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Smithtown West

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Smithtown West's Jack Swanson maintains control of his challenger. Photo by Jim Ferchland

By Jim Ferchland

The Bulls have once again dominated League III this season.

Smithtown West’s wrestling team finished the season undefeated at 6-0 with a 57-18 win over visiting Riverhead Jan. 12.

Smithtown West’s Logan Hutter, on left, sizes up his challenger. Photo by Jim Ferchland

“I have a senior group that’s ready to go, but I seem to have balance ,” head coach Ken Leverich said of the cohesiveness of his unit. “I have ninth graders in the varsity lineup winning matches, tenth graders, juniors and seniors — we look to keep this ball rolling.”

It’s the first time in school history the Bulls have won back-to-back league titles in wrestling. Leverich, who has been at the helm for 13 years, was hesitant to respond with how he felt.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I just like to put numbers up on the banner.”

Smithtown West even had to forego having three starters compete because they were upstate at the Eastern States Classic tournament. Despite their absence, Leverich was content with the backup and depth of his team replacing Kyle Reilly, Matt Weitemeyer and Tim Nagoski.

Smithtown West Jack Desousa stands up on the mat after pinning his Riverhead opponent. Photo by Jim Ferchland

“When you have three starters away at another tournament, it was a little dicey without them,” Leverich said. “The expectations were a little uncertain versus Riverhead, but we were able to slide guys in with our depth and [they brought home] wins for us. It was big.”

Smithtown West junior 113-pounder Jack Desousa picked up a win and six points with a pin in 1 minute, 35 seconds over Riverhead’s Jason Daman.

“It’s amazing actually —two years in a row is great for our program,” the two-year varsity starter said of being part of another league championship-winning squad, also noting his closeness with Leverich, who he said has become a second father to him. “We have great coaches and I’ve been with them forever. I’ve had [Leverich] as a coach since second grade.”

Senior Jack Swanson finished his final match at Smithtown West with a win over Riverhead’s Chris Dubose in the 182-pound weight class. Leverich said the 10-3 decision over Riverhead’s Chris Debose was the highlight of the night.

“He stepped up and beat another county-ranked kid,” the head coach said of Swanson. “He’s got a ton of wins this season. He’s done a great job.”

Smithtown West’s Steven Zimmerman refuses to let his opponent escape. Photo by Jim Ferchland

At the 195-pound weight class, Smithtown West’s Steven Zimmerman pinned Romel Richards in 5:38 to give the Bulls a 37-3 advantage.

Leverich raved about freshman Nicholas Germano, who despite winning against Riverhead at 99 pounds as a result of a forfeit has only lost one match all season.

“He’s a little stud,” Leverich said of his 17-1 grappler. “Weight class 99 is where we should go furthest this year.”

Smithtown West junior James Campanelle earned a major decision over Jared Cawley (9-1) at 120 pounds, as did freshman Logan Hutter over Dominic Bossey (10-1) at 126.

Leverich said even with some of the boys’ close losses he was happy with how his Bulls performed.

“I wasn’t disappointed in any of my boys tonight,” he said. “They all wrestled well.”

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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.”

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Gabrianna Lorefice moves the ball through traffic in Smithtown West's nonleague loss to Walt Whitman. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Smithtown West looked to shake off the cobwebs early this season, hosting Walt Whitman in a nonleague matchup Dec. 9, but a slow start for the Bulls left them in a deficit they could never recover from, falling 76-38.

Madison Flynn jumps to the rim. Photo by Bill Landon

Walt Whitman found its 3-point game early, hitting two in the opening minutes during a 10-0 run before Smithtown West called timeout. Down 14-0 after the break, Smithtown West junior guard Gabrianna Lorefice split her chances from the free-throw line to take the goose egg off the scoreboard with just over a minute left in the opening quarter.

With 4:28 left before the halftime break now trailing 24-9, sophomore forward Jillian Meaney hit a 3-pointer to close the gap, but the Wildcats countered with three triples of their own to take a commanding 40-16 lead into the locker room.

The Bulls held their own under the boards with aggressive rebounding that resulted in several jump balls, but struggled in transition and getting the ball to fall in the net.

“I saw some good things from players that haven’t had much playing time who have come up from junior varsity so that’s good, but defensively and transition-wise we need to do a better job,” Smithtown West head coach Katie Combs said. “I saw a lot of strength underneath the board even though [Walt Whitman] had the [height] advantage there.”

Rebecca Farrell shoots from 3-point range. Photo by Bill Landon

Senior guard Lauren Soriano opened the second half with a 3-pointer, and Meaney hit her second triple of the game but again Walt Whitman countered to keep the edge.

The Bulls found themselves down by 34 points midway through the final quarter, a hole too deep to climb out of. Lorefice led her team in scoring with eight points, sophomore Madison Flynn followed with seven and Meaney tacked on six.

Smithtown West has one more nonleague game, a Dec. 13 home game against Northport at 6 p.m., before beginning league play Dec. 19 in a home opener at 4 p.m.

“What’s helpful is that we’re able to fix our offensive mistakes, but today we felt a tremendous amount of pressure,” Combs said. “For next week we’re looking to get our first win and carry that momentum into our first league game and then build from there.”

Redeems last season’s one-hole playoff loss for runner-up status

Port Jefferson's Shane DeVincenzo bested his last season runner-up record by placing first in the Suffolk County championship Nov. 4. Photo from Port Jefferson athletics

By Jim Ferchland

For Shane DeVincezo, the mental game of golf has always been his focus. The Port Jefferson junior came into the Nov. 3 Suffolk County championship hoping to place in the Top 9, as is his goal every season, and after finishing with a 69, 2-under par, on the first day of the tournament Nov. 2, he knew he was in a good place to keep pushing toward his target position.

“I thought, if I try to go out there and win, the Top 9 will just automatically happen,” he said. “If I try to go for Top 9 and just worry about that and not push for the lead, I think I’ve got a good chance. I thought, with the position I’m in right now, there’s no doubt I can make states.”

With his first place Suffolk County finish, Port Jefferson golfer Shane DeVincenzo qualified to compete in the state tournament. Photo by Jim Ferchland

DeVincenzo followed up his day one performance with an even-par 71 Friday to capture the county title with a 36-hole total of 140, good for 2-under-par at Manorville’s Rock Hill Golf and Country Club.

The Port Jefferson golfer avenged his second-place finish from last year’s tournament in capturing the top spot. In 2016 he lost to East Hampton’s Turner Foster on a one-hole playoff. Foster finished tied for second in Suffolk Nov. 3.

Port Jefferson head coach Chuck Ruoff said he is proud of what his athlete has accomplished.

“He wasn’t going to let last year define him,” Ruoff said. “I know that in his heart last year gave him a lot of motivation. For two days he just went out and played his best.”

DeVincenzo overcame a rocky front nine in the first round by his standards, shooting one over to start his tournament. He rallied after that and finished three under on the back nine for the best score of the day.

“I felt I did really good,” DeVincenzo said on his performance on that back nine. “I wouldn’t say it was really a bad front nine — the front nine is a lot harder here and you just gotta get through it. On the back nine, my putter got rolling and I made a lot of good putts which saved me. Three under par is pretty good.”

He said there was something familiar about the Manorville course that he thought gave him an advantage.

“These greens are kind of like Port Jeff,” DeVincenzo said. “They’re just a little more sloped, but distance-wise and yardage-wise, they’re practically the same. Playing at Port Jeff definitely helps playing at Rock Hill.”

Port Jefferson junior Shane DeVincenzo swings away during the first of the two-day Suffolk County championship tournament. Photo by Jim Ferchland

Ruoff has been by DeVincenzo’s side since he starting golding in eighth grade, and said he’s in awe of the 16-year-old’s abilities.

“It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen,” Ruoff said of DeVincenzo’s talent. “He picked up the game somewhat late for someone who’s got to this ability level. Just between how hard he works and the instruction he’s given, it’s just really hard to explain. Year to year he’s made huge jumps in his game.”

Although DeVincenzo also trains at Port Jefferson Country Club under head professional Bill Mackedon, he said he looks at Ruoff like his best friend, adding that his coach makes the game a lot easier.

“We bond very well — I really like him as a coach,” he said. “Ever since I started in eighth grade, he’s been there as a supporter. Even when I’m struggling he’s there to help me. I have him to back me up and he helps me boost up my confidence.”

DeVincenzo golfed in a foursome Nov. 3 along with Pierson’s Henry Brooks, Eastport-South Manor’s Andrea Ternavasio and Sayville’s Sean Haselton. DeVincenzo has played with his Sayville opponent before.

“Me and Shane have been playing together for a long time,” Haselton said. “He got hot with the putter today and that’s what did it for him. I feel we feed off each other — he makes a good putt, then I make a good putt. We both played really solid. It’s fun to play with people playing well.”

Haselton finished the first day with a 73, one over par, and ended day two tied for second with

Foster and Habrorfields’ Pat Healy. In the team competition, he helped Sayville win its first county title since 2013 with an 813, ahead of Harborfields (826) and Smithtown West (831).

Port Jefferson’s Shane DeVincenzo eyes his target. Photo by Jim Ferchland

DeVincenzo, the second-place trio, Huntington’s Tyler Gerbavsits (148), Sayville’s Brendan Smith (152) and Smithtown West’s John Pawlowski (153) all qualified to compete in the state tournament, along with Connetquot’s Kyle Zere and Huntington’s Matt Giamo, who finished tied for eighth at 154. They earned the final two spots by besting Harborfields’ Andre Chi in a one-hole playoff.

Pierson’s Brooks also said he enjoyed playing alongside top competitors, saying he was fascinated seeing DeVincenzo play for the first time.

“He played great today,” Brooks said of DeVincenzo. “He was hitting every drive straight — drilling long putts. He was really dialed in.”

Even before DeVincenzo’s performance at Rock Hill, Ruoff said his athlete is the greatest player he’s ever coached.

“Without a doubt in my mind he is,” Ruoff said. “There have been some great players that we’ve had the privilege of seeing at Ward Melville, who is our closest competitor, through the years. As far as Port Jeff goes, he’s been the best player I’ve been around by far.”

Ruoff said he sees DeVincenzo finishing Top 5 in the state.

“I feel that anything can happen on a given day in a round of golf, but he’s certainly right at the top,” Ruoff said of DeVincenzo. “Every year he has slightly exceeded his high expectations, and I have high expectations for him. He just blessed with a lot of talent.”

By Bill Landon

After what was argued to be a questionable call, Smithtown West’s football team couldn’t catch Huntington, falling 28-23 in the Bulls’ homecoming game Oct. 7.

On Huntington’s last possession of the third quarter, the offensive line stood and the line of scrimmage to start play, but decided instead to let the clock expire. What went unnoticed at field level was Huntington’s center bending over and touching the ball before he decided to stand up and let time tick off the clock.

Up in the press box, an assistant coach radioed head coach Steve Fasciani, who told player David Gonzales to pick up the ball and run with it. The wide receiver took off for the end zone, and officials blew their whistle at the 30-yard line, but Fasciani argued it was a live ball. After a 25-minute conference which including sourcing the rulebook, the ruling on the field stood that there was no touchdown.

“I have no problem with how our guys played in the second half today; all heart. They played tough and they took the next step in my opinion.”

—Steve Fasciani

In the fourth quarter, Smithtown West quarterback Kyle Zawadzki found wide receiver Chris Crespo open over the middle, who turned it up field for the touchdown with just over three minutes left to play. Kicker Matthew Villano scored on the extra-point kick attempt to pull Smithtown West within five, but Huntington took over and let the clock unwind.

“They play power football and they’re very good at it, but our second half — with how our defense played — was a huge step for us,” Fasciani said. “I have no problem with how our guys played in the second half today; all heart. They played tough and they took the next step in my opinion.”

Running back Eric Sands led the way for the Blue Devils, and after a long run down to the 2-yard line, he sealed the deal by punching into the end zone two plays later. Senior Nat Amato split the uprights for a 7-0 lead.

The Bulls struggled with their running game, and went three-and-out on their first three possessions against a formidable Huntington defensive unit.

Utilizing the hurry-up offense, Huntington connected on three consecutive pass plays to move the chains to the 15-yard line. Sands once again made his way into the end zone, racing down the right sideline and breaking a tackle before sauntering into touchdown land. After a low snap, holder Luke Eidle was able to gather it up and Amato struck again to put his team out front 14-0 with just over two minutes left in the opening quarter.

Smithtown West made progress up the field, but the Blue Devils defense forced a turnover, and Sands got the call once more as the junior raced 19 yards for the touchdown. Amato, perfect on the day, gave Huntington a 21-0 advantage with just under 10 minutes left until halftime.

“We thought they were identical to us with their offense — they’ve got a lot of talented skill players — but we knew coming in we were going to have to stop [Kyle Zawadzki].”

—Steve Muller

“[Eric Sands] was a monster in the beginning of the game,” Huntington head coach Steve Muller said. “We thought they were identical to us with their offense — they’ve got a lot of talented skill players — but we knew coming in we were going to have to stop [Kyle Zawadzki].”

But the coach said he knew his team couldn’t stop him.

“He’s very, very good, an outstanding athlete,” Muller said. “Since can’t stop him, you have to bend him a little bit.”

Zawadzki made that hard to do when he dropped back to pass Crespo, crossing over the middle, who made the 36-yard touchdown catch. Crespo struck again on a handoff, punching it in for the two-point conversion to trail 21-8 with less than seven minutes left in the second.

Huntington responded when quarterback John Paci hit a hole, broke outside and raced 51 yards down the right sideline before he was forced out at the 14-yard line. Sands finished the play by breaking free of two would-be tacklers and finding the end zone for his fourth touchdown of the game. Sands said he couldn’t take all the credit for the scores.

“My line, they’re excellent,” he said. “They’re my leaders and I can’t say enough about them. They played great; I can’t do it without those guys.”

Smithtown West fumbled the ball four minutes into the third, and Smithtown West running back and linebacker Matthew Caddigan recovered it. Zawadzki scored on a keeper, taking the ball five yards for the only third-quarter score.

“I thought we played a sloppy second half,” Sands said. “But [Smithtown West is] a competitive team.”

The Bulls drop to 2-3 in the Suffolk County Division II standings while the Blue Devils improve to 3-2. Huntington hopes to spoil another homecoming when the Blue Devils travel to Newfield Oct. 14 at 2 p.m. Smithtown West will face off against crosstown rival Smithtown East the same date and time.

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Newfield senior Emily Diaz sends the ball to the box. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Newfield’s girls soccer team is sharing the wealth.

Five Wolverines scored and four added assists in a 6-0 shutout of Copiague Sept. 25. Despite putting the game out of reach early, Newfield’s athletes were quick to point to missed opportunities.

“We need to finish the ball in front of the net more, but we had a lot of opportunities,” senior center back Taylor Regensburger said. “Having different opportunities gives us momentum going into the next game.”

Newfield sophomore Sierra Rosario sends the ball to her feet. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Senior midfielder Emily Diaz put the Wolverines on the board early, and midfielders freshman Nicole Niculescu and sophomore Karlie Martin also found the corners of the goal for a 3-0 halftime lead.

Despite the lead, Newfield fell victim to offside calls that halted breakaway opportunities.

“Credit to Copiague because they’re well-coached,” Newfield head coach Domenik Veraldi said. “Those offside traps aren’t us being more offside as them knowing exactly what they’re doing. It’s a lot of credit to Copiague and how much work they put into using that strategy to their advantage.”

Regensburger, Diaz and junior forward Kaitlyn Drennan tallied the second-half scores, but no one could take their eyes off sophomore center midfielder Sierra Rosario, who bounced up and down the field frequently unmarked despite Copiague screaming for coverage with each toss or send-in.

“I think everyone contributed to the game and did their own thing, but as a team we still worked well,” Rosario said. “We kept possession, which is something we’re working on, and we’re building that possession-based game by not just looking for the long pass.”

Verladi said he is also seeing the possession game develop.

“We want to keep the ball on the floor, we want to do a lot of off-the-ball movement, we want to work the ball to everybody,” he said. “We were a little inconsistent, but there’s steps in the right direction.”

The coach said he thinks his team has been overlooked after the Wolverines made it to the Class AA quarterfinals last season.

Newfield sophomore Karlie Martin battles for the ball at midfield. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“I think we were a little underestimated heading in,” he said. “Last year we ended in a good spot and graduated several seniors, so I think people thought we had a young team and it won’t be the same team.”

With the win the Wolverines are now 4-2 at the halfway point in the season, dropping games to Half Hollow Hills East and Smithtown West, the team that knocked out Newfield in the postseason last year.

“Last year boosted our program’s confidence, so this year we’re looking to take that even further,” Rosario said.

Regensburger said she sees now what she may not have seen heading into the season.

“I didn’t think we’d be better than last year, but since we’ve come back and started playing, I think we can do even better and go farther in the playoffs,” she said. “We have a lot of strong young players.”

Veraldi said the next two weeks will be telling as to where his team will ultimately fall in the standings, but said the objective remains the same: get to the playoffs.

“They have acute senses,” he said of his Wolverines. “It looks like they want the ball, and they have a plan once they get the ball. They were able to move it in a fashion where they wanted to generate some offense, and we’re going to keep powering through.”

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.”

By Bill Landon

Smithtown West had a score to settle, as the girls volleyball team opened the season on the road at Newfield, the team that knocked them out of the postseason last year. For the Bulls, redemption was sweet as the girls swept the Wolverines in three straight sets Sept. 5, 25-10, 25-22, 25-23.

“We know they’re a tough team, they’re scrappy defensively and they’re not going to give up,” said Smithtown West head coach Deron Brown. “We came out really strong in the first set — we put a big number on the board to start.”

“I was happy with how we picked ourselves up in the second game. We got aggressive and had good communication out on the court.”

— Christy Innes

Anchoring the outside hitting game for Smithtown West were senior Peri Allen from the right side and freshman Sally Tietjen from the left.

“Last year — they crushed us in three,” said Allen, who notched 16 digs and eight kills. “So to win today in three proved that we [are capable] of beating them, so it was a big win for us.”

For Tietjen, the scoring was almost reversed, recording 15 kills and eight digs for the formidable scoring duo up front.

The Bulls barreled through the Newfield  in the first set, and despite being ahead 13-6 in the second set, Newfield slowly chipped away at the deficit. As the momentum shifted the Wolverines’ way, with the help of some Smithtown West miscues, Newfield rallied to close the gap to 22-19, forcing Smithtown West to call timeout. Out of the break, the Wolverines scored two unanswered points to trail by one before the Bulls closed the door, 25-22.

Newfield head coach Christy Innes said she anticipated a tough match and said her team had to shake off the first set and focus on playing mistake free the rest of the way.

“[Smithtown West] did very well today — they played a very aggressive game, but we expected that,” the coach said. “I was happy with how we picked ourselves up in the second game. We got aggressive and had good communication out on the court.”

“In that third set I just wanted to make sure we kept pushing through. We fell behind a little bit and this happened to us last year, so we had to really fight through that game, and we pushed hard.

Sally Tietjen

The Wolverines once again got off to a slow start to open the third set, falling behind 5-0 before they could answer. Madison Wenzel set to her outside hitters — senior Naomi Ruffalo-Roman and junior Olivia Bond — as the three battled at the net to claw their way back, tying the set 14-14. It was a see-saw battle the rest of the way with Newfield taking its first lead of the day, edging ahead 15-14, but the Bulls rallied back too, to make it a new game at 18-18.

“In that third set I just wanted to make sure we kept pushing through,” Tietjen said. “We fell behind a little bit and this happened to us last year, so we had to really fight through that game, and we pushed hard. We were so determined to beat them after last year, so we didn’t let up.”

The Wolverines scored, but the Bulls answered. An out-of-bounds serve gave the lead back to Newfield for 20-19 advantage, and both teams traded points before Smithtown West scored the final two to win.

Newfield is back on the court Sept. 7 when the team travels to Riverhead for a 4 p.m. match.

“They pulled together,” Innes said. “They got aggressive, had good communication and they played well in the last two games. We’ll be back at practice tomorrow and work on the individual skills stuff for each girl and we’ll focus on cleaning up the technique.”

Smithtown West will host crosstown foe Smithtown East Sept. 7 at 5:45 p.m.

“Our lineup is not really set yet — we’re still trying different kids in different spots — but everybody responded well,” Brown said. “They went out on the court with energy and they stayed positive, even when the match got tight.”

H.E.L.P. International student-athletes boast new uniforms donated from Smithtown school district. Photo from Kimberly Williams

By Desirée Keegan

Athletes in the Smithtown school district have something in common with students in Uganda thanks to the efforts of several educators from across Long Island.

Carisa Eye, a Smithtown High School East varsity field hockey assistant coach and Nesaquake Middle School lacrosse head coach, is the latest educator to get inspired to give uniforms to the H.E.L.P. International school in Masese, Uganda.

Smithtown physical education teacher Carisa Eye helped send over the most recent batch of uniforms to Uganda. Photo from Kimberly Williams

“The things we take for granted over here like uniforms, that are so easily available to us in our school district, are things that kids don’t get in other parts of the world,” Eye said. “The little things go a long way. It makes you feel good to see these kids in our jerseys, and it shows it doesn’t take much to make someone’s day. I want my athletes to understand that.”

Eye originally asked Smithtown administration to coordinate a donation to send to Ghana, after a friend and former Smithtown student, who teaches in the William Floyd school district, asked for help through Facebook. Eye was able to collect a boxful of uniforms with the help of Smithtown athletic director Pat Smith, but her friend could only take some of what she was given. She came across another Facebook post, a press release regarding Smithtown West marine science teacher Kimberly Williams and the work she’d done with her sister-in-law Carolyn Ferguson, and Eye asked Smith to connect her to Williams.

“We do have a bunch of older uniforms we don’t use, and this is a great way of putting them to use for a good cause,” Smith said. “It’s really nice to see some of our teachers wanting to get on board and we hope the kids, who know what we’re doing, can appreciate what we have here.”

The athletic director hopes the district can continue its involvement with H.E.L.P.

“Seeing the photos they look like a team — they were arm-in-arm and you can tell it made such a difference,” he said. “It’s a great thing for us to be involved in. If we can continue to do this for underprivileged kids, we will, and I hope we can.”

While the idea originated with Ferguson’s former Rockville Centre assistant superintendent Delia Garrity, who helped form the school in Uganda with her husband Peter in 2010, she said she was thrilled to hear of the spread of generosity.

Some of the Smithtown uniform donations from physical education teacher Carisa Eye went to students in Ghana. Photo from Carisa Eye

“It’s all word of mouth, which is amazing,” said Ferguson, a Rockville Centre physical education teacher. “The reach has been incredible.”

Garrity, who just returned from one of her trips to Uganda, said her student-athletes’ transformation has been palpable since being outfitted in the gear.

“When we began our athletic program, our children wore whatever clothing they had — which was not much,” she said. “They played with bare feet and kicked a dilapidated soccer ball. A soccer ball was used for volleyball with players hitting the ball over an imaginary net. When we received donations of athletic supplies and uniforms from Rockville Centre and Smithtown schools, among others, our kids were over the top with joy.”

She described some of the changes she’d seen in the young athletes since they were given the uniforms.

“They have more confidence, more belief in themselves as a team, more motivation to practice and a stronger work ethic,” she said. “Our teams win most local tournaments in soccer, volleyball, netball and track and field. Other schools do not want to play against H.E.L.P. Primary in the opening rounds of any tournament because it’s become a powerhouse.”

H.E.L.P. International school’s soccer team in Uganda received the first Smithtown uniform donation in 2015. Photo above from Delia Garrity

The idea of Smithtown contributing to the cause began when Ferguson was talking with Williams during a Christmas dinner. Also in charge of equipment and uniforms in her district, Ferguson detailed how she’d helped Garrity collect jerseys since 2013. Moved by her sister-in-law’s involvement, Williams asked for a donation from Smith, and the first batch was sent over from Smithtown in 2015.

“I think if someone is getting rid of something it should go somewhere before the garbage,” Williams said. “When resources are so limited, there’s always someone who needs it, and I work hard to make sure my kids understand that. Whether it’s uniforms or composition notebooks.”

Ferguson said the jerseys mean more to the children in Uganda than just the ability to play sports.

“Wearing the same uniform gives them pride and it encourages them to keep going,” she said. “That sense of community that perhaps they don’t normally have.”

Eye said the program also gives her pride in where she grew up and now works.

H.E.L.P. International student-athletes boast new uniforms donated from Smithtown school district. Photo from Kimberly Williams

“I love my teams and I love my town,” she said. “Smithtown has always been supportive, especially of athletics, so it didn’t surprise me when I sent an email and they got back to me right away. They’re always willing to help.”

She said she was moved seeing photos of the smiling faces of Ugandan children donning the red and blue.

“It makes me cry,” Eye said. “They wash their uniforms and lay them out to dry on rocks like prized possessions. I’m going to try to keep donating every year and have my teams participate.”

Williams already handed over another box to Ferguson that has been sitting and waiting on her dining room table. Ferguson will pass the donations, which came from one of William’s former students who teaches in Maryland, over to Garrity to take on her next trip, and the cycle will continue.

“It’s connecting kids through the uniforms,” Williams said. “Smithtown is developing the whole athlete — not just their sports abilities. That makes me thrilled to be part of this.”

For more information on H.E.L.P. International or to find out how to get involved, visit help-uganda.com.

This version corrects the URL for the H.E.L.P. Primary School’s website.

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Smithtown East will face Ward Melville in Suffolk County championship May 31

 

Jason Lambert told his team to weather the storm.

Not only literally, as rain fell through the thick fog during Smithtown East’s Class A semifinal game May 25 against their in-district rivals, but because he knew that Smithtown West was going to push for a comeback.

East was leading West 7-2 heading into the fourth quarter, and despite West scoring three goals to cut down the margin, Connor DeSimone drained time off the clock, and held it during the final seconds to secure a 7-5 win for East.

The senior said his team knew it had to adopt a different strategy to seal the deal.

“That was definitely the game plan coming in — we were going to hold the ball,” he said. “We knew that if the ball was in our stick, we couldn’t lose. So we didn’t mind holding the ball during five or six minutes of good possession at a time without scoring.”

Lambert said the other main objective was to value the ball, and he liked that his team accomplished that goal — using it to capitalize on early scoring chances.

DeSimone and senior Luke Eschabach went back-to-back with unassisted goals, and then assisted on each other’s shots in East’s 4-1 first quarter.

“We’ve been playing together since we were 5 years old and we always find each other through the field,” Eschbach said. “He knows where I am, I know where he is without even looking, and he always finds the void.”

DeSimone said he knows his longtime teammate’s skills and wants to find him when he can.

“He’s an awesome shooter, a great player, and I know when I find him on the through ball, he’s going to put it in the back of the net like we’ve been doing all year,” he said.

DeSimone said the team was concerned about West’s faceoff man Conor Calderone and goalkeeper Ryan Erler.

“We weren’t letting [Ryan] Erler make the saves, who played great today,” he said, although Erler still made 12 stops, including back to back saves in the game’s final seconds. “I knew possession was crucial. They out-possessed us by two times the amount we had the ball, so knowing that we knew we had to value the ball, we had to take the best shot, not the first shot.”

Both teams went scoreless over a 20-minute span, before DeSimone found senior Dominic Pizzulli.

“We weren’t nervous at all,” DeSimone said of the drought. “It’s one play at a time. We’re not looking for home runs — there’s no superheroes on the team — if we all look out for each other and play team ball it’s going to be hard to beat us.”

Danny Riley scored twice for West, sandwiched around a goal by Jimmy Caddigan, to make it 7-5 with 7:23 left.

“We just had to make sure to manage their comeback and not give them all the momentum,” Lambert said.

West’s Brian Herber won the ensuing faceoff, and East went back to draining the clock.

“Sometimes we have letdowns, but this team knows we have ups and downs, and every single person on this team never gives up on each other,” Eschbach said. “We always stay positive, so when we lose a couple of ground balls, get a flag here and there to go a man down, we always come back and pull through.”

DeSimone said he was most excited to avenge last season’s semifinal loss to Connetquot, and is just happy to have another day of practice. Eschbach said he’d love nothing more than another county championship win over Ward Melville, like the Bulls had two years ago.

“I wanted to get here so bad my senior year,” he said. “We need to possess the ball — not throw it away — and play strong defense. If our defense plays the way it did today, I think we’ll have a very strong shot at taking that game.”

Smithtown East will face Ward Melville May 31 at Stony Brook University at 3 p.m. The winner will move on to the Long Island championship game at Stony Brook University June 3 at 10 a.m.

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