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Richie Lacalandra

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Sean Kennedy, Richie Lacalandra score three goals each to knot the game at 7-7

A Warriors run from the end of the second quarter to the middle of the fourth turned a 6-1 deficit into a 7-7 tie, but a final faceoff loss proved costly for the No. 3-seeded Comsewogue boys lacrosse team, as it fell 8-7 to No. 3 East Islip in the Class B semifinals May 23.

“I think the team was just a little nervous at first because of how big of a game it was,” said junior Sean Kennedy, who scored three goals in the contest. “Because usually we’re a really good first-half team.”

The Warriors defense struggled to clear the ball early, going 0-5 on first-half attempts, with the Redmen scoring on three of those turnovers.

But by the end of the second quarter Comsewogue started to figure it out.

“I felt good to be out there — we were chipping away at the score. If we didn’t come out slow at first I think there would’ve been a different outcome.”

— Richie Lacalandra

“Once we settled down and we figured out the clear, we came storming back,” Comsewogue head coach Pete Mitchell said. “A lot of these kids have been through a lot of hard things in their lives and to see them come out and compete the way they did is tremendous. Especially the seniors, they’re a wonderful group of kids.”

Senior Richie Lacalandra scored the final goal of the first half to break East Islip’s six goal scoring streak and start a 4-0 Warriors scoring spurt. Junior Thomas Heyder scored on an over-the-shoulder and behind-the-back shot to start the second half, and Kennedy found the cage before Lacalandra’s goal that pulled the Warriors within one, 6-5, to end scoring for the third.

After an East Islip goal, Kennedy scored from 30 yards out for his third of the game, and Lacalandra added his hat trick goal from the same spot to tie it 7-7 with 7:10 left to play.

“On that play I just thought to myself, ‘I had the short stick on me, and there was a lane to shoot,’ so I stepped in and let it go,” Lacalandra said. “It felt good to be out there — we were chipping away at the score. If we didn’t come out slow at first I think there would’ve been a different outcome.”

Goalkeeper Thomas Heller said a halftime pep talk lifted his team’s spirits. He added he spoke to his defense about shaking off the nerves and looking at the second half like a new game. The junior said Kennedy and Lacalandra’s burst of power propelled the team.

“I think for my team to come back and score six goals shows a lot of heart and hustle, It shows we fight to the end.”

— Thomas Heller

“Those two kids never quit on themselves,” he said. “And in big situations, they excel.”

The goalkeeper made two saves within a minute to keep the teams in a stalemate, but East Islip did the same on the other end.

“I was seeing the ball well and my defense was giving me good looks,” Heller said. “Our plan against East Islip was to keep our heads on a swivel, stop transitions and keep our sticks in the passing lane, because we knew they liked to feed the cutter, so we tried to eliminate that as much as possible.”

John Sidorski scored his fourth goal of the game with 47 seconds left for East Islip, which won the final faceoff. Comsewogue called timeout and pulled Heller for another man on the field to pressure the Redmen, but came up short, getting the ball back and into East Islip’s zone just as time expired.

“I think for my team to come back and score six goals shows a lot of heart and hustle,” Heller said. “It shows we fight to the end.”

Mitchell said he was proud to say that no matter how many curveballs were thrown at his team, and through all the doubt this season, his Warriors showed why they bear the name.

“You get bad bounces in life, you’ve got to deal with it and you’ve got to bounce back — and if I taught them that one thing then I’ve done my job,” Mitchell said. “We had a shot at the end, but their goalie made a great save. It shows a lot of character, and it’s why we call ourselves the Warriors – we never give up.”

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Richie Lacalandra cuts to the cage. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Behind the sticks of Richie Lacalandra and Chris Wolfe, Comsewogue powered past Half Hollow Hills West 13-7 April 27 despite a third-quarter scare.

The pair combined for eight goals and five assists, with Wolfe helping the Warriors regain the advantage by scoring his hat trick and fourth scores on feeds from junior T.J. Heyder (one goal, three assists) after Hills West rallied for three unanswered goals to close the gap 7-6 in the third. Lacalandra received an assist from Heyder and a pass from senior Sean Power in the fourth for his third and fourth goals of the game.

Chris Wolfe drives past a defender. Photo by Bill Landon

“[When they closed within two] we had to tighten up our defense — the offense was stalling a little bit so we had to work the ball around and attack the short [stick offensive players],” said Wolfe, a junior. “We knew they were missing one of their better defenders too, so we had to attack the weaker poles and try to get men open when we drew double [coverage].”

The Warriors’ defense had shut the door on the Colts before the flurry, holding them to three goals in the first half. Sophomore Tom Heller made 11 stops between the pipes. Head coach Pete Mitchell said his University of Albany-bound goalkeeper was facing some of the strongest offensive attackers in Suffolk County.

“They were everything we thought they would be — they have great shooters, great plays,” Heller said. “We watched film, saw the passing lanes, we kept our sticks up, knocked down a lot of passes and as a team our performance was outstanding.”

Lacalandra (four goals, four assists) said a well-timed break in the action helped his team regain its composure.

“When they closed [within] two goals coach called timeout and told us we have to pick up the intensity; they’re getting close,” the senior said. “Our offense picked it up — we began to click and we put in three or four right away.”

Power and Heyder scored goals in the final minutes. Junior Sean Kennedy finished with two goals and two assists.

Sean Kennedy passes to a cutter. Photo by Bill Landon

The Warriors improve to 8-2 in Division II behind No. 2 Mount Sinai and undefeated Islip.

With four games left in the regular season, Stony Brook University-bound Lacalandra said his team’s strategy to prepare for the postseason is simple.

“We want to win out,” he said. “We want the top seed, so if we can win out we’ll be in good shape.”

Mitchell, although pleased with his team’s performance on the night, said his Warriors will have their hands full, and it’ll take a total team effort as the temperature begins to rise. Comsewogue hosts Bayport-Blue Point (7-3) May 2 at 7 p.m. before traveling to Eastport-South Manor (5-5) May 5 for a 6:30 p.m. matchup. The Warriors will close out the season with a home game against Sayville and an away game at Mount Sinai.

“Richie Lacalandra is very dangerous, so they paid a lot of attention to him, but so long as our other guys — Sean Power, Anthony Passarella, Chris Wolfe and Nick Donnelly — are producing, we’re a little more well-rounded,” the coach said. “We have four games left and they’re all against very strong opponents, so we’ll need to stay in shape, stay focused, eliminate mistakes. It’s going to get hotter, so we’ve got to play more people, so the guys who haven’t been getting the runs, we’re going to need ‘em, so they’ve got to be ready.”

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Cameron McNicol fires at the cage during practice. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

One week into practice, head coach Pete Mitchell is liking what he’s seeing from his Warriors, showing the depth he hopes can carry Comseowgue into the postseason.

Seniors Richia Lacalandra on offense and Zach Gagnon on defense have filled the shoes left by Will Snelders and Ryan Dorney, and junior Thomas Heller will remain between the pipes this year.

Tom Heller makes a save during practice. Photo by Bill Landon

“This year, there’s a lot of competition,” Mitchell said, noting that he puts a lot of faith in his mostly-returning offensive unit and new faceoff taker Cameron MacNicol.

“He’s very good,” Mitchell said of MacNicol. “[We have] a good mix. We’ll be a lot deeper — we have a lot more kids — and I think that was one of our faults last year.”

Even as snow puts practice indoors, Lacalandra said the team is working hard.

“Coach is getting us there — we’re running every day, we’re getting bigger, stronger, faster; that’s key,” the Stony Brook University-bound four-year varsity player said. “As that happens, the play will come. The team has chemistry, and [I believe] we’ll get it done this year.”

Last year, Mitchell said few people expected the Warriors to make the postseason with a 7-9 record, let alone battle Eastport-South Manor in the Suffolk County Class B semifinal round. He thinks with his stronger defensive unit, especially with the blocking skills of his midfielders, the Warriors’ chances are that much higher.

“I have probably two of the best defensive middies that I’ve ever had in Reno Molina and John Felice, who is actually my backup goalie — he’s one of the fastest human beings I’ve ever seen,” said the coach adding junior Sean Kennedy will be another to watch.

Chris Spahr clears the ball during practice. Photo by Bill Landon

Gagnon said it’s been tough to be stuck in the gym, but said the team is focused on facing Kings Park in the first game of the season March 27.

“[We’ve] got a lot of young kids, a lot of talented kids who push each other hard,” he said. “We just have to stay after it, keep our eyes on the prize. We need to be smooth, clean things up a little bit [because] some things are still a little sloppy, we have to start talking more, but besides that I think we look good.”

Heller, a University at Albany-commit, said his team will never settle with where it’s at until hoisting up a championship trophy.

“Everyone’s hustling — we’ve got a solid offense, we’re moving the ball well on defense and [creating those passing lanes],” he said, adding he sees Half Hollow Hills West being stiff competition, but likes Comsewogue’s chances. “I think we’ll beat them.”

Mitchell said he’s pleased with the dedication he’s seen so far, and seeing his team not take any practice lightly will provide good results out on the field.

“Everybody’s on their ‘A’ game,” Mitchell said. “We’ll be prepared [for that first game]. These kids know what Comsewogue lacrosse means to the school and to this community. When you play Comsewogue you know you’re going to play a lacrosse game.”

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Running back Richie LaCalandra scores a touchdown. Photo by Alex Petroski

Despite some tense moments late in the game, a fast start, a huge play on a fourth-and-25, and a key second-half touchdown drive propelled the Comsewogue football team to a victory in its homecoming matchup against Hauppauge Oct. 21. The Warriors move to 3-5 with the 28-21 win, which head coach Sean Tremblay called his team’s most complete performance of the season.

Quarterback Jaden Martinez throws a deep ball. Photo by Alex Petroski

“It was the first time we started and finished a game all year,” Tremblay said after the win.

Presumably riding the adrenaline rush that comes with playing in front of a packed out, electric homecoming crowd, the Warriors jumped out ahead of the Eagles (0-6) in the first half.

Junior running back Reno Molina found the end zone in the first quarter to put Comsewogue up 7-0. The Warriors took to the ground early and often, producing more than 300 yards rushing on the afternoon, though one big pass play might have been the key to the win.

On a third-and-17 from the Hauppauge 22-yard line early in the second quarter, running right on an option play, sophomore quarterback Jaden Martinez kept the ball and eluded several Eagles on his way to what he thought was a score to put his team up two touchdowns. A holding penalty backed Comsewogue up and wiped the touchdown off the scoreboard, and on fourth-and-25 from the Hauppauge 30-yard line, the Warriors went to the air.

“I had seen something in coverage and I knew [Richie LaCalandra] was going to be open — we just needed to protect it and we did, and Richie got in,” Tremblay said of the play, which he called a momentum changer. He said he never considered attempting a long field goal or punting on the fourth-down play.

Richie LaCalandra celebrates after a touchdown. Photo by Alex Petroski

Martinez took the shotgun snap and rolled to his left, uncorking a perfect pass to the wide open senior LaCalandra running a corner route, who made the catch and skipped into the end zone to put the Warriors up 14-0. The play accounted for all of Martinez’s yardage through the air for the game.

“Richie’s just a great athlete,” the quarterback said of his running back. “He got himself open and I rolled out of the pocket, and he was just wide open.”

LaCalandra had 90 yards rushing and a touchdown to go along with two catches for 30 yards and the fourth-down score through the air. His rushing touchdown came on a reverse handoff from the Eagles’ 21-yard line in the final minute of the second quarter, as LaCalandra made a few Eagles’ defenders miss on his way to the goal line, where he lunged in despite having his helmet ripped off.

“We came out and worked hard in practice this week, and it all paid off when it came to the game,” he said.

Reno Molina celebrates in the background as Richie LaCalandra scampers into the end zone. Photo by Alex Petroski

The Warriors took a 21-0 lead into halftime, but a strong third quarter from the Hauppauge offense and two Warriors’ fumbles left the door open for a comeback.

“Defensively they were throwing the ball underneath our coverage,” Tremblay said of Hauppauge’s effective third quarter on offense. “We were so worried about them throwing the ball vertically that at times we were bailing just a little bit too much.”

With less than a minute remaining in the third, Comsewogue got the ball back up 21-14, and with junior quarterback Tom Tommaso under center, the Warriors engineered a drive that ended in a 6-yard touchdown run by sophomore running back Mike McGuire to put his team up 28-14.

“After we scored and made it 28, that kind of regenerated our fight,” Tremblay said of the key second-half drive. Molina intercepted a pass with seven minutes remaining in the fourth in Comsewogue territory to ice the game for the Warriors.

Comsewogue’s two turnovers were the fewest the team has had in any game this season, according to the head coach. He said it shouldn’t be a surprise that it led to a win.

The Warriors will be back in action Oct. 27 at East Islip for the final game of the season. Opening kickoff is slated for 7 p.m.

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By Bill Landon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Richie Lacalandra encounters resistance looking for the cutter in Comsewogue's 12-4 quarterfinal victory over Westhampton Beach. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Will Snelders won the battle for the Warriors.

The Comsewogue boys’ lacrosse junior attackman scored seven goals as his team blew out Westhampton Beach, 12-4, on its home field in the opening round of the Division II Class B playoffs Saturday afternoon.

Snelders scored early and often, and broke the ice five minutes in for the 1-0 lead. Then, he received a feed from senior midfielder and attack Brandon O’Donoghue, and drilled his shot home.

Will Snelders is sandwiched while sending home his seventh goal of the game. Photo by Bill Landon
Will Snelders is sandwiched while sending home his seventh goal of the game. Photo by Bill Landon

Westhampton scored the next two goals to make it a new game heading into the second stanza. Eventually, the Warriors breathed new life into the game. This time, senior midfielder John Koebel’s shot found the cage with 5:20 left in the first half, to put his team back in front.

And Comsewogue never looked back.

“It was hard work — we definitely came out hard,” said Koebel, who’s headed to Endicott College in Massachusetts to play lacrosse next year. “We had a lot of momentum coming in. A lot of people underestimated us this year. Will Snelders scoring seven goals … I have to thank him.”

Junior midfielder and attack Ryan Dorney’s stick spoke next as he took a feed from O’Donoghue and capitalized on his opportunity. From behind the net, senior midfielder Trevor Kennedy flicked the ball to an open Snelders in front of the cage, who startled the goalie by rocketing in his hat trick goal for a 5-2 advantage heading into the halftime break.

“It was not easy — they’re a tough team, they’ve got a lot of speed,” said Kennedy, who is headed to Assumption College in Massachusetts next season. “They were good, but we fought back.”

Westhampton scored three minutes into the third quarter to stop the bleeding briefly, but Snelders answered to maintain the three-goal lead , and scored the final goal of the stanza during a broken play with 52 seconds left.

Ryan Dorney scores off a feed from Brandon O'Donoghue. Photo by Bill Landon
Ryan Dorney scores off a feed from Brandon O’Donoghue. Photo by Bill Landon

Comsewogue faceoff specialist Kevin Tiedemann, a junior, owned the faceoff ‘X,’ going 16-for-21 to give the Hurricanes little opportunity to rally back.

In desperation, the Westhampton goalie yelled to his defensemen: “I know you’re all tired, but you can’t back off.”

But Snelders was first to find the back of the net with 9:15 left in the final quarter, when he fired at a small opening and split the pipes for his sixth goal of the game.

“We weren’t very confident coming into today’s game, but once we reached the half, we knew we were going to keep rolling,” Snelders said.

The junior attack scored his seventh goal with 6:15 left on the clock, and a minute later, Dorney dished the ball to sophomore attack Richie Lacalandra for a seven-goal advantage.

“It was a lot of hard work this week — we put a lot of effort in, we studied a lot of film, we prepared and we came out on top,” Dorney said. “We knew we had it with Will’s fourth or fifth goal. He sealed the deal. The kid was hot today, and we were able to finish.”

John Koebel gets pushed out of the box behind the cage. Photo by Bill Landon
John Koebel gets pushed out of the box behind the cage. Photo by Bill Landon

Lacalandra scored the team’s six straight goal, and Comsewogue head coach Pete Mitchell barked from the sideline: “Richie, we’re red unless they push,” as the Warriors played keepaway to tick time off the clock. With 1:38 left to play, Mitchell saw an opportunity to extend the lead, and yelled, “Richie you’re green,” signaling for the sophomore to take a shot. With that, Lacalandra fired, and scored the final point for his team, which was also his hat trick goal.

“Our faceoff was the game changer — Kevin Tiedemann came into the game focused,” Lacalandra said. “And our wing guys Matt [Fernandez] and Trevor [Kennedy] got to a lot of ground balls for us today.”

With time running out, the Hurricanes managed one final score before their season came to an end.

With the win, Comsewogue will face No. 2 Shoreham-Wading River in the semifinals on the road on Thursday, with the opening faceoff scheduled for 4 p.m.

“They’re a very talented team, so it all comes down to the matchup,” Mitchell said of his team’s next opponent. “The last time we faced them, we lost 4-3 in double overtime, so the boys are going to be ready. It’s going to be a great game for Suffolk County lacrosse.”

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John Koebel cuts to the crease. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

The Comsewogue boys’ lacrosse team led by three goals to open the third quarter, but undefeated Bayport-Blue Point came back to win, 9-8, on Friday night with a shot with 11 seconds left on the clock.

Trevor Kennedy scores to the top right corner past a reaching goalkeeper. Photo by Bill Landon
Trevor Kennedy scores to the top right corner past a reaching goalkeeper. Photo by Bill Landon

“Tonight’s atmosphere was awesome and that’s what lacrosse is supposed to be and I thought we played well,” Comsewogue head coach Pete Mitchell said, adding that he was proud of his team for hanging with an opponent of Bayport’s caliber. “I thought we played well enough to win, but the kids played hard and I’m proud of their efforts tonight.”

The Warriors wasted no time getting the game going when midfielder Matthew Spahr, a University at Albany-bound senior, found the back of the cage just eight seconds into the contest, for the early lead.

Bayport-Blue Point answered back three minutes later to tie the game, but Comsewogue senior midfielder Trevor Kennedy’s shot found the cage to help his team edge ahead 2-1 at the 8:46 mark. The Phantoms scored next with four minutes left in the opening quarter, as Comsewogue drew a penalty and went a man down. Tied 2-2, Bayport-Blue Point looked to capitalize with the extra player, but Comsewogue’s defense stood its ground.

With seven seconds left, Kennedy, who will play for Assumption College next spring, struck again to put his team out front 3-2 to open the second stanza. Bayport barked back by firing two quick goals to edge ahead 4-3 and take the lead for the first time, but the Warriors were quick to respond when midfielder John Koebel, an Endicott College-bound senior, split the pipes to make it a new game, 4-4.

Richie Lacalandra snaps a shot between two Bayport-Blue Point defenders for the score. Photo by Bill Landon
Richie Lacalandra snaps a shot between two Bayport-Blue Point defenders for the score. Photo by Bill Landon

“I thought we started out hot, but I knew they were going to come back — they’re a second half team,” Kennedy said. “I knew that they would come out to play in the second half.”

Comsewogue rattled off the next three goals, with sophomore attack Richie Lacalandra, junior midfielder and attack Ryan Dorney and junior attack Will Snelders aiding the team in going up 7-4 to open the third quarter, but the Phantoms found a way to come back.

Comsewogue played keep away until the team turned the ball over, and  Bayport made them pay for it. Despite being a man down themselves now, the team made four quick passes for a score that cut the deficit. With 34 seconds left in the third, Comsewogue’s opponent struck again as the Warriors struggled to stop the onslaught.

With 10 minutes left, Comsewogue received a penalty, and committed another soon after, to go down two men. And the Phantoms cashed in. Bayport, at 12-0 on the season, proved why it’s gone undefeated for a reason, and rattled off two more goals for an 8-7 lead with seven minutes left in regulation.

Kevin Tiedemann dives for a loose ball. Photo by Bill Landon
Kevin Tiedemann dives for a loose ball. Photo by Bill Landon

Kennedy’s stick spoke once more when his shot found the net for his hat trick goal to deadlock the game with little time remaining. Overtime seemed likely, but on the ensuing faceoff, the Phantoms made three quick flips and fired at the Comsewogue cage. The shot found its mark and Bayport edged ahead to retake the lead, 9-8, with 11 showing on the scoreboard clock. Comsewogue won the final faceoff and with precious seconds left, failed to find a clear lane to the cage.

“We did some things that are uncharacteristic of what we do,” Mitchell said. “We lacked discipline by not taking a last shot in the final seconds.”

The loss drops the Warriors to 9-3 in Division II with two games remaining before the playoffs.

“They played a good game,” Mitchell said of Bayport. “And I hope to see them again.”

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