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With nine returning starters Kingsmen have eyes set on postseason play

Kings Park goalie Nick VanDuesen sends the ball into play during practice. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Kings Park’s Matt Anderer heads the ball during practice. Photo by Bill Landon

Last year Kings Park needed to win the final game of the regular season to make the postseason, but after two overtime periods that left the game resulting in a tie against Hauppauge,  the Kingsmen were held back from making that playoff appearance — by a single point.

But that was then, and the Kings Park boys soccer team has shaken off the stalemate and is looking to make strides toward a better start to the season and not leave a postseason hope hanging in the balance. With nine returning starters, the chance of achieving that goal increases this season.

“We lost seven seniors to graduation, but what’s great is that we have those returning starters, which is tremendous,” Kings Park head coach Bill Hender said. “They all had big minutes last year, and our bench guys are also tremendous and I think they’re much stronger than they were last year, so we have a lot more depth.”

Because of reduced enrollment, Kings Park moved down to League V as a Class A team this season but won’t escape its nemesis because Hauppauge also dropped down in the division standings.

“We’re considered a Class A school now, which is good,” the head coach said. “When we go into the playoffs we won’t go against the Brentwoods, which have four times as many kids as we do, so it’ll be a little bit more fair for us.”

Kings Park’s Eoghan McGovern and James Sicardi fight for possesion during practice. Photo by Bill Landon

He said he’ll be leaning on Eoghan McGovern, Liam Thompson and Matt Anderer to steer the ship, but said he’s hoping junior Connor Brady can contribute some guidance.

“He really turned it on in the second half of last season,” Hender said. “In a game against Eastport-South Manor he scored two goals in a span of about 48 seconds — they were both beautiful shots.”

Thompson, a two-year varsity center back, said he thinks his team has its best chance to pick off Hauppauge this year.

“We’ve always been close with Hauppauge — we’ve always been right there but never actually made it over the hump — we’ve always wanted to beat them,” he said. “I think we have it this year with this team — we have returning guys and we’ve all been best friends forever, so we’re excited.”

Senior center midfielder Robbie Catoir agreed with Thompson in that the Kingsmen’s pros this season could help them get the better of the team who ended their last season early.

“It makes us hungrier,” Catoir said. “We’ll have to work on our communication to start, but Hauppauge is still the team to beat.”

Kings Park’s Eric Escobar catches a pass during practice. Photo by Bill Landon

Defensively, the team returns three out of the four core from the back line.

Guarding the net will be starting goalie Nicolas VanDuesen, who didn’t see action last year due to an injury, but is now at full strength.

“I’m most pleased with our defense,” McGovern said. “I think we have to focus on just scoring goals. We’ll see once the games start up if we can finish.”

Hender agreed his team’s defense is a force to be reckoned with, pointing to McGovern as the biggest driving force to back up his claim.

“We have a three-year All-Conference player in Eoghan McGovern, and I think he’s the best center back in the county — he’s that good,” the head coach said. “Other coaches have made comments about how good he is. And Alex Graci is a junior who came in and gave us a lot of minutes in a lot of different positions last year, so he’s looked great throughout training camp this year. He’s really come into his own.”

Kings Park will play a pair of nonleague games, against Wyandanch and Shoreham-Wading River, before its season opener at home against Rocky Point Sept. 6 at 6:30 p.m.

By Bill Landon

Four of the five starters on Mount Sinai’s girls’ basketball team helped the soccer squad score its first Suffolk County title last fall. This winter, the Mustangs brought those winning ways from the field to the court.

Winning has become a tradition at Mount Sinai. The Mustangs went nearly undefeated in League VI play, going on a 17-game streak before a 44-33 loss to Shoreham-Wading River. Despite that, Mount Sinai was able to grab a piece of the league title for the first time in school history. Then, the road to the Class A finals began.

The Mustangs crushed Bayport-Blue Point 91-48 before outscoring Sayville 68-54. The No. 1 seed ultimately found itself up against a familiar foe in No. 2 Harborfields. The two schools had also faced off as the top-seeded teams during the Suffolk soccer finals, and, in front of a near-capacity crowd of 500 at Riverhead High School Feb. 24, Mount Sinai pulled away with another crucial win, 54-42, for its second county crown of the school year.

“Our defense was the key in getting stops and rebounding, and turning those into points.”

—Veronica Venezia

For seniors Victoria Johnson and Veronica Venezia, the win was a long time coming personally and for the program.

“It feels amazing to be Suffolk County champions — Veronica and I have been on the team since eighth grade, so we started a long time ago,” said Johnson, who scored 11 of her 16 points in the second half. “Back then we didn’t win many games, and here we are — it’s a dream come true.”

Sophomore Gabriella Sartori had the hot hand in the first quarter, scoring 10 of her team-high 18 points. First, she swished a free throw to successfully complete a three-point play, and hit a shot from beyond the arc soon after to help her team double its opponent’s score with an 18-9 lead at the end of eight minutes. She also added six rebounds and two assists in the win.

“From the beginning of the season I just wanted to play at this level,” she said. “I’ve been with this group since the seventh grade and to reach this point and watch this team grow is just amazing.”

Behind 31-19 heading into the locker room, Harborfields head coach Glenn Lavey said the 12-point deficit put his team in unfamiliar territory.

“Spotting them a lead like that is not our style — we’re kind of a running football team if you will — we’re not a spread offense,” he said. “We had some breakdowns in the first eeight minutes of the game and we didn’t execute some things we needed to early.”

“I’ve been with this group since the seventh grade and to reach this point and watch this team grow is just amazing.”

—Gabriella Sartori

Despite the lead, Mount Sinai head coach Michael Pappalardo said he warned his team that the Tornadoes weren’t going to run out of steam that easily.

“Harborfields, they’re aggressive,” he said. “We told the girls this is going to be close. You don’t think that team is going to let you walk out of here giving you the championship.”

Harborfields senior Grace Zagaja scored on a putback, and teammate Kate Tardo hit a long-distance shot in the third, but Mount Sinai’s defense swarmed.

With 10 seconds left in the quarter, Johnson went to the line and sank both to make it a 10-point game, but Harborfields senior Falyn Dwyer came through with a buzzer-beating triple that helped her team cut the deficit to 40-33.

With just over four minutes left in regulation, Venezia came up with another putback (she finished with a double-double on 12 points and 15 rebounds) to re-extend the Mustangs’ lead, 45-36.

“They’re definitely a challenge — they always have been the past years we’ve played them,” Venezia said of Harborfields. “But our defense was the key in getting stops and rebounding, and turning those into points.”

Tardo, who tied with Dwyer for eight points, drained her second triple of the contest to make it a six-point game. Two minutes later, eighth-grader Madison Brady (seven points) picked off an in-bounds pass, went straight to the rim for the score and made it a four-point game, 45-41, with 3:10 left to play.

After Harborfields missed its final five shots from the field, Johnson went 7-for-8 from the free-throw line in the final 31 seconds to put the win in the record book.

“It is ironic to win back-to-back titles against Harborfields — they’re a great team, but we worked really hard to be here.”

—Brooke Cergol

“We always talk about it in practice in every game — everyone’s going to have their ups and downs,” Johnson said. “You’ve got to be prepared for both. We had to fight our way through adversity to get here.”

Also on the championship-winning soccer team besides Johnson, Sartori and junior Olivia Williams, was sophomore Brooke Cergol, who rounded out the scoring with eight points.

“It feels amazing — especially after soccer,” she said. “It is ironic to win back-to-back titles against Harborfields — they’re a great team, but we worked really hard to be here. It was crazy, it was a really tense situation, but we pulled together.”

Mount Sinai moves on to face Mattituck for the Small School champion title at Suffolk County Community College Brentwood Feb. 28 at 5 p.m. The winner will face off against the Class AA qualifier for the Section XI title. That game will be played at Suffolk’s Selden campus March 5 at 5 p.m.

Regardless of the outcome of those games, Mount Sinai has the opportunity for another first, when the Mustangs take on the Section VIII Class A champion March 11 at SUNY Old Westbury at noon for the Long Island title.

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The Port Jefferson girls’ varsity soccer team returned home from Cortland with its second consecutive state championship Nov. 13, and it was honored with a parade down Main Street and a ceremony at Village Hall hosted by Mayor Margot Garant. The team was led by Head Coach Michele Aponte and nine seniors, who turned a 31-3-1 two year record into two state titles. Members of the community came out to congratulate the team for all of their impressive accomplishments. Garant and the rest of the village’s board of trustees has set aside Nov. 13 every year as “Lady Royals Soccer Champions Day.”

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Royals will march down Main Street in parade Nov. 20

Port Jefferson's girls' soccer team is all smiles as they walk off the field winners. Photo by Andrew Wakefield

Trailing by a goal, the Port Jefferson girls’ soccer team found itself in a familiar situation. Although this time the stakes were a little bit higher.

The senior-laden Royals were competing for a second consecutive state title Nov. 13, and, down 1-0 to Geneseo at halftime, the girls admitted for once they were worried.

“The team was very nervous,” senior midfielder Brittany Fazin said. “We had a lot of pressure on our backs to win it again, especially with most of us being seniors. But we knew all the hard work paid off for this moment.”

Brittany Fazin slides for the ball. Photo by Andrew Wakefield
Brittany Fazin slides for the ball. Photo by Andrew Wakefield

The team was characterized by frequent comebacks throughout the course of a 31-3-1 two-year run. So at halftime, the team came together to figure out the solution to its problem.

“At halftime, we all spoke up, got on each other, calmed each other down and told each other that this is our game,” Fazin said. “We were playing down to their level, and not playing our game.”

That’s when Jillian Colucci — the team’s spark plug — did her thing.

First, her longtime teammate, senior forward Clare O’Connor, came close to tying the game with a strike over the crossbar 10 minutes in. Two minutes later, she found an opening and passed to Colucci, who scored the equalizer.

“Once that one goal came, that was all they needed,” Port Jefferson head coach Michele Aponte said. “It fueled their fire. It motivated them.”

Port Jefferson kept pressing for the go-ahead goal, and with 24:26 left to play, Fazin scored what would become the state title clincher.

“My goal that put us in the lead felt incredible,” Fazin said. “I beat out two girls down the middle, I took a shot from the 18-yard line and it went into the bottom right corner.”

Mikayla Yannucci battles for the ball. Photo by Andrew Wakefield
Mikayla Yannucci battles for the ball. Photo by Andrew Wakefield

While heading to goal, she said she remembered the mistakes the team had made throughout the course of the first 40 minutes in the back of her mind, to make sure she executed.

“As I was dribbling, I kept repeating ‘get over the ball, get over the ball,’” she said. “Most of our shots skyrocketed over the net, and I knew if I got my shot low and on target, I would have a better chance.”

She put the team to the lead, but got the Royals some breathing room when she scored three minutes later on a strike from 35 yards out, assisted by Colucci, and finished the game with a hat trick goal from the 25-yard line to cap a 4-1 Royals victory.

“I was just having an amazing time playing the sport that I love,” Fazin said. “I’m so glad we got to end it this way.”

Colucci said she hopes other Port Jefferson athletes will continue to take the program on its positive trajectory.

“It was hard not to be nervous with the added pressure after last season, but we focused on taking it one game at a time and we were so pumped to know we had one more opportunity to step out on the field together again in the finals,” the senior forward said. “Looking back on previous seasons and games, going down a goal was not an unfamiliar situation for us. We just knew it was time to shake off the nerves, settle down and work together. I hope we can inspire the players behind us, and the program continues to have this kind of success for many years to come.”

The Port Jefferson girls' soccer team topped Geneseo, 4-1, for the program's second consecutive state title. Photo by Andrew Wakefield
The Port Jefferson girls’ soccer team topped Geneseo, 4-1, for the program’s second consecutive state title. Photo by Andrew Wakefield

Fazin was named most outstanding player in the playoffs, and junior goalkeeper Brianna Scarda was named outstanding goalkeeper.

“Ending with a state title was surreal, but to be named an outstanding player made it a moment I will never forget,” Fazin said. “Most people can’t even say they have one state title, and the fact that I get to say I have two is incredible.”

Colucci said to be able to take home the title with nine other seniors in their final season was icing on the cake for her high school career.

“We are just so lucky to be able to do all of this together — who knew this is how our soccer journeys would end when we started playing intramural soccer at 4 years old?” she said. “It has without a doubt been an incredible journey, and making history just tops it off. It doesn’t get any better than sharing this success with this particular group of girls doing what we love and having fun. It’s truly unforgettable.”

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Garden City hasn’t allowed a goal in 460 minutes of postseason play.

Despite Mount Sinai’s best efforts — like Caiya Schuster’s 11 saves in goal — one small miscue sealed the deal for the Mustangs, with an early Trojans goal that gave the team a 1-0 win Nov. 4 for the Class A Long Island championship title.

After consecutive scoreless 110-minute games leading to penalty-kick victories, Garden City received a contribution from an unlikely source in the first half.

With Schuster drawn out of the box, sophomore Gracie McManus corralled a loose ball and scored with 16:12 remaining in the half for a well-timed first varsity goal.

Garden City (12-4-2) dominated the pace throughout the first half, keeping Casey Schmitt — who scored five goals in the previous two games — contained.

Mount Sinai, which won the Class A title as the No. 4 seed, finished the season 12-4-2.

Northport came close, but couldn’t make redemption happen, as the girls’ soccer team fell, again, 3-2, to Massapequa in the Class AA Long Island championship matchup Nov. 4.

The Tigers (18-2-1) scored first with an early goal by junior forward Victoria Colatosti with 28:48 remaining in the first half. She followed it up by getting a free kick on a foul 10 yards from the box, and senior defender and co-captain Stephanie Rapp came up to take the kick. Instead of shooting, Rapp passed outside, and Massapequa (16-1-2) cleared the ball to keep the 1-0 score.

The two teams continued to battle at midfield, swapping possession and chances at a goal, and an unlucky deflection by Northport on a corner kick tied the game, 1-1.

Senior goalkeeper Emma Havrilla scooped up the ball twice in a row to keep Massapequa from getting a shot off, and made a save on a Chiefs free kick with 4:44 remaining until the halftime break to keep the Tigers tied.

But with 2:34 remaining, Havrilla leapt straight up to make a save on another Massapequa free kick after a hand ball call, but her tip wasn’t enough to stop a goal, as the Chiefs put the ball in the net on the rebound for a 2-1 halftime lead.

Less than five minutes into the second half, Massapequa’s Hope Breslin found Sierra Brophy on a through ball, and Brophy’s goal put the Chiefs up 3-1.

A long scoring drought ensued as the two teams fought for possession, and with 11:56 left to play, junior forward Juliana Conforti made it a one-goal game when she buried a loose ball.

In front of an estimated 2,000 fans at St. Joseph’s College’s Long Island campus, Northport couldn’t score the equalizer, as Massapequa topped Northport by the same score it did four years ago, and won its fourth straight Long Island championship and sixth in the last eight years.

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History might be repeating itself. The Port Jefferson girls’ soccer team is taking another trip upstate.

After a 3-0 Class C regional final win over Haldane Nov. 5 for the team’s third straight title, the Royals are back in the state semifinals for the third consecutive year, and are looking for back-to-back state championships.

Right out of the gate, Port Jefferson was able to assert itself as the more physical team, but Haldane’s defense kept the Royals at bay for the first 14 minutes of the game.

Senior midfielder Brittany Fazin scored the opening goal with 25:04 remaining in the first half after beating two defenders and the Haldane keeper one-on-one. With 9:09 left before halftime, senior forward Jillian Colucci added a goal off a corner kick from senior forward Clare O’Connor.

Senior forward Grace Swords added the final goal of the game from 18 yards out off an assist from senior midfielder Amelia Zamek 31 seconds into the second half.

The back line of seniors Kaitlin Connolly, Corinne Scannell, Alexa Wakefield and Camryn Ward had another strong showing, along with junior goalkeeper Brianna Scarda, who made six saves, for the team’s third straight shutout and sixth of the season.

Port Jefferson (15-1-1) will compete against Little Falls in the Class C semifinals Nov. 12 at 5:30 p.m. at Cortland High School.

Stony Brook University women’s soccer team drafted 4-year-old Rylie Laber. Photo from Stony Brook University

Kevin Redding

On July 4, 1939, New York Yankees legend Lou Gehrig stood before 60,000 fans at Yankee Stadium and confirmed his diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and closed his statements by saying: “I might have had a tough break — but I have an awful lot to live for.”

This sort of display of courage and determination in the face of great affliction is now being echoed by a 4-year-old girl named Rylie Laber, a student at Middle Country’s Bicycle Path Pre-K/Kindergarten Center, who loves to play soccer and takes great joy in learning new things in the classroom.

Those who know her best describe her as energetic, loving, happy, competitive and sassy, with a great laugh. Her spirited personality serves as the ultimate remedy for the rare genetic disorder she’s suffered from since she was 6 months old.

Stony Brook University women's soccer head coach Brendan Faherty places a cap on Rylie’s head after she was drafted. Photo from Stony Brook University
Stony Brook University women’s soccer head coach Brendan Faherty places a cap on Rylie’s head after she was drafted. Photo from Stony Brook University

Called Shwachman Diamond Syndrome, the disorder causes bone marrow failure, pancreatic insufficiency, malabsorption of food and vitamins, and growth difficulties. For most of her life, Rylie’s day-to-day schedule has consisted of countless doctor and hospital appointments, infections, taking medications with every meal, bruising easily, mouth sores, and a lot of dehydration due to fevers. Even two hours of mindless fun at Chuck-E-Cheese when she was only 2 years old led to a miserable three months of being sick with a chronic cold and fever.

But since late August, when she was taken under the wing of SUNY Stony Brook’s women’s soccer team through the Team Impact program, she’s turned over a new leaf and has something to consistently look forward to. In turn, her involvement as an honorary team member has made life better for her family, and the team itself has been impacted greatly by her fun-loving presence.

Rylie’s grandmother Mary Balint, who has full custody, which she shares with Rylie’s father, said that even with her illnesses, Rylie’s always been very cheerful and happy, and that’s only increased tenfold since joining the team.

“She is pushing forward and she absolutely loves her team,” Balint said. “Just last month she had asthmatic bronchitis and every day she was like ‘I’m not letting this stop me. I’m going to practice. I’m going to be with my team, I’m going to do what I have to do,’ so she’s definitely fighting through whatever she needs to fight through to stay with this. She’ll do anything for them. It’s just made her so much stronger.”

Because of how rare Rylie’s illness is, every other year she and Balint journey to Camp Sunshine — which provides retreat and support for kids with life-threatening illnesses and their families in Maine — for a medical conference. This is where Balint first heard about Team Impact, the organization that drafts kids to become members of local college athletic teams.

Initially, as Balint was looking into the program and submitting Rylie’s application, she was told that they generally didn’t start kids until they were 5, but that was until they learned that she had a special interest in soccer — which she’d been playing since she was 3.

Rylie Laber stretches with the Stony Brook University women’s soccer team. Photo from Mary Balint
Rylie Laber stretches with the Stony Brook University women’s soccer team. Photo from Mary Balint

That’s when the organization touched base with Brendan Faherty, Stony Brook’s new head coach of the women’s soccer team, who, along with the student athletes, took to her immediately. Rylie joins the Seawolves in the weight room, goes to practice and games, stretches with them on the sidelines, and kicks the ball. As Balint says, everything they do, she does. According to Faherty, it didn’t take long for Rylie to be herself among her new friends and teammates.

“In the beginning, she was a little bit shy,” he said, “but that lasted about five minutes. She’s super outgoing. She just wants to talk to everybody — goes from one player to the next — and she’s got a great attitude, and really cares about everybody in the program. … We try to spend as much time as we can with her. We went to one of her soccer games and she’s actually really good. She’s super aggressive on the field and she scores a lot of goals and just seems to really love soccer.”

In terms of Rylie’s impact on the students on the team, Stony Brook senior and teammate Lindsay Hutchinson said that Rylie was with them for almost the entire season, and every day the Seawolves spent with her was guaranteed to be a good day. The Stony Brook team even improved upon its record this season with Rylie by their side.

“She just kind of puts everybody in a good mood,” Hutchinson said. “Personally, it gives me a greater appreciation of life, because Rylie just walks around like the happiest child in the world, even though she has a lot of things going on — probably more than we realize. She clung to us right away. Every time she comes to see us, whether it’s at practice or a game, she’ll run right out on the field and give us all hugs.”

For Balint, it was always important that Rylie be kept in the loop as to what was happening with her medically, rather than try to mask it, and said that she knows a lot more about her illness than a 4 year old should. At school, she stays on top of all the medication she needs to take and makes sure that she’s using her own crayon box, to avoid coming in contact with others’ germs, and even a small cold could wipe her out for three weeks straight. Being on the team is Rylie’s incentive to keep herself in tip-top shape, especially since she’s going to be part of the team again next year.

“Sometimes, I sort of use it as a bargaining chip,” Balint said. “If she won’t do something that she has to do, I’ll say to her ‘you think your team would like that?’”

In fact, the team has such an effect on her that she’s even developed a variety of superstitions once it’s game time.

“She has to wear the strings out of her shorts,” Balint said, “and she’s gotta wear her red jersey to school and white jersey to the game. Right before every single game, she runs to the coach with a package of Scooby Doo fruit snacks and he has to eat them. It’s been her little superstitious tradition now.”

By Desirée Keegan

Captain Casey Schmitt continues to sprinkle her name throughout Mount Sinai’s record book.

The senior forward scored three goals to help the Mustangs to their first Suffolk County title over Harborfields Nov. 1. Her hat trick goal was the game-winner in the first 10-minute overtime session.

“It’s the greatest thing to ever happen to me,” she said following the victory. “We just made history.”

“Harborfields thought we got lucky, but we showed them. We came out with intensity and proved to people right away why we’re here.”

— Casey Schmitt

The No. 4 Mustangs upset No. 1-seeded and previously undefeated Islip on penalty kicks to reach the county finals for the first time. Schmitt scored the game-tying goal in that matchup. The team then found itself up against the No. 2 Tornadoes, which hadn’t lost a game since its first matchup of the season.

“A lot of the teams tend to underestimate us,” said junior goalkeeper Caiya Schuster, who made 12 saves in each of the last two games. “They say, ‘Mount Sinai, who’s that? What have they done?’ In a sense, yeah, we’re the underdogs, but we definitely don’t let the other team think we’re the underdog. As soon as we come out, we try to do all that we can. We show them this is Mount Sinai and this is what we’re capable of.”

Schuster and her team did just that. She scored her first goal in the 19th minute, after Harborfields goalkeeper Ava McKane came out of the box to make a save. Schuster pushed through when McKane failed to secure the ball, just like her head coach Courtney Leonard always advises the girls to do.

“The three goals speaks for itself,” Leonard said of her co-captain. “Casey knew what she had to do, and she got it done.”

Schmitt scored again in the 28th minute to make it 2-0, but Harborfields’ Caroline Rosales wasn’t going to let her team go down without a fight. She scored in the 38th minute, and added the equalizer 10 minutes later when she dribbled through Mount Sinai’s defense and beat Schuster.

“In a sense, yeah, we’re the underdogs, but we definitely don’t let the other team think we’re the underdog.”

—Caiya Schuster

“Islip didn’t take us seriously, and we beat them,” Schuster said. “Harborfields thought we got lucky, but we showed them. We came out with intensity and proved to people right away why we’re here.”

With the score tied at the end of regulation, two 10-minute overtime sessions ensued. Schuster scored in the first, five minutes in, and her team defended for the final 15.

“We’re elated — each win gets better and better and shows that anything’s possible if you put your mind to it,” Leonard said. “It shows the leadership of this group of young women. They’ve led by example all year. From one end to the other we’re extremely strong, and [Schmitt and Schuster], along with their surrounding teammates, are so reliable. Winning the game last Friday, today’s victory, it’s a little piece of history for Mount Sinai and I’m so proud to be a part of it. The sky’s the limit.”

Mount Sinai will face Garden City in the Long Island championship Nov. 4 at St. Joseph’s College at 4 p.m.

While Schuster said she’s not an emotional person, she couldn’t help but cry as the announcer counted down the final seconds. She’s hoping to come away with the same feeling Friday.

“I love that my team doesn’t let the pressure and the fact that people underestimate us effect them,” Schuster said. “Everyone wanted it, not just for themselves, but for everyone else.”

By Desirée Keegan

Northport goalkeeper Emma Havrilla has a way of firing up her team, and with one swift motion, she lit the match.

Less than a minute into the second half, Northport’s Havrilla moved just slightly to her left to block Amanda Sheradin’s penalty kick, which could have been the difference-maker for Smithtown West, and then dove on the rebound to keep the scoreboard blank.

The No. 2-seeded Bulls had been dominating the ball up to the penalty kick save, but that stop, which was one of Havrilla’s 13, sparked a turnaround.

“We’ve been working so hard since August, and it’s finally our time to shine.”

—Stephanie Rapp

“I looked into her eyes and I could see the fear; I knew where she was going,” Havrilla said. “It gave our team more confidence. Then, after the first goal we scored, we kept the momentum going.”

No. 1 Northport blanked Smithtown West 3-0 to claim the Suffolk County Class AA title for the first time in three years. The Tigers were eliminated in the semifinals each of the last two seasons.

Past disappointment served as motivation this season, according to at least one Tiger.

“Our team has been working so hard since that loss to Massapequa [in the 2013 Long Island championship game], and we’re finally back here,” defender Stephanie Rapp said. “We’ve been working so hard since August, and it’s finally our time to shine.”

Rapp was one of two girls tasked with shutting down Smithtown West’s leading offensive threat, Sarah Harrington. Rapp and Harrington had been teammates on a travel team, so Rapp had an advantage over most defenders in the league.

“She’s amazing in the air and with her footwork, so we had to put pressure on her to keep her out,” Rapp said.

The Bulls had a few more chances at a goal, but Havrilla refused to yield.

At 23:23, Victoria Colatosti chipped in what ended up being the game winner.

“After Emma’s stop with the PK, it just woke them up and they killed it out there.”

—Aija Gipp

“It was back and forth,” Colatosti said of the action in front of the net. “Paige Leonard got a touch at the 18, I saw an open shot and took it, and thank God it went in.”

Northport made it 2-0 on Emily McNelis’ goal with less than 10 minutes left in the contest, and 3-0 on Emily Zeblisky’s goal with four minutes remaining.

“To see our attack finally come together was huge,” Northport head coach Aija Gipp said, adding that her team built on its aggressiveness to put the pressure on. “It gives us that confidence going into the next round. After Emma’s stop with the PK, it just woke them up and they killed it out there.”

Northport will get its rematch against Massapequa Nov. 4 at 6:30 p.m. at St. Joseph’s College. Colatosti is confident, and added that although it’s not going to be easy, it’s going to exciting to be a part of.

“It feels so good to finally be where we should be,” she said. “Losing last year in the semifinals — that shouldn’t have happened, so it feels good to be where we deserved to be and where we’ve been working hard to be.”

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