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Smithtown East

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Wolverines face top-seeded Smithtown East in the out bracket on the road May 15 at 4 p.m.

By Bill Landon

Although the double-elimination game didn’t go as planned, Bobby Vath got by with a little help from his friends.

The first-inning showing was all visiting Connetquot needed to get past Newfield, 3-0, in the first round of baseball playoffs May 14. With a runner in scoring position a Vath pitch was drilled deep to left field for a ground-rule double and a 1-0 lead. Three pitches later, a passed ball at the plate put Connetquot ahead 2-0.

“I went back into the dugout after the top of the first, and they were right there ready to pick me up,” the senior said of his teammates. “So I was ready to go back out there in the second and fight for my team.”

Newfield was unable to answer in bottom of the inning, and unfortunately for Vath, an RBI-single gave the Thunderbirds an insurance run in the top of the second.

Newfield was able to get the bat on the ball after that, but when the Wolverines did get on base, Connetquot’s defense answered the call to keep them there.

Vath found his rhythm in the third, and despite Connetquot putting two runners on base in the top of the sixth, the senior didn’t give up a run the rest of the way. He struck out the next two batters in that inning to get out of the jam.

“He settled down after that first inning and started throwing outs, working off his fastball and had good command of the game,” Newfield head coach Eric Joyner said. “That’s just vintage Vath — he’s a great competitor.”

Newfield faces an unexpected opponent Tuesday, May 15, after top-seeded Smithtown East was upset by No. 17 Bay Shore, 7-4.

“Our approach has to be the same — come out of the gate hot, protect the baseball and throw strikes,” Joyner said. “We’ll have to execute a little better offensively tomorrow than we did today.”

Despite Newfield being the No. 8 seed, Vath said to him and his Wolverines, it doesn’t matter what seed they are, or what number they’re facing.

“We’ll definitely get the scouting reports from the other coaches who’ve played [Smithtown East], because that helped us in this game too, but their number doesn’t scare us,” Vath said. “We’ll go in there with the mentality that if the 17thseed beat the No. 1 seed, anybody can beat anyone on any given day.”

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Marc Barbiglia rips the ball to right center field. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Marc Barbiglia is used to giving Smithtown East fans something to cheer about.

On Tuesday, the senior’s bat was the difference maker. Barbiglia belted a two-run single to right center with the bases loaded in the top of the seventh inning to help the Bulls to a 7-5 road win over Walt Whitman. 

Winning pitcher Tyler Loft walks off the field after striking out three. Photo by Bill Landon

Tyler Loft, who earned the win, took over on the mound in the bottom of the sixth, allowing no runs on no hits, striking out three and walking none.

“Whitman’s a very good team — they’ve got very good pitching, they played well, they battled, but we just came out on top,” said Barbiglia, who leads his team in RBIs (14) and is batting a .415 on 41 at bats. “We just wanted to play strong defense, stay behind the pitcher — we know he’s got great stuff — we stayed positive out there, kept the ball in front for easy plays.”

Loft said his team was in similar situations through two close wins over Half Hollow Hills East (7-6 and 8-7) back in April. He said he knew his game was all mental.

“I stayed confident, believed in my pitches,” Loft said. “I felt great out there today. I was hitting my spots [with] whatever the catcher was setting up — it was one of those days.”

Smithtown East let a three-run lead slip away when Walt Whitman scored in the bottom of the fourth, and the Bulls came out scoreless in the top of the fifth still leading 3-1.

Michael Ciminiello dives into third base safely. Photo by Bill Landon

The Bulls gave up four more runs before head coach Ken Klee summoned Nicholas Harvey to take over on the mound with one out. He walked his first batter, working with his twin brother Justin his battery mate, but the pair was just warming up. Nicholas Harvey struck out the next batter for the second out, and Justin Harvey fired the ball to second base in time for the Walt Whitman runner to be tagged out to end the inning down 5-3.

Walt Whitman gave the Bulls a gift in the top of the sixth when a passed ball at the plate helped sophomore Michael Ciminiello score from third to make it a one-run game, 5-4.

“[Whatever the record is you] go in and play hard — you can’t take any team lightly,” Ciminiello said. “You go out there, do [your] best and keep playing the game.”

Matthew Weirtheim takes a cut. Photo by Bill Landon

With the 7-5 win Smithtown East improves to 14-1, but Klee said the goal is much bigger than that.

“We need to get better — that sounds like it’s nitpicking, but we want to be the best team,” the coach said. “But obviously the last couple of innings we showed grit to come back again for the second day in a row. It’s certainly a credit to the kids.”

Especially Barbiglia, who hit big for the second day in a row. He went 2-for-3 and scored the game-tying run in the sixth inning in a 3-2 win over Bay Shore April 30.

“Mark got that big hit that’s two days in a row — he’s the guy we know is going to come through in a situation like that,” Klee said.

The senior’s bat just keeps on cracking, and the crowd continues to supply some 
additional noise.

Smithtown East's Alexandra Nicholson battles between Huntington defenders. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

There were threes all over the place Monday night, and just like the three “c’s” in Katie Seccafico’s last name, it seemed the senior was calling for them.

Huntington’s Katie Seccafico shoots. Photo by Bill Landon

Seccafico banked three triples on her way to a game-high 13 points in Huntington’s 45-37 League III win over Smithtown East Jan. 8. She had eight assists and four steals to go along with it.

“We spent a lot of time preparing for the face guard,” Seccafico said. “We had good communication on defense and that really helped us dropping back, letting everyone know where we are on the court.”

The guard scored her first 3-pointer to cap off a 17-0 Blue Devils run to open the first quarter, and added another by the halftime break. Senior Alexandra Heuwetter nailed two of her own to help Huntington to a 26-14 lead.

“At first, it’s not what we expected we thought,” Heuwetter said. “We thought they would face guard us, but they didn’t, and that gave us a lot of open shots.”

Smithtown East senior point guard Ceili Williams (13 points) also made her presence known, drawing fouls while driving to the basket and going 6-for-7 from the free-throw line.

Even with her team making shot after shot to extend the advantage, as Huntington outscored Smithtown East 13-9 in the third, sophomore forward Riva Bergman said she was impressed with her team’s defensive effort.

Huntington’s Alexandra Heuwetter scores on a layup. Photo by Bill Landon

“I think we’re ready for any challenge,” she said. “We slowed the tempo, we ran our plays and we were able to knock down shots.”

Huntington senior Nicole Leslie, who had not seen action early in the season due to injury, was at full strength in the second half and battled in the paint to lead her team with six points in the third. She finished the game with 12 rebounds.

The Bulls had their work cut out for them in the final eight minutes of play, trailing by 16, but refused to go quietly. Freshman Paige Doherty drained a three to make it a 12- point game, and Williams added her own to draw within nine points in regulation, but it was as close as Smithtown East would come.

“They’re big, they’re athletic, they’re strong, but I just told them I’m very proud of how the battled back — they didn’t hang their heads and give up at 17-0,” Smithtown East head coach Tom Vulin said. “We drew within nine points late, and if you get that next basket it’s a six or seven-point game and then you can do something.”

The seniors led the way for the Blue Devils, which move to 2-2 on the season to be even with Smithtown East, with Leslie and Heuwetter following close behind Seccafico with 11 points apiece. Huntington head coach Michael Kaplan has enjoyed seeing his team at full strength.

“Earlier in the year we had some injuries and sicknesses, so it was hard for us to practice at full strength, but we’re finally healthy,” he said. “We’re a young team considering we only have three seniors, and it helped that we shot well early on, but our three seniors really stepped up today — that really helped us.”

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Bulls come from behind in crosstown rival win

Smithtown West’s Chris Crespo leaps for a layup. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Defense was the difference-maker in a game of crosstown rivals Jan. 3.

Smithtown West held host Smithtown East to just 17 points through the first 16 minutes of play, and outscored the Bulls 31-14 in the second half to nab a 56-31 League II win.

“We always play hard — we’ve held our opponents to the least points in the county per game for the last two years,” said Smithtown West point guard Chris Crespo. “We play defense, and that’s how we win games.”

Smithtown West’s Michael Gannon scored a game-high 26 points. Photo by Bill Landon

Smithtown West’s Michael Gannon sparked the offense midway through the third quarter, draining his third 3-pointer of the game to put his team out front 32-18. Smithtown East struggled to contain the big man in the paint, where Crespo would consistently feed the 6-foot, 6-inch power forward, who battled his way to the rim time and time again.

“In this league you can’t sleep on any team though,” Gannon said despite his effort. “Anyone has a good shot at winning no matter who you play.”

The Crespo-Gannon combination was too much for East to contain, and Gannon banked 10 of his game-high 26 points in the final eight minutes. Crespo finished with 11 points.

Smithtown West head coach Mike Agostino wasn’t surprised at some points of the contest, saying he’s come to expect great things from Crespo and Gannon.

“Our point guard Chris [Crespo] is pretty good at getting the ball to the open player,” Agostino said. “He can find people, and he found Michael today and he was making shots.”

He said he thought the end results wasn’t indicative though of what his team is really made of.

“They’re very good, and they make you uncomfortable defensively — they throw you out of rhythm,” Agostino said. “We haven’t practiced for two days, and mentally you’re not out of rhythm, but physically you are, because you have to shoot every day.”

Smithtown East’s Chris Crespo guards against East’s Joe Neto. Photo by Bill Landon

Crespo still thought his challengers fought hard, saying he wasn’t surprised by the Bulls’ caliber of play, as both teams grew up together and know each other well.

“We know a lot of these guys, so you know what you’re getting, but when we play North Babylon or Copiague, it’s coach Agostino and coach [John] Tampori who do a fantastic job of prepping us before the game,” Crespo said. “[At]practice, they show us what to expect.”

Smithtown East head coach Keith Reyling said his team’s performance was not what he’d hoped it’d be for this point in the season.  Atop the scoring chart was James Peters with nine points and John Cawley with six.

“We don’t ever expect to get out-worked, and we were severely out-worked by the other team tonight,” he said. “That’s uncharacteristic of us. We’re usually a hard-working, blue collar type of team, so it was disappointing to see that they worked so much harder than we did.”

Smithtown East will look to redeem the loss when the Bulls hit the road to face Huntington Jan. 5 at 5:45 p.m. Smithtown West is scheduled to be back in action on its home court today, Jan. 4. A 4 p.m. tip-off time is scheduled.

“We play North Babylon on Thursday, so we have one day to prepare,” Gannon said. “We’ll practice hard and go out and play hard.”

Smithtown East's Joe Neto scored five 3-pointers in a win over Centereach. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Smithtown East senior Joe Neto has a sweet outside shot.

The guard finished with five 3-pointers and a commanding 19 points to lead the Bulls over the visiting Centereach Cougars in a 54-36 League III opener Dec. 19.

Alex Zampieron goes up under the basket. Photo by Bill Landon

The Cougars were able to pull as close as within five points late in the fourth quarter, but a 14-9 fourth quarter sealed the deal.

“They were putting a little more pressure on me, forcing the ball out of my hands, but in the second half our spacing was great, our pace was great and everyone was moving the ball really well,” Neto said. “We found the open guy — we made a bunch of open shots and we made our layups.”

With 5:25 left in the first half, Neto hit back-to-back triples to put his team out front 21-7. Centereach called timeout, and made a defensive adjustment out of the huddle that helped the Cougars hold Smithtown East scoreless until the final second before the break, when Neto launched his second nearly half-court shot of the game for his fourth 3-pointer to that point. Smithtown East held a 10-point advantage, 24-14, heading into the locker room.

Centereach head coach Ed Miller said the guarded effort wasn’t what he expected.

“We actually just kind of woke up and started playing the defense we should have been playing,” Miller said. “We made a couple of adjustments where we should have been, positionwise, and the kids followed through on it.”

Centereach’s Chris Witherspoon leaps for a layup. Photo by Bill Landon

Three minutes into the third quarter Centereach senior Chris Witherspoon hit a field goal and a pair of treys to close the gap to six points. Smithtown East retook to the court following an immediate timeout call, and with a different offensive look. Then 6-foot, 3-inch senior Alex Zampieron got the call, grabbing low passes and battling in the paint for each point. When he didn’t score, he drew a foul and made his time at the charity stripe count. He finished with a team-high seven points in the third to Witherspoon’s eight.

“When he got the ball he was making strong moves, and finishing,” said Smithtown East head coach Keith Reyling. “It wasn’t pretty, so even if we don’t play our best game we can still be successful. Sometimes
we don’t play the game like we practiced, and we go off script a little bit and that’s when things get away from us.”

Smithtown East opened the final quarter with a 13-point lead and again Neto swished his final 3-pointer of the game. Zampieron followed Neto with nine points in the win, and junior Chris Goria tacked on six.

Witherspoon topped Centereach’s scoring chart with 16 points. Next in line was sophomore Matt Robbert with five.

Centereach hosts North Babylon today, Dec. 21, at 4 p.m.

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Smithtown East's Allie Brady spikes the ball over Patchogue-Medford defenders reaching for the block. Photo by Bill Landon
Smithtown East’s Brooke Berroyer smacks down one of her 11 kill shots. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

No. 3 Smithtown East’s girls volleyball team breezed through the opening round of the Class AA playoffs Oct. 30, taking down No. 14 Patchogue-Medford in three sets 25-13, 25-16, 25-13.

Senior outside hitter Brooke Berroyer, who had 11 kills and was strong from the service line, said she was surprised by what the Raiders brought to the court.

“They were better than I was expecting them to be — they had really good defense, their block are pretty big, but I think our defense played really well today,” she said. “Our setter, [senior Marissa Oliveri, who had 35 assists], was moving the ball around today, we had a lot of different hitters today, we were all hitting very effectively.”

Senior middle Steph Berdon went on serve streak with Berroyer to put the Bulls out front 10-4 in the opening set, forcing Pat-Med to call the first timeout of the afternoon. The break didn’t help the Raiders though, as Smithtown East surged ahead 21-11 as the visitors called for another pause.

Smithtown East’s Marissa Oliveri sets up a play. Photo by Bill Landon

Berroyer picked up where she left off, gaining more Bulls points from the service line until the score was 9-5. Junior outside hitter Katy Curran slammed a kill shot from high above the net before Pat-Med asked for another timeout.

The Raiders were able to keep pace from there, trailing by four points until the Bulls stepped on the gas and broke out to a 23-15 advantage.

Senior outside hitter Allie Brady also noted Patchogue-Medford’s defense despite the score.

“Their defense was amazing, it was tough to get the ball to hit the floor,” she said. “We had good communication and trust in each other and that built confidence.”

Oliveri continued to help set up plays as Smithtown East jumped out to an 8-1 advantage in the third, but pointed to her teammates, who she said lightened her load.

“I thought our passing was amazing — they were making my job easier, it easier for the hitters to get their swings on every ball,” she said. “They fought hard, and we had to step up our game and push through.”

Smithtown East’s Felicity Hoffert, who tallied 10 kills, tries to put the ball past a Raiders block. Photo by Bill Landon

With the help of junior right side hitter Felicity Hoffert, who finished with 10 kills, the Bulls edged ahead 19-11 before closing out the set.

Smithtown East has now won its last five games, and head coach George Alamia said he never doubted what his team is capable of, especially with many of his athletes prior experience in the postseason.

“It’s a playoff game; it’s a mentality, and we had that tonight,” he said. “We’ve been here before — a lot of these kids have been in long playoff runs — so they know that they can’t let up.”

Smithtown East is back in action Nov. 1 hosting No. 6 Ward Melville at 5 p.m.

“We’re pretty versatile with our offense — our top four hitters were right around each other 10 or 11 kills, not one person dominated our play,” Alamia said. “We’ll challenge them to get better in certain areas but our ball control is great, we pulled away with our defense in this game and that gives us a chance to win any round.”

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By Jim Ferchland

Going into the fourth quarter up 14-13, the Smithtown East football team could not contain Bay Shore’s defensive prowess.

The Marauders scored 20 unanswered points off turnovers during the 12-minute span to pick up a 33-14 win on the road at the Bulls’ Oct. 7 homecoming game.

Smithtown East quarterback Kevin Melore threw three interceptions with two of them landing in the hands of Bay Shore’s Josh Barker-Ortiz, who made his fifth and sixth interception of the season. He also had a fumble recovery. The Bay Shore defensive back is tied for first with Walt Whitman’s Jordan Lyons among Suffolk County’s interception leaders.

Smithtown East’s Kevin Melore passes the ball. Photo by Jim Ferchland

Smithtown East ended the game turning the ball over four times. Despite this, Smithtown East head coach Jonathan Woods was not disappointed by his quarterback’s performance.

“Kevin [Melore’s] got talent and he’s getting the chance to get a lot of experience,” Woods said of the sophomore. “He threw a couple of great balls on screens, but I think as an offense you can’t turn the ball over four times. We had a couple [turnovers] through the air and a couple on the ground but as an offense we just need to protect the ball.”

The first score of the game didn’t come until the second quarter, where the Bulls started just outside their own end zone. Melore’s pass was intercepted by Barker-Ortiz, who returned it back for a 10-yard touchdown. The extra point was missed, making the score 6-0 Marauders.

East retaliated on its next possession, when senior running back Lauden Hendricks found an opening on the left side and took the ball in for a 20-yard score. The extra point was good and East went into halftime leading 7-6.

During halftime, Woods encouraged his team play better offensively.

“We just need to be consistent,” Woods said. “We are not stringing together when 11 players do the correct thing. We are just trying to hammer the basics and the details.”

To start the third quarter, Bay Shore quarterback Casey Roan threw the ball to his 6-foot, 5-inch wide receiver Kevin Sammis for a 51-yard touchdown to give Bay Shore a 13-7 lead.

“Every week I really have a cornerback who’s not my size,” he said. “I think we should throw it all the time, but when we do throw it, I just do my best to get the ball.”

Woods though did not see Sammis as a difference-maker.

Smithtown East’s Lauden Hendricks carries the ball up the field. Photo by Jim Ferchland

“He is a good player,” Woods said. “We thought if we played good team defense that [Sammis] might catch a few deep balls. I don’t think he beat us when we had four turnovers. We had poor execution on offense.”

In the closing minutes of the third, East relied heavily on its running attack, and senior quarterback Austin Nasworthy punched it in the end zone from four yards out to put East back on top 14-13.

Even with the momentum in their hands, the Bulls were held scoreless in the fourth. Bay Shore’s comeback started with the Bulls’ defense allowing a 30-yard rushing touchdown to Nolan Epps on a sweep to the right side. Bay Shore went for a two-point conversion, but was unsuccessful, so the score was brought to 19-14 with the Marauders now holding the lead.

With 6:29 remaining in the game, Melore was looking for senior wide receiver Andrew Durland, but found Bay Shore defensive back Jalen Thompson instead. He made a diving catch and set up Casey Roan, who completed the drive with his legs, scoring a 3-yard rushing touchdown to expand the lead to 12 with 2:12 left.

Barker-Ortiz continued to excite at the expense of East’s homecoming celebration, and with 1:48 remaining in the game he recovered a Matt Cohen fumble and took the ball the other way until he was pushed out of bounds at East’s 7-yard line. On the very next play, Josh Parris took it in for a 7-yard rushing touchdown to give the game its final score.

The Bulls fall to 1-4 on the season and suffer their fourth consecutive loss after winning the first game of the season against Copaigue Sep 9.

“We are not meeting our capabilities, so there’s some frustration there,” Woods said.

Smithtown East’s next game is Oct.14 at at home against crosstown rival Smithtown West at 2 p.m.

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By Desirée Keegan

Brooke Berroyer loves the burst of adrenaline she gets out on the volleyball court, and her team’s current winning streak certainly seems to be getting her engine revving.

Smithtown East’s Brooke Berroyer celebrates a point. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“Playing gives me such a rush — especially when you’re playing with such great players and you see all the hard work culminate in a win,” the senior setter and right side said. “We go to practice every day and work hard; we all trust each other a lot. I would never be able to play and set the people that I do if I didn’t trust them.”

That trust and confidence led Smithtown East to its seventh straight win Oct. 2 with a 3-0 sweep of Copiague, 25-18, 25-16, 25-23. Berroyer finished with 14 assists and eight digs in the win, but she credited teammate Allie Brady for getting the team to the No. 1 spot in the League III standings.

“Allie Brady is our powerhouse,” she said of the senior outside hitter. “No one can stop her. She puts the ball down every time. She’s our best player right now.”

Brady came through for Smithtown East in crucial situations, like when her back-to-back kills put the Bulls up 12-7 in the first set, or when her spike stopped Copiague’s momentum after three straight points, leading to three straight Smithtown East points in the second set.

“We believe in each other,” said Brady, who had 12 kills and 11 digs in the win. “We have great leaders on this team. All of us seniors work hard to get the team going in the right direction and the rest follow our lead. We always have each other’s back.”

The senior gave credit to the Bulls’ juniors that contributed to the win, and Berroyer recognized one in particular: Michelle Husslein.

Smithtown East’s Alex Colón receives a Copiague serve. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Husslein, an outside hitter, added a handful of service aces in a close third set, and closed out the match serving on the final two points, the second an ace to win the game.

“She’s a junior with a really strong serve, and it’s tough getting on that line, especially as an underclassman,”Berroyer said.

Husslein was filling in for the injured senior middle Steph Berdon, and Smithtown East head coach George Alamia pointed to his junior’s standout performance among others helping to fill the space.

“She was a spark plug,” he said of Husslein. “She hasn’t played a lot, and she was among several players that stepped in to play today, and she played really well.”

Alamia was quick to point to the stellar serving throughout the evening from not only Husslein, but the rest of the squad as well. In total, nine players added to the Bulls’ 41 service aces, accounting for a little less than 55 percent of Smithtown East’s total points.

“Our service team was excellent,” Alamia said. “Game three we had a lot of our bench in with starters sprinkled in. Michelle [Husslein] on the line changed the game — she ran off five or six points and gave us confidence. Logan Kozlowski is a nice young setter coming up and she also got some great opportunities today in the third game.”

Smithtown East’s Allie Brady spikes the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The Bulls remain undefeated at 7-0 on their quest to take their 11th straight League III title this season. Senior libero Alex Colón, who had 14 digs and 16 service receptions, said she’s moved by what her team has already done this year.

“It’s inspiring,” she said of the run. “At the beginning of the season it was a little rough — we all had to learn to work together [after losing seven senior starters to graduation]. We work harder than any team in the gym, we’re communicating and controlling the ball, and that’s key to getting our momentum going. When we come together and play as a team nothing can stop us.”

Smithtown East faces off against crosstown rival Smithtown West for the second time this season Oct. 4 at 5:45 p.m. Smithtown East edged its opponent 3-1 in close sets to open the season Sept. 9. Smithtown West is currently 7-2 overall and 7-1 in league play.

“This team has pressure on them — they want a league championship, they expect it and they’re looking to get it,” Alamia said. “Every year West is a challenge, and I think we’re ready for it — we’re all in. These girls are hungry for he league title, they’re focused, we’re going to have a great practice and we’re going to give them everything we have. I think we’re ready to take what’s ours.”

Smithtown east's Matthew Wertheim goes up for the kill shot. Photo by Bill Landon
Smithtown East’s Daniel Murphy serves the ball. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Led by the power hitting of Matthew Wertheim and Daniel Murphy, Smithtown East got the best of the Northport’s boys volleyball team, taking the away victory in four sets 25-17, 25-21, 22-25 and 25-21 in Division I action Sept. 19.

“We kind of let up a little bit — we didn’t play as well as we did in the first two sets, but we found a way to get back,” Murphy said. “Northport was a challenge, they came out hard. At first we had them, but then we slumped a little bit.”

Both teams came to the court with identical 3-1 records. The Tigers, coming off a five-set comeback win over Ward Melville the night before. Northport struggled to contain Murphy (14 kills) up front as the outside hitter nailed back-to-back kills to put the Bulls out front 15-11 in the first set. Wertheim (18 kills) made his presence known, and added a pair of his own kills to put the Bulls one point away from winning the match. The Tigers were able to score three unanswered points before the Bulls shut the door.

Smithtown East’s Kyle Shaffer sets up a play. Photo by Bill Landon

Smithtown East  had momentum on its side coming into the game, having won three in a row. The Bulls only loss of the season was the season opener against Walt Whitman Sept. 5. Looking to build on their momentum, the Bulls jumped ahead 9-5, only to have the Tigers claw their way back to tie the set 10-10. Smithtown East libero Bryan Kaplan slammed home four straight aces to get ahead once more. Both teams traded points, and Smithtown East edged ahead 23-20 before putting away set two.

Northport came out fast in the third set, and mental errors cost Smithtown East the lead, falling behind 14-9. Murphy, equally dangerous from the service line, scored three aces to close within one point.

“I don’t think they were playing to the best of their ability in the first two sets, but then we fell flat, we were overconfident in that third set [and it got away from us],” Smithtown East setter Kyle Shaffer said. “They were better than I’d thought they’d be — their middles are very good and they have great blocking.”

Northport setter Ben Sandt turned the tide with a pair of monster kill shots and the Tigers finished the job to take the third.

Northport’s Ben Sandt spikes the ball. Photo by Bill Landon

“We stepped it up and they were a little flat,” Sandt said. “We passed better, we had a lot more energy and our setter Ryan Parker pushed the ball up front so we could get some kills. We kept our serves in and we rallied off that.”

The Tigers looked to duplicate what they did the night before — winning three in a row — and found themselves in a 12-12 stalemate in the fourth set. Northport mistakes put the Bulls out front 19-17, and then 23-20 before Northport called timeout.

“Yesterday they  went down two but came back, and we were worried that they were going to do the same thing to us,” Smithtown East head coach Ray Preston said. “But we were able to battle through.”

The Tigers, desperate to force a final set, scored next, but it was too little too late.

Northport head coach Amanda DiPietro said she saw weakness in her lineup that will be addressed going forward.

“I knew they were going to be tough — we saw them in some tournaments previously and they’re a tough team, they have a lot of talent,” she said. “Our service was pretty strong today, but we need to get better at blocking.”

Smithtown East's Stella Mazzitelli celebrates her game-winning overtime goal. Photo by Desirée Keegan

A scoring drought dating back to the last game of last season — 400 minutes of game time — hung over Smithtown East’s girls soccer team, so when sophomore striker Stella Mazzitelli got the ball on a breakaway with the score tied 0-0 in overtime, she admitted she was worried.

“I was nervous,” she said. “But we were hyped up. We really wanted this win and it felt really good to finally score our first goal of the season.”

Following Mazzitelli’s goal with 8:09 left in the first 10-minute overtime session, sophomore forward Ava Bongiorno headed in a corner kick at the 1:58 mark for a 2-0 lead, and ultimately, a Bulls win over Centereach Sept. 11.

Smithtown East’s Alexis Desmond races ahead of Centereach’s Sophia Catapano for the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“We haven’t really connected as a team, but today I feel like we all worked together — it felt like we were whole,” senior center defender and striker Danielle Bartsch said. “And I feel it’s only uphill from here.”

The beginning of the game produced a familiar result for Smithtown East. Centereach dominated the time of possession in the opening half, but was unable to put away its chances. In the second half, Centereach freshman Nicole Fabris continued to fire away, but her shots went wide. Her last shot, with 25 seconds left in regulation, rebounded off the crossbar and out of play.

“Centereach is always a good team,” Smithtown East head coach Bill Hamilton said. “They play hard. I call them a hard-luck team, because they’re better than their record usually shows. This was an important game for us to get back on track, so it’s I’m excited.”

The game served as a boost for the Bulls’ confidence, which had wavered due to losses to top League III teams Newfield and crosstown rival Smithtown West.

“I needed this to be our breakout day so they know they can play,” Hamilton said. “Losing to them wasn’t catastrophic, but we need to do a better job the next time we play them. The girls were questioning themselves, wondering why they can’t score, but they can, they just need to keep trying.”

The Bulls came out pressuring in the second half. With the game still scoreless, they knew there was still a chance.

“We passed a lot, which we were struggling to do well in the first half, and we communicated,” Mazzitelli said. “We put a lot of hard work into it and deserved to win.”

Centereach’s Lindsay Scally battles Smithtown East’s Lauren Roback for possession of the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Between the 27- and 16-minute marks, Smithtown East made six breaks through the box in an effort to score. Hamilton attributed the chances to a change in formation following a 3-0 loss to Smithtown West Sept. 8.

“We were running a totally different field position,” he said. “They’re learning it, and I feel it gives us more offensive opportunities. We started to connect the passes we were just missing.”

His two sophomores were just what the team needed to ignite the spark, and Hamilton said he believes more goals are on the way Sept. 13 against Copiague. While Bongiorno was on the team as a freshman, Mazzitelli was a transfer student last year, and found herself on the junior varsity team.

“Before today we were playing with one person up top and five people at midfield, and we just never got the numbers forward that we needed to make a better offensive push, but when we practice they can kick a house down,” Hamilton said. “They’re up there for a reason, and we did a nice job on the pass that went to Stella to spring her for her first goal. She did a nice job of not kicking it to the goalie — finding a corner to put it in. She’s tough. It’s a case of them having to do it enough times to realize they can do this.”

Bartsch said the energy remained high and the team’s mindset remained positive heading into overtime, something she enjoyed seeing from her fellow Bulls.

“From the beginning of the game we all had good spirits, we had good vibes going, we were all positively cheering everyone on, working together and we got good results from it,” she said. “We have to work on sequences up the field and finishing, but we got two goals today, and I see more coming in the future.”

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