a somewhat lackluster sport in the district before he came along.

“Then it became an event to go to,” Wolff said, laughing.

Altebrando went to Springfield College in Massachusetts, where he wrestled and received a degree in physical education.

It was during a hectic commute from his first teaching job in Brooklyn that Altebrando bumped into an old familiar face — his future wife — from his high school days.

“We took the train home together and we were engaged within a month,” Kristie Altebrando said. “He was my lifeline, my go-to guy … and it’s overwhelming to see the outpouring of love from so many people for what he’s done and see how many lives he’s touched.”

Natalia Altebrando, 13, a North Country Road middle school student and goalie on a travel lacrosse team, said her father taught her on and off the field how to find courage and strength, and to be kind to others.

“He made such an impact on my life,” she said. “This has broken my heart in a thousand pieces, and the only one who would [normally] be able to fix that for me is him.”

Altebrando’s oldest daughter, Anjelia, 17, will be following in her father’s footsteps and attending Springfield College in the fall.

“He was my role model and really pushed me to work hard for what I want,” she said. “He let me know that anything is possible.”

TD Bank is located at 620 Route 25A in Mount Sinai. Image from Google Maps

The first official meeting for the Mount Sinai-Miller Place Chamber Alliance, the new chamber of commerce that was formed following the reorganization of the North Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce, will take place at TD Bank in Mount Sinai Wednesday, May 16, from 6 to 8 p.m.  

Guest speakers will include Suffolk Coutnty Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) and mentoring and networking coach Michael Capaldo.

The meeting is free and open to all who wish to attend. Light appetizers and soft drinks will be served.

For more information, call 631-223-8558.

Shoreham-Wading River, Miller Place three-sport athletes excel at Blue Chip Prospects Long Island combine

“By no means is Long Island considered a hot bed for football players, but we have a ton of talent here,” horeham-Wading River defensive back and quarterback Xavier Arline said, hoping to show off his skills on the
gridiron at the Blue Chip Prospects Long Island football combine May 6.

The event at Sachem High School North, put on in conjunction with the Suffolk County Coaches Association to showcase top Long Island football talent, ran the 70 athletes that attended through six stations before breaking off into specific position drills. The football players participated in the 40-yard dash, vertical jump, standing broad jump, 185-pound bench press, 5-10-5-yard shuttle and 3-cone drill.

Shoreham-Wading River quarterback Xavier Arline leaps over a defender. File photo by Bill Landon

Arline ran the second fastest 40-yard dash (4.55) and 5-10-5-yard time (4.41), behind Brandon Didier of North Babylon, who ran a 4.51 and had a 4.39.

“Knowing I have a good foundation to build off of is confidence boosting,” the sophomore said. “It just shows that with additional training and hard work I can compete with athletes across the country.”

Miller Place junior Tom Nealis, a 6-foot 4-inch wide receiver, ran a 4.91 40-yard dash and had a time of 4.67 in the 5-10-5.

“It was great to be out on the football field again and it was cool to see a lot of other top players and great
athletes there,” said Nealis, who also plays baseball and basketball. “I feel that playing baseball may have put me at a slight disadvantage. Baseball takes up a lot of time that could have been used to practice these drills and work on quickness.”

But he said that won’t hold him back from his dream of being a Long Island standout like Sachem North’s Dalton Crossan, who signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in February, and William Floyd alum Stacey Bedell, who just received an invite to the rookie minicamp of the San Francisco 49ers.

“The way the game is played is like nothing else,” Nealis said. “No other sport can you physically feel
the effort and intensity of your opponent. Seeing these guys make it to elite programs opens my eyes to the possibilities.”

Miller Place’s Tom Nealis grabs a catch. File photo by Bill Landon

Arline said the success of more recent graduates who have gone on to play Division I football, like Sayville’s Jack Coan (University of Wisconsin) and his former teammate Ethan Wiederkehr (Northwestern University) helps ignite a fire in him. Despite verbally committing to the University of North Carolina to play lacrosse as an eighth-grader, the sophomore is keeping his options open.

“This was a great opportunity for me to see where I am at as a player and athlete,” he said. “I wanted to attend this event to gain experience, find my highs and lows and compete against myself. It created a baseline and foundation for me to build on as I begin the football recruiting process.”

Hans Wiederkehr, Ethan’s father who is the president of the football coaches association, and a two-time Long Island championship winner while he was the head coach at Babylon, said since football doesn’t have travel teams, an event like this helps get student-athletes exposure.

“I’ve always thought it was a great tool for all the kids,” he said of the combine, that’s in its 16th year. “The best part for me is every kid really wants to be there and every kid wants to do great. They all have hopes and dreams, and some leave with a reality check while others get to see how good they really are.”

Arline said he thinks he has what it takes to shine at the next level in his favorite sport.

“The most difficult part about the combine was not knowing what to expect — I had very little to no preparation going in,” he said. “With hard work, perseverance and a little luck I believe I can get there.”

Comeback follows sidelines from heart condition, brain surgery

Thomas Liantonio, an attack for Long Island University and former Miller Place standout, scored four goals in his rerun to the field after undergoing brain surgery three months prior. Photo from LIU Post

Thomas Liantonio was overcome with emotion as his lacrosse teammates rushed to give him a hug after his first goal. The excitement followed a series of unfortunate events fit for a Lemony Snicket novel.

After undergoing brain surgery just three months earlier, the Miller Place resident and current Long Island University Post attack led the Pioneers with four goals and an assist in an 18-7 home win against University of the District of Columbia on his return April 17.

Thomas Liantonio following brain surgery this past January. Photo from Thomas Liantonio

“Scoring my first goal back was definitely a special moment,” he said. “To be given the opportunity to start and produce off that opportunity is something I’m very fortunate for.”

Prior to the surgery, the junior said he was experiencing headaches and eye pain but didn’t think too much of it. As problems persisted he decided to get checked out and was shocked when doctors told him he had a brain tumor that would require surgery.

“I was scared, taken aback,” he said, recalling when he heard the news Jan. 2. “I’m a big believer of doing stuff to get your mind off things, and I did what I could to keep things as normal as possible for me. I realized you can’t get down on yourself — you have to keep looking forward to the next day and roll with the punches.”

He returned home following a few days in the hospital, and got started on the path to recovery. Long Island University first-year head coach Eric Wolf said he felt devastated for his student-athlete, especially knowing Liantonio also missed the 2017 season as a result of a heart condition.

“I know how hard he had worked after missing all of last season,” Wolf said. “I know in the front of Thomas’ mind he was thinking he would come back this season, and it was more so in the back of mine. Bottom line: I just wanted him to be healthy. If he could ever play again that would just be icing on the cake.”

Thomas Liantonio crosses the field for Miller Place. File photo by Desirée Keegan

Almost exactly a year prior, Jan. 10, 2017, Liantonio found out he had myocarditis, inflammation of the middle layer of the heart wall caused by a viral infection that can weaken the heart and lead to heart attacks, heart failure or sudden death if his blood pressure were to rise too high. He said he was having some chest pains, and again didn’t think anything of it, assuming he had a respiratory infection. After visiting a walk-in
medical center, he found out he had an irregular heartbeat. Following an EKG, MRI and cardiogram, he was told of the infection.

“To see him get blindsided by two things back-to-back and see how it was affecting his morale, as a parent, that’s very disheartening,” his father Steve Liantonio said. “He’s a strong kid, and luckily he has great friends and people at LIU Post that he relied on to keep his spirits up, keep him positive. We thought good things were going to come for him, and it worked out.”

The Pioneers’ head coach said after a week-and-a-half of practice, he could see his player shaking off the rust. Wolf first opted to sideline Liantonio after he practiced at midfield and, after a night’s sleep, decided he needed him out on the field.

Liantonio, who first picked up a lacrosse stick in second grade, said he couldn’t imagine not playing the sport again.

“I love the fast pace,” he said. “I saw the opportunity I had to go far in the sport and wanted to take it. I didn’t think I’d make it back to the lacrosse field this season, but getting cleared, I was so happy I didn’t know what to do.”

Thomas Liantonio with his mother Maria following his first game back. Photo from Thomas Liantonio

Given the amount of physical contact in lacrosse, Liantonio’s dad thought a return to the field was risky, afraid of a push or helmet-to-helmet contact, but said the return also provided a lesson to his son.

“You can only hold somebody back for so long,” he said. “He was strong-willed and after several conversations he felt determined and healthy enough to do it. At some point in time you just have to let go and say, ‘Go for it.’ This proves when you put your mind to something you can overcome anything.”

Wolf said he asked current attackmen, who’d had successful campaigns up to that point, to let Liantonio return to his rightful position. He said his players were selfless, and he was moved by what Liantonio brought to the team in his first game in nearly two years.

“I was shocked, but not surprised given who Thomas is,” he said. “He played awesome. The emotional lift that he gave our team could not be measured.”

The coach said while there’s no tiptoeing around the contact in the sport, he knew his player was all in, and has improved and grown more confident with each game he’s played since.

“He works hard, has a positive attitude and makes his teammates better — he does everything we ask,” Wolf said. “To see a guy go through what he has gone through over the past two years and to keep persisting through real adversity … it’s incredible.”

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