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Port Jefferson junior forward and co-captain Jillian Colucci shoots and scores through a crowd of Babylon defenders. Photo by Desirée Keegan

By Desirée Keegan

After dropping the first two non-league games of the season, the Port Jefferson girls’ soccer team is back on track after topping Babylon Monday, 4-1, to continue a three-game League VII winning streak.

“Coming from being Class B and beating them in the Suffolk County Championship last year and now dropping down to Class C, it is definitely a big win for us today,” head coach Allyson Wolff said. “In the beginning of the season we played some tough opponents in Ward Melville and Center Moriches and we felt like the girls weren’t talking or communicating, so we worked on that and our passing in practice, keeping it simple and playing to feet — not just trying to kick the ball — so I feel we definitely stepped it up for this game.”

Port Jefferson sophomore midfielder Hailey Reale feels pressure from a Babylon defender as she maintains possession of the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Port Jefferson sophomore midfielder Hailey Reale feels pressure from a Babylon defender as she maintains possession of the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Port Jefferson sophomore goalkeeper Brianna Scarda made several big saves to keep the score 0-0, and the Royals had some chances at a goal early on, but Babylon’s defense came up with the stops.

Although opening the second half still in a stalemate, the Royals were quick to make up for lost time after speaking with Wolff at halftime.

“At halftime I told them that they weren’t playing our game,” Wolff said. “Babylon was beating us to the ball and stepping in front of us, and I told them that if we were going to let them do this, then we’re not going to win. I told them that they have to want it and it has to come from their heart, and told them that the other team looked like it wanted it more than they did, and I think that got them angry and sparked something.”

Port Jefferson junior midfielder and forward Clare O'Connor sends the ball into play during the Royals' 4-1 win over Babylon on Sept. 21. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Port Jefferson junior midfielder and forward Clare O’Connor sends the ball into play during the Royals’ 4-1 win over Babylon on Sept. 21. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Less than four minutes in, junior forward Jillian Colucci beat out the Babylon goalkeeper, who came out of the box to try and make a save, and shot the ball into the right side of an empty net off an assist from junior midfielder and forward Clare O’Connor, for the 1-0 lead.

“I knew I was going to get the pass, so I started running and felt the defense on my back, but I was able to touch it past the goalie and did whatever I could do to continue to touch it into the net,” she said.

At the 29:48 mark, after O’Connor sent the ball into play, Colucci attempted a goal through a swarm of defenders, and junior midfielder and forward Brittany Fazin put out her foot to stop the rebound and sent the ball into the right corner for a 2-0 advantage.

Off another assist from O’Connor, who crossed the ball into the box after a foul call, Colucci scored her second goal with a straight shot up the middle through traffic and past the keeper. She followed it up with her hat trick goal when, again, the Babylon goalkeeper came out of the box, leaving the net empty.

“The game was intense, and it always is against Babylon,” Colucci said. “Since we’re only playing them once this season we knew we had to step up and play them as hard as we could and keep our record strong against them.”

Port Jefferson junior midfielder and forward Brittany Fazin kicks the ball behind her to keep the pressure in Babylon's zone. Colucci would grab the pass and score on the play, and the Royals went on to beat the Panthers, 4-1, on Sept. 21. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Port Jefferson junior midfielder and forward Brittany Fazin kicks the ball behind her to keep the pressure in Babylon’s zone. Colucci would grab the pass and score on the play, and the Royals went on to beat the Panthers, 4-1, on Sept. 21. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Scarda made a save, her last of 18 on the afternoon, exactly three minutes after the Royals’ final goal to preserve the clean sheet for the time being, but after a goalie change, senior Noelle Zimmermann gave up a goal with 5:07 left to play, to bring the final score to 4-1.

“We really, really earned it,” Scarda said of the win. “All the nerves that we had — being scared about the game, we took and converted into our skill and our playing. We got our heads in the zone every chance we got and we trained very, very hard leading up to this game.”

What helped the Royals was that the team was playing to feet instead of chasing the ball in the air like they did in the first half.

“We don’t have good control of it [in the air], and when they play things to feet it’s pretty, it’s beautiful and it makes things happen,” assistant coach Michele Aponte said. “They’re a stronger group of girls together, especially getting to the level they got to last year. They want it.”

Port Jefferson travels to McGann-Mercy Friday, for a 4:30 p.m. game. The Royals have topped the Monarchs all six times they faced their opponent in the last three seasons.

Centereach's Paige Emerson fights for possession of the ball. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Being young didn’t stop these Cougars from pouncing onto their prey.

The Centereach field hockey team commanded the field, owned the time of possession and held Port Jefferson scoreless on their own home turf to take a 4-0 victory in nonleague action Saturday. 

Centereach's Lindsey Noack carries the ball toward the cage. Photo by Bill Landon
Centereach’s Lindsey Noack carries the ball toward the cage. Photo by Bill Landon

“This is the first time we’ve played on our own turf and today we clicked,” Centereach head coach Michelle Cocchiaro said. “This afternoon we communicated well, which is something we didn’t do until today.”

A pair of freshman started the scoring for Centereach when forward Caroline McParland’s shot found the back of the cage off an assist by forward and midfielder Sophie Alois for the 1-0 lead.

Port Jefferson head coach Deb Brown said her team is also very young, with one senior and two freshmen on the forward line.

“It’s the first time on turf,” Brown said. “I think they got a little bit tired, but I think we handled ourselves OK. Some of the girls were out of position, and we’re inexperienced on turf.”

Centereach junior Lindsey Noack, a forward and midfielder, answered next when her shot found its mark to help the Cougars edge ahead 2-0.

Noack said her team had good communication on the field with good ball movement, and added that she thought the midfielders were effective in getting the ball to the forwards.

“Today I saw teamwork, which is a big difference from our first scrimmage against Newfield, where we were all over the place,” Noack said. “Today we meshed together and we played as one.”

Centereach junior Paige Emerson, also a midfielder and forward, lit up the scoreboard next with just over three minutes left in the first half.

The Royals spent much of the game on defense trying to contain the offensive pressure, and had few opportunities for shots on goal as a result.

Port Jefferson's Jackie Brown fights to keep the ball in bounds. Photo by Bill Landon
Port Jefferson’s Jackie Brown fights to keep the ball in bounds. Photo by Bill Landon

Port Jefferson junior forward and midfielder Jackie Brown said she thought her team did well despite this being their first game on turf.

“We passed well, but we’re not used to the speed of the ball because we play on grass,” she said, adding that she thinks her team needs to do a better job at cutting in front of the defense as the Royals prepare for their next game against Sayville.

Centereach sophomore forward Jessica Whalen rounded out the scoring for the Cougars with 14 minutes left to play, to give the team a 4-0 advantage, and the game its final score.

With time running out and desperate to get on the scoreboard, the Royals continued to push for a goal until the final horn.

“I thought we did really well, but we have to work on shooting on cage,” Port Jefferson junior defender Isabelle Koutsantanou said. “We have to get better getting our forwards back [faster] to help out on defense.”

Centereach junior defender Cassidy Treanor was also proud of her team’s efforts, especially being an almost completely new team compared to last year’s roster.

“We’re a brand new team — we had 10 seniors graduate last year so literally the junior varsity team is now the varsity team, with four extra players,” she said. “We’re so young and to see the players who are just now freshmen being able to compete with seniors is so big for us. They have such skills for being so young.”

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Photo by Elana Glowatz

A Miller Place official will change his rally colors to purple and white this summer.

The Port Jefferson school board hired Robert Neidig as the district’s new middle school principal on July 28, a couple of months after three-year principal Antonio Santana announced he would not return to the position for the 2015-16 school year.

Neidig, an assistant principal at North Country Road Middle School for the past eight years, will start at Port Jefferson on Aug. 17, a letter to the community from Superintendent Ken Bossert said.

A recent press release from the Port Jefferson school district said Neidig has two master’s degrees from Stony Brook University and a doctorate in educational administration from Dowling College, and started his career as a social studies teacher in Babylon before becoming an administrator.

At Miller Place, he “fostered a positive relationship between the school and community, initiated character education programs to improve the school climate, facilitated the implementation of the Common Core Learning Standards and served as chairperson for four academic departments,” the press release said.

Until Neidig officially makes the move to Royals country, the middle school has an interim principal, Leonard Bozza, who was once the Longwood High School principal and has previously served in interim roles in Port Jefferson: once as an assistant principal and once as the high school principal.

In addition to appointing the new Port Jefferson Middle School leader, the school board also added Brentwood’s head of speech and hearing, Jodi Cahill, as the new director of special education and Claudia Smith, currently a Middle Country school district staffer, as the elementary and middle school assistant principal.

Cahill has a master’s in speech language pathology from LIU Post and served on Brentwood’s special education committee, the press release said. Smith has been an elementary teacher for 18 years and has a master’s from Dowling College.

“Each was selected based upon outstanding vision, strong content knowledge, and the ability to collaborate with all stakeholders in an effective manner,” Bossert said of the three new staffers.

The district is still looking for an assistant principal for Earl L. Vandermeulen High School, and Bossert said the goal is to have one appointed before school starts.

Neidig, Cahill and Smith are part of a new lineup throughout Port Jefferson schools. In addition to replacing Santana, the district had to find a replacement for Matthew Murphy, the former high school principal, who announced his departure a few months before Santana. Officials recently promoted Christine Austen to the position from her role as the assistant principal for grades pre-k through 12.

Smith is absorbing Austen’s former elementary and middle school duties and the educator who is hired as the high school’s assistant principal will complete that transition.

“This is an exciting time in the Port Jefferson school district,” Bossert said in the press release. “[It is] a time filled with opportunities for growth and development as new leaders join the team.”

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Tristin DeVincenzo, a two-time All-State athlete and two-time county champion, is Royals’ winningest wrestler

Tristin DeVincenzo wrestles in a previous Suffolk County championship match. File photo

Tristin DeVincenzo may not have started his varsity wrestling career at Port Jefferson on the highest note but he left a mark, as the two-time All-State wrestler, who will be heading to the University of Pennsylvania
in the fall, racked up the most wins in program history.

“He was a little kid with a bad haircut,” Port Jefferson head coach Mike Maletta said of DeVincenzo, one of the first wrestlers he brought up to the varsity level as an eighth-grader, laughing. “He won about 13 matches that year. He still had a lot to learn — he was a little undersized — and over the next couple of years, he continued to work at his skills and worked on his body and got into shape to where he was one of the best wrestlers in the state.”

DeVincenzo knew he had a passion for the sport, and set his sights on improving his grappling game.

“Right away I loved the fact that it’s an individual sport and it all revolves around you,” he said. “I knew the work I needed to put in to be the best. At first I had no mental strength and I didn’t know how to win matches, but as the years progressed I developed a lot of mental strength and a very, very good work ethic and both of those together helped me progress in the sport.”

He did significantly better his freshman year, and signed up for the 28-day J. Robinson Intensive Training Camp in Minnesota in the next two offseasons.

“When he started to show the discipline and the dedication for the sport, I got more excited because I’m a wrestling guy and I wrestled in high school and college,” said Tristin’s father Matt DeVincenzo, who is the athletic director in neighboring Comsewogue. “You have to know where Tristin came from as a wrestler. He always loved the sport, but he wasn’t always a gifted wrestler. Now he’s an All-State wrestler and no one can ever take that away from him.”

The training camp, along with support from his coach, his father and his younger brother Matteo, who is also a Royals wrestler, directly impacted Tristin DeVincenzo’s game, and the athlete began to climb the ladder toward the state championships.

“I surrounded myself with guys that had the same goals as me and the same mindset to improve and get better,” he said of his time at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. “Being on a small school team was also awesome. Everyone looked up to me and I served as more or less a role model, which not only helped me teach others but it taught me a lot about myself.”

Tristin DeVincenzo has his arm raised after winning a county title. File photo from Port Jefferson athletics
Tristin DeVincenzo has his arm raised after winning a county title. File photo from Port Jefferson athletics

Once his junior year arrived, DeVincenzo realized he was on track to surpass the school’s win record, which had been established more than 20 years before. He finished his high school career with 137 wins, topping the previous 134 mark.

“There’s only been eight other wrestlers that have won over 100 matches for Port Jefferson wrestling, which has been around since the 1950s,” Maletta said. “He’s at the top of the heap now.”

DeVincenzo’s now-former coach, who began working with him when he was a quarterback on the junior varsity team, said it wasn’t surprising that his athlete was able to achieve the feat.

“He had the will to succeed — that’s key,” he said. “He didn’t want to fail, so he did what he could to improve on his skills to always be successful. He continues to improve at every level and keeps setting new goals for himself.”

DeVincenzo is used to overcoming setbacks.

After his 39-4 junior-year campaign, he hit trouble in the state bracket but bounced back to place fifth. The wrestler did the same thing at the Eastern States Classic that same season, winning four consecutive contests in the consolations to make the finals, which included three nationally ranked wrestlers.

DeVincenzo won back-to-back Suffolk County championships in 2014 and 2015, and was named a 2015 National High School Coaches Association Academic All-American. Besides athletics being a major part of his life — the competitor also had brief stints on the football and baseball teams — he also plays the piano and trumpet.

“I love playing the piano because it’s another thing that’s on you, kind of like wrestling,” he said. “The work you put into it directly correlates with how good you are.”

Maletta recalls his wrestler earning the All-State honor, and compared the feeling to being similar to the sensation he had when his children were born.

“I had chills down my body,” he said. “When he turned and looked at me after becoming All-State and he jumped in my arms, I had the same feeling. He put so much effort into this and the journey was such an up-and-down one.”

His grit and determination to get to the top helped him attract the attention of multiple colleges and universities and ultimately, after stepping onto the campus of the University of Pennsylvania, DeVincenzo’s decision seemed obvious.

“It’s a Division I program, so it’s good wrestling,” Maletta said. “He’s going to have a great experience and I’m excited to see where the next few years take him.”

To be successful on a big stage, Maletta said he hopes DeVincenzo can continue to carry the same mindset he had in high school onto the college level.

“It’s not going to be easy,” Maletta said. “There’s going to be an adjustment period. There will be days he’ll want to quit and every day he’ll have to wake up, put his feet on the floor, set some new goals for himself and tell himself that he’ll get better every day.”

Alex Tirapelle, a second-year head coach at the helm of UPenn’s program, is looking forward to what the members of his first recruiting class will bring to the program.

“When I arrived on campus in August, I knew it would it would be important to find the right people for the class of 2019,” he said. “While Penn Wrestling will always recruit high-achieving student-athletes, it was particularly important for us to find young men that were representative of the program’s core values — integrity, passion, confidence, persistence and commitment. I believe we have done exactly that.”

DeVincenzo would like to see himself as a multiple placer in the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association tournament and, by doing so, qualify for nationals. His ultimate goal would be to become an All-American.

“It’s been a crazy journey, especially from where I started in eighth grade,” he said. “I didn’t really have the confidence in eighth grade and by junior/senior year, I had the confidence that I could do things beyond that. I’m happy it all paid off and I can look back and see I’ve accomplished things in the sport. Wrestling means a lot to me. It’s a lifestyle. I love it.”

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The Class of 2015 celebrated their graduation in Port Jefferson on Friday, remembering their pasts as they looked toward their bright futures.

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Max Scandale maintains possession with an opponent on his hip in a game this season. File photo by Desirée Keegan

The Port Jefferson boys’ lacrosse team capped off its inaugural season with some prestigious individual and team honors.

Three players, Max Scandale, Brian Mark and Connor Fitterer, were selected as members to the League IV All-League team.

Scandale also made the All-County team, and Mark was selected as the League IV “Rookie of the Year.”

As a team, the Royals were the recipient of the “Crosse Award,” for which a team is nominated by the Suffolk County Lacrosse Coaches Association as being the most improved squad from the beginning to the end of the season.

“I really could not be more proud of what this team accomplished this past season,” Port Jefferson head coach Taylor Forstell said. “Being a first-year varsity lacrosse program in Suffolk County is hard enough. To make it to the playoffs in our first season is a true testament of this program’s growth and progression.”

Senior Jake Myhre was also recognized by the Port Jefferson Village Lacrosse Association as being the first recipient of the “Stick With A Goal” scholarship at the annual Booster Club Dinner.

This scholarship, a $1,000 prize, recognizes a college-bound senior for their hard work, dedication and commitment to their team.

“When approached about this scholarship, I knew right away we had a perfect match,” Forstell. “Jake is a three-sport athlete that commits countless hours to improving his craft in all three sports. It has been an honor to coach him the past three years and we all wish him the best of luck next year at the University of Pittsburgh.”

Looking ahead, Forstell is excited for the next season with his athletes.

“Our journey has just begun,” he said. “We look forward to continued success in the coming years through hard work and commitment to the lacrosse family.”

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Justin Julich competes for Port Jefferson in the steeplechase in the St. Anthony’s Invitational. Photo from the athlete

The Royals have always risen to the occasion, and the boys’ track and field team hopes their efforts this year on the state stage will be no exception.

Despite missing the entire spring season with an Achilles tendon injury, Port Jefferson standout James Burke — and two of his fellow Royals — placed in the Section XI individual championships and state qualifier on their home track last Friday and Saturday, to advance to the state championship this weekend at the University at Albany.

“It was devastating to lose James this spring season,” Port Jefferson head coach Rod Cawley said. “He’s the captain of the team and one of the best athletes in the state. But it’s quite an accomplishment to have three athletes competing this weekend.”

Although this season’s squad did not win any of the championships the Royals usually nab, like the league, division and county titles, the boys still finished the dual-meet season with a 5-1 record — dropping only their final matchup against Wyandanch, 79-59 — despite missing Burke, as well as junior Billy Witrock for a portion of the schedule.

Although he did not compete during the regular season, Burke placed second in the 1,600-meter, his signature event, at the qualifying meet with a time of 4 minutes, 18.39 seconds — only five-hundredths of a second behind Ward Melville’s John Ripa.

The Royal has finished that event as fast as 4:08.48, during the New Balance Nationals Indoor at the Armory in Manhattan earlier this year. The time made him the second-fastest miler in the country and earned him a silver medal.

“I give him credit for coming back and coming in second,” Cawley said about the qualifier. “The plan was to go out and try to take it easy to rest his tendon, but being the competitor that he is, there’s no taking it easy. He went from the back of the race all the way to the front in second place there, and then he moved to first for a little while, but he also got stepped on during the race — since [his Achilles] was injured anyway, that didn’t help.”

Burke spent a lot of time trying to heal following his injury, and slowly worked himself up to being able to run again.

“He goes around the neighborhood to people who have pools, and asks if he could swim,” Cawley said, laughing. “He’s been to four or five different pools in Port Jeff. … He likes to run in the water in the deep end to simulate running — not touching the bottom — and then he’ll swim laps to get some cardiovascular aspects of it.”

Port Jefferson's Alden Mohacsi pole vaults in a previous meet. Photo from the athlete
Port Jefferson’s Alden Mohacsi pole vaults in a previous meet. Photo from the athlete

Also heading to states is senior pole-vaulter Alden Mohacsi, whose fourth-place finish at the qualifier was a new personal record, making the state bid that much sweeter.

“I’m definitely looking forward to states,” said Mohacsi, who has been on the team since he was a freshman. “I’m practicing every day and there’s been a lot of personal development. I’m going to do the best that I can this week to improve my form and I’m hoping to hit 13 feet this Friday.”

Junior Justin Julich had several successes of his own, competing in the 3,200 and 3,000 steeplechase.

On Friday, Julich hit a new personal record of his own in the two-mile run with a 9:48 — nine seconds better than his standard 9:57 — to finish eighth. Just hours after competing in the 3,200 the evening before, Julich ran a 10:16 in the steeplechase on Saturday to place seventh and qualify for states.

“It’s awesome to do really good at that high of a level,” Julich said. “Competing against the best guys in the county, it always helps to do your best in those kinds of situations.”

Julich is also looking to reach a new personal best in that event this Saturday, and his head coach said the runner has grown a lot over the years, aiding in his success.

“He’s come a long way,” Cawley said. “He was a little guy back in freshman year and now he’s going to be a team leader next year. He was exhausted Saturday morning. It’s a very difficult [double event] to do in 16 hours, but he didn’t complain; he went out there and did it. He knows he has to step up.”

Julich, Mohacsi, Parker Schoch and Alex Rebic also competed in the 4×800 relay in the state qualifier, finishing 12th in 8:50.

Looking ahead to this weekend, Cawley and his athletes are confident that they can be successful on the big stage.

“I think we have a pretty good chance to do very well,” the head coach said. “James is James; I know he will do well just because of his past. Alden is a tough competitor, and I think Justin has an opportunity to do well, too.”

Mohacsi said the program’s winning tradition has facilitated the athletes’ improvements.

“It’s been an absolute pleasure to be a part of this team and this program,” he said. “It’s built me up physically and mentally, and I’m really grateful for the super-talented and supportive teammates and coaches I’ve had. It’s inspired me to keep pushing myself beyond the best of my abilities; to work hard and give it 110 percent.”

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Port Jefferson’s Alden Mohacsi leaps over the high jump bar in the Royals’ 81-60 win over Stony Brook Monday, May 4. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Port Jefferson’s Spencer Cona leaps into the sand pit in the Royals’ 81-60 win over Stony Brook Monday, May 4. Photo by Bill Landon
Port Jefferson’s Spencer Cona leaps into the sand pit in the Royals’ 81-60 win over Stony Brook Monday, May 4. Photo by Bill Landon

Although the Port Jefferson boys’ track and field team is fielding 13 freshmen on a roster riddled with injuries, the Royals remain atop the League VII leaderboard with an 81-60 win over Stony Brook Monday.

According to head coach Rod Cawley, the team found itself filling holes in events that the athletes were not unaccustomed to, and the competitors came through for the team on their own home track to improve to 5-0 and tie with Wyandanch for first place in the standings.

Winner of the 800-meter event was Port Jefferson junior Billy Witrock with a time of 2 minutes, 12 seconds, despite the shorter hurdle events being his primary focus.

Port Jefferson junior Justin Julich won the 400-hurdle event in 64 seconds flat. He said he rarely runs the event, and the time became his new personal best. A three-year varsity runner, Julich, who the coach said is a superb athlete and touch competitor, also races in cross country, in the two mile and the 3,000 steeplechase, while also pole vaulting and running in the 400.

The Royals took the longest race of the day, as senior Parker Schoch crossed the finish line first in the 3,200, with a winning time of 12:09. Schoch said the conditions were less than ideal, but that didn’t stop him from also claiming first place in the 1,600 with a time of 5:09.

Port Jefferson’s James Concepcion receives the handoff from Parker Schoch in a relay event during the Royals’ 81-60 win over Stony Brook Monday, May 4. Photo by Bill Landon
Port Jefferson’s James Concepcion receives the handoff from Parker Schoch in a relay event during the Royals’ 81-60 win over Stony Brook Monday, May 4. Photo by Bill Landon

“It was windy and it was hot — it was the first warm meet we’ve had this season,” said Schoch, a four-year varsity runner who also competes in the two-mile and high jump.

Cawley said he had to lean on some freshmen to step up and fill the holes left by injured runners, but added he was pleased with their performance.

“We’re a very young team … we had guys who filled rolls today because we have a couple of injuries, and they rose to the occasion,” he said. “We had a couple of sophomores run their personal best today, which was great because our top distance runner in the state, James Burke, is out with a hamstring injury, and our top sprinter couldn’t be here today due to a family obligation.”

Cawley added that his team did well in the relay events, which is something they don’t usually do because of how young his runners are.

Port Jefferson’s Justin Julich and Parker Schoch race around the track in the Royals’ 81-60 win over Stony Brook Monday, May 4. Photo by Bill Landon
Port Jefferson’s Justin Julich and Parker Schoch race around the track in the Royals’ 81-60 win over Stony Brook Monday, May 4. Photo by Bill Landon

“We won three relays, which we don’t usually do because of the ages of the group, so that was a pleasant surprise,” the head coach said.

He was also pleased with sophomore James Concepcion, who competes in the 100, 200 and 400, and 100 and 200 relays.

“He’s an excellent young athlete — rises to the occasion when asked and will be very good one day,” Cawley said.

The Royals will take on top-seeded Wyandanch on Tuesday, May 12, at 4:30 p.m., to settle the dispute for first place in League VIII.

“For right now, we’re just focused on Wyandanch,” Cawley said. “I hope we can get healthy. If not, we’ll have to realign and adjust our strategy.”

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Port Jefferson’s Corey Carnahan makes a catch at the plate before firing the ball to second base for a pickoff attempt in the Royals’ eighth inning, 6-5 loss to Southold Monday. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Fresh off their three-game sweep of Greenport last week, the Port Jefferson baseball team, at 6-0 in League IX, looked to keep their winning ways when they hosted Southold (5-1) Monday afternoon.

The Royals struck first and led by four runs before Southold rallied late to tie the game at 5-5 and force an extra inning. Southold scored the go-ahead run in the top of the eighth, and the team’s defense held it down to win 6-5 and hand Port Jefferson its first loss of the season.

Port Jefferson’s Kristopher Cheslock fields a throw from catcher Corey Carnahan in the Royals’ 6-5 extra-inning loss to Southold Monday. Photo by Bill Landon
Port Jefferson’s Kristopher Cheslock fields a throw from catcher Corey Carnahan in the Royals’ 6-5 extra-inning loss to Southold Monday. Photo by Bill Landon

“We stayed in the game,” Kluender said. “We had a couple of errors, but we got over those. They have a couple of guys who can hit the ball and they can field the plays.”

With the game only a few pitches old, play was stopped as the trainers examined Royals starting pitcher Benjamin Kluender. With a back strain, he remained in the game only to take a line drive to his foot in the next inning. Hobbling around the mound, Kluender shook it off and got back to the business at hand and retired the side.

Port Jefferson senior James Murphy crossed the plate first on a Southold error at the bottom of the inning, for the first run of the game.

“We both came in with the mentality that we’d fight to the end, and that’s what happened,” Murphy said. “We expected them to be tough. We played well and everyone did their part.”

Southold drove in a run in the top of the second to tie the game with the go-ahead runner on first. On the next pitch, Southold’s base runner took off to steal second, as senior catcher Corey Carnahan threw a bullet to the second baseman for the pickoff play, retiring the side.

“Southold is certainly a strong team in this league — they played a very clean baseball game today,” Port Jefferson head coach Jesse Rosen said. “They were pretty much what I expected in terms of their talent level.”

Port Jefferson sophomore Ryan Walsh punched a line drive to right field to load the bases in the bottom of the third, and sophomore Sean Griffin showed patience at the plate as he drew the walk. His RBI brought home Matthew Keresztes for the lead, and Kluender smacked a sacrifice fly to right field to give his team a 3-1 advantage, leaving runners on second and third.

With two outs, sophomore Kristopher Cheslock battled at the plate, looking to keep the inning alive. He ripped one deep to left center that almost went out, but both runners were able to run home standing up for a two-run double. With the scores, the Royals broke out to a 5-1 lead.

“I thought we hit the ball pretty well today and we had strong pitching and good cuts at the ball,” Cheslock said. “But I thought we could’ve cleaned up our infield today.”

Port Jefferson pitcher Benjamin Kluender, who threw all seven regular innings, hurls the ball from the mound in the Royals’ first loss of the season, an extra-inning 6-5 loss to Southold at home, Monday. Photo by Bill Landon
Port Jefferson pitcher Benjamin Kluender, who threw all seven regular innings, hurls the ball from the mound in the Royals’ first loss of the season, an extra-inning 6-5 loss to Southold at home, Monday. Photo by Bill Landon

Southold answered back in the top of the fourth inning by driving in three runs to draw within one, 5-4, and on an overthrow to home plate, a Southold runner scored from third to tie the game at 5-5.

Port Jefferson followed with a missed opportunity at the plate with a runner in scoring position, and with the batter caught looking, the go-ahead run on second was stranded.

Rosen said Southold is the team’s strongest opponent in the league, and he thought his team could keep pace even though it was the first time the Royals have seen the Settlers this season.

“Moving forward, I think we can certainly hang with them,” he said.

Neither team threatened in the seventh to force an extra inning.

Port Jefferson relief pitcher Neil Alvarez, a lefty, took over at the mound, and Southold opened the inning with a deep hit to centerfield for a double. A sacrifice fly advanced the runner to third, who scored on another passed ball at the plate for a 6-5 advantage.

Still trailing by a run with two outs in the bottom of the eighth, the Royals had their backs against the wall. Kluender battled in the box, and was hit by a pitch. Stealing second base proved too risky, so Kluender didn’t venture far from the bag.

Port Jefferson’s final batter struck out and the Royals were handed their first loss of the season. Although Kluender was left stranded on base, his coach was impressed with his performance overall, and especially from the mound.

“He tweaked his back a little bit, he gets hit with a come-back and yet he’s willing to battle back and throw 88 pitches today,” Rosen aid. “Ben had an awesome performance today.”

Port Jefferson is now tied with Southold and Pierson/Bridgehampton for first place in the league at 6-1. The Royals will take to the diamond Wednesday on the road and finish up at home on Thursday with first pitches for both games slated for 4:30 p.m.

“Often you look at the immediacy of the game — winning or losing as to whether it’s a success or not,” Rosen said. “A loss in a close game isn’t the worst thing because you can learn from it.”

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Freshman midfielder Thomas Mark evades the Panthers. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Despite a 14-4 loss at the hands of Babylon on a rainy Tuesday, the Port Jefferson boys’ lacrosse team is looking on the bright side.

“I think a young team like this, not ever experiencing the competition at the varsity level, especially a team that is the reigning county champions, it’s an uphill battle every single time,” Port Jefferson head coach Taylor Forstell said. “It was quite a learning experience. They competed until the last whistle and that’s all I could ask of them.”

A young team, the Royals are looking to improve day by day, to prove that they can hang with — and one day rule over — the other varsity teams.

Junior attack Spencer Woolley passes the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Junior attack Spencer Woolley passes the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

To get to that level, junior attack and co-captain Taylor Chiarelli said the team has been doing a lot of running during practice, something the team likes to call “lacrosse country,” while also working on stick skills and ball movement to learn the basics.

“We just need more practice, more movement and more calling out,” he said after the loss. “We didn’t win the game, but it’s all right. We tried our hardest and that’s all that matters.”

Forstell said competitiveness is one thing his athletes don’t lack, adding that although the score of the game may not show it, his Royals never gave up on a play and pressured Babylon until the last whistle.

The Panthers started off with eight unanswered goals until Port Jefferson junior attack Marco Scarda received the ball off of a pass and, from about 20 yards out, sent a straight shot past the goalkeeper to put his team on the scoreboard.

Babylon scored once more in the first, three times in the second and once in the third to take a 13-1 advantage into the final quarter.

“I feel like we kind of lost the game before we got out here, mentally,” said junior goalkeeper and co-captain Connor Fitterer, who made six saves on the evening. “We knew they were going to be a tough team. There’s a lack of experience for a lot of these players. Some of them picked up the stick for the first time last year or this year, so it’s been difficult, but it’s been fun.”

The Royals had something to smile about when Scarda scored again with 10:44 remaining in the game, off a pass across the field that he whipped into the back of the cage.

Sophomore midfielder Chandler Sciara looks downfield to make a play. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Sophomore midfielder Chandler Sciara looks downfield to make a play. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Babylon scored again but Port Jefferson sophomore midfielder Chandler Sciara countered with a goal of his own.

With five seconds remaining, Port Jefferson freshman midfielder Thomas Mark passed the ball from the far left side to sophomore attack Brian Mark, his older brother, who was in front of the goal and managed to lob the ball in overhead to bring the final score to 14-4.

With the loss, Port Jefferson moves to 1-2 overall and 1-1 in League IV, having lost the first game of the season to Bellport, 16-3, but bouncing back with a 16-6 win over Southampton/Ross in its second matchup.

“We definitely could’ve pressured harder, we definitely could’ve been playing a little tougher against them — we didn’t come out with as much fire as they did — but next week’s a new week and we’ll see them again,” junior midfielder and co-captain Max Scandale said. “We just need a little bit of practice, a little bit of time and we’ll definitely get there.”