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Soccer

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Rafael Celanti gets a shot on goal off a corner kick. Photo by Desirée Keegan

By Desirée Keegan

Rafael Celanti started off this season as a center midfielder, and after the decision to move him to center forward, the sophomore’s coaches — and the rest of the Newfield boys’ soccer team — are reaping the benefits.

Nick Gomez heads the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Nick Gomez heads the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Celanti repeatedly came through for his team after the change, and helped the Wolverines make history. He scored early for his second game-winning goal of the postseason in a 2-0 victory over previously undefeated Hauppauge (15-1-3) Oct. 31, which sent his team to the Suffolk County finals for the first time in school history.

“He’s been a superstar,” Newfield’s 12-year head coach Jamie Santiago said of Celanti. “He’s doing everything a center forward does — he holds the plays up, he scores goals, he’s so elusive there. We wouldn’t be where we are today if it wasn’t for him.”

Celanti scored in the eighth minute of the contest when he blasted a shot into the bottom left corner.

“I saw the center back coming inside, and he backed away and thought the goalie was going to pick it up, so I ran and got to it first,” the sophomore said. “I’m speechless. Newfield never made it this far and I’m happy to be part of it.”

The Wolverines battled through its 16-1-1 season tallying nine shutouts with a handful of come-from-behind wins. Senior center back John Alves knew what it would take to get the Wolverines further than any Newfield team had been before.

“I told the boys it’s going to be a battle, but it’s just going to be another game of soccer,” he said. “I told them we need to settle down and play our game, and we scored early, which helped our emotions.”

Anthony Mauri screams in celebration following the semifinal win. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Anthony Mauri screams in celebration following the semifinal win. Photo by Desirée Keegan

After several pushes made by Hauppauge to even the score, sophomore center attack and midfielder Nick Gomez put the game out of reach when he headed in a free kick by senior Mike DiDominico.

“It’s an indescribable feeling,” he said of the team making history, adding he was also thankful that his coach didn’t listen to him when he asked for a substitute to get him off the field right before the free kick. “It felt great to make it in and extend the lead for my team.”

Santiago said he was proud of his team’s achievements this season, which so far include nabbing the League III title and making it to the Class AA finals after not making the semis in 17 years.

“These guys have been through so much all season long,” he said. “There’s been peaks and valleys of emotions and to be the first team to make the finals is historic, and I couldn’t be more proud of everyone and their effort. It’s a joyous occasion for all of us.”

Santiago also credited Alves, the team’s leader on the back line. Sophomore goalkeeper Loui Chen made several diving, quick-reaction saves to maintain the clean sheet. He finished with eight saves.

No. 3 Newfield will face No. 4 Brentwood in the finals at Diamond in the Pines in Coram Nov. 4 at 7 p.m.

While Santiago said Brentwood is a program the Wolverines aspire to be like, Alves said his team has the right mindset to continue to make history.

“This season’s been a war, and we’ve battled the entire time to come out on top,” he said. “The emotions are crazy right now. I’m happy to finally do something for the school — put ourselves on the map. I tell my teammates to fight for the person next to you and play as hard as you can, and I’m confident we can continue to battle to reach new heights. We’re here to play.”

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Although it may sound cliché, the Port Jefferson girls’ soccer team is more than a team — the Royals really are a family.

The current group of seniors has seen very little change over the last three years. They’ve formed a cohesive unit, bought into coaches Allyson Wolff and Michele Aponte’s system and specialize in doing the little things necessary to win. Having lost just two seniors to graduation in the last two years, they’ve created a unique atmosphere that’s helped them see state playoff action each of the last two seasons. Now the defending state champions are hungry for their second consecutive title.

On Oct. 28, the Royals took the next step toward achieving that goal. After going three straight seasons without a League VII loss, and losing just once the season before that, Port Jefferson claimed another county crown with an 8-0 blanking of Southold.

“In my opinion that was the best game we’ve ever played,” said senior co-captain Jillian Colucci, who netted a hat trick and two assists on five shots. “Our possession was on point and our connections were there.”

“When we played them earlier in the season they were really tight on defense, so we practiced pulling back our defense and spreading them out to have more room with the forwards.”

—Grace Swords

The Royals were relentless — producing 39 shots and eight corner kicks. Clearly Port Jefferson learned from their 1-1 tie to Southold back on Sept. 23.

“When we played them earlier in the season they were really tight on defense, so we practiced pulling back our defense and spreading them out to have more room with the forwards,” said senior Grace Swords, who scored once and assisted twice in the win.

Colucci was first to light up the scoreboard after her teammates made several attempts to knock one in past Southold’s junior goalkeeper Hayley Brigham. She scored on a through ball from senior defensive midfielder Mikayla Yanucci.

“She always finds the ball no matter where I kick it,” Yanucci said of her teammate. “I knew if I passed it in between players she’d go from wherever she was to get to it. She found the ball, and she finished it. That was a great way to start off the game.”

Once Port Jefferson gets the ball rolling it’s difficult to slow down their momentum.

Two minutes after scoring, Colucci added another goal off an assist from senior forward Brittany Fazin.

“We needed to possess the ball,” Fazin said. “We knew not to force it. They’re bigger than us and they’re better in the air, so we tried to keep it down on the ground, keep it low and move the ball around until we scored.”

Fazin moved to Port Jefferson last year, but she fit right in quickly with the other forwards. She was second on the Royals in goals in both of her seasons with the team.

“Playing together for the last few years helped us grow a connection with each other,” Fazin said. “We know where each other is going to go and where to pass to each other; who plays best where. Coming to Port Jefferson I never expected any of this. Being this successful with a team is something I never thought I’d experience in my life.”

“Playing together for the last few years helped us grow a connection with each other. We know where each other is going to go and where to pass to each other; who plays best where.”

—Brittany Fazin

Senior Alexa Wakefield and eighth-grader Hailey Hearney also added goals, before Colucci finished the game with her hat trick goal. While she receives the spotlight for scoring, Colucci said the team atmosphere and her surrounding Royals play major roles in her success.

“I’m playing with 10 other people I grew up playing with,” she said. “We have our own quirky things — our cheers and song for each season. It’s crazy that it’s our last ride, but we’re making memories to last a lifetime.”

Because of their bond and level of play to this point, Yannucci said if the team continues to play like it did in the county title game, they’re going to be back upstate this month. The defense put together another solid showing from the back line, led by senior co-captain Corinne Scannell. Junior goalkeeper Brianna Scarda barely saw any action, and neither did sophomore goalkeeper Sarah Hull in the game against Southold. Each had to make just one save. Despite the score, Brigham made 27 saves for Southold.

Port Jefferson will play in the Long Island championship game Nov. 5. The Royals do not know who their Nassau opponent will be, and the time and place has yet to be announced.

“We’re going to go out hard and never give up, because that’s how Port Jeff plays — we never give up,” Yanucci said, looking ahead to the next round. “These girls are literally my family and I’m going to be so upset when this is all over. I’m just so happy to share this experience with all of my best friends.”

Swords echoed her teammate’s sentiments.

“The pressure is on, but we are a good team,” she said. “This is our final year playing together and if we just keep our heads in the game and put everything we have into it, we’ll go far. This is all so surreal. We’ve become a family over the last three years and to finish it off with a state title is all we want.”

Casey Schmitt dribbles the ball up the field. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The first round of playoffs is a hurdle the Mount Sinai girls’ soccer team hasn’t been able to jump over in some time.

The Mustangs fell to No. 3 Elwood-John Glenn 1-0 last season, and No. 1 Sayville the year prior, 3-0, and despite an 8-3-1 record, didn’t see the postseason the year before that.

Missy Carpenito receives a pass. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Missy Carpenito receives a pass. Photo by Desirée Keegan

This time, the No. 4-seeded senior-laden squad, and more specifically, its three co-captains, had other ideas, and blanked No. 5 visiting Comsewogue 3-0 in the Class A first round Oct. 25.

“We’ve worked so hard to accomplish this goal,” senior outside midfielder Missy Carpenito said. “We finally made it.”

The co-captain was first to light up the scoreboard when she stuffed in a rebound off Comsewogue senior goalkeeper Erica Hickey’s save with just over 17 minutes left in the first half. Sophomore striker Gabby Sartori assisted on the play.

“I saw the ball coming across with the rebound from the goalie, and coach [Courtney Leonard] says to always make that rebound, so I went for it,” Carpenito said.

Leading 1-0 at half time, Mount Sinai’s head coach gave her team the reality check it needed.

“Tighten it up,” Leonard told her girls. “This is possibly the sloppiest game we played all season. They’re winning practically every 50/50 ball. Was that not our goal?”

Although the Mustangs still struggled to win possession of loose balls, senior sweeper Antonia Calamas had an opportunity to extend the lead, and made it count.

At the 22:33 mark, senior forward Leah Nonnenmann was knocked down heading to goal, and Calamas came up to take the free kick.

Emily Seiter tosses the ball into play. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Emily Seiter tosses the ball into play. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“I don’t get to score a lot, so that was really exciting for me,” the co-captain said. “Most of us have been playing together since last season. A lot of us play on travel too, so we’ve been working together for so long that playing with each other just comes naturally to us.”

And with Calamas’ goal, the Mustangs were up by two.

Six minutes later, Calamas showed her strength on the defensive side of the ball. With the Warriors knowing they didn’t have much time to level the score, the team made offensive pushes that forced Mount Sinai off its game. As junior goalkeeper Caiya Schuster came out of the box after making a save, Comsewogue found itself with the ball again, and tried to capitalize on the miscue. That’s when Calamas came in to knock the ball out of bounds to preserve the shutout.

“They were playing with three strikers up top, and we’re not used to that, so I think that’s why we had a couple of breakdowns,” Calamas said. “But I wasn’t worried because I knew we could handle it. Even if it does get crazy sometimes, I stay calm.”

With less than 10 minutes left to play, senior defender Victoria Johnson made a similar play, where she blocked a shot with Schuster out of the net.

“We had some scary mishaps on defense that we were able to clear, and that saved us,” Leonard said. “We’ve been covering for each other all year and I think the girls did a great job of it today. If one man is literally down on the floor, the next one is clearing the ball out and helping them up. We played as a cohesive unit.”

Her team also finished when it needed to finish, and senior forward Casey Schmitt put the game out of reach when she scored off another Comsewogue rebound. After Carpenito raced up top and took a shot from the far post, the co-captain caught the rebounded save on the other side, and made contact to knock the ball in.

Antonia Calamas is embraced by her teammates after scoring the second goal of the game. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Antonia Calamas is embraced by her teammates after scoring the second goal of the game. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Mount Sinai’s head coach was proud to see her players fight through the first round, but wasn’t shy when saying her team needs to get back into form.

“It’s not our best performance so far,’’ she said. “I would’ve liked to see much more of a possession game; I would’ve liked to see us use the outsides more, but in the end, we got it done.”

She’s hoping the girls will continue to grow, and thinks that can be done when Mount Sinai goes up against No. 1 Islip Oct. 28 at 2:30 p.m.

“Islip is obviously a great team and a great program, but eventually you’re going to face a great team and a great program, so we’re looking forward to it,” Leonard said. “We’re welcoming the challenge.”

The Mustangs have already seen Islip twice this season. The first time, a 4-1 loss on Sept. 10, and the second, a 3-1 defeat on Sept. 29.

Despite the outcome, Sartori said her team will be ready to fight. She said if any team can continue to overcome obstacles, it’s this one.

“I’ve been waiting four long years for this,” she said of making the postseason. “Facing Islip is going to be hard, but I think we will rise to the challenge and make our mark.”

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The Newfield girls' soccer team walks off the field winners. Photo by Desirée Keegan

By Desirée Keegan

The Newfield girls’ soccer team faced an uphill climb late in its first-round playoff matchup with Bay Shore, but three clutch goals helped the Wolverines survive and advance.

Emily Diaz sends the ball into play. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Emily Diaz sends the ball into play. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Freshman Sierra Rosario headed in the final goal that gave her team a 4-3 lead with 3:41 left to play. It was the third scored in six minutes by the No. 7 Wolverines, as they battled back to top No. 10 Bay Shore in the first round of the Suffolk County Class AA playoffs Oct. 24.

“That was the scariest moment of my life,” Rosario, a midfielder, said of the final goal. “Vaneeya [Volino] put a good ball in, I flicked it and it went into the bottom right corner. Our heads could’ve gone down, but we kept lifting each other up. Everyone put in 100 percent of the effort from the first whistle to the last. No one really got down on each other, even going down two goals, we kept motivating one another and it shows we have so much heart.”

Newfield put on the pressure to start the game, keeping the ball in Bay Shore’s zone for most of the first half, but the two teams went into the break in a 0-0 draw.

“I need relentless off-the-ball movement,” Newfield head coach Domenik Veraldi said he told his team at halftime. “We need to keep up the intensity and the pressure.”

The Wolverines did just that in the second half. Senior defender Volino’s corner-kick goal just over a minute in off a send in from senior midfielder Kristen Prevosto gave Newfield the lead.

Kristen Prevosto celebrates her team's come-from-behind win. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Kristen Prevosto celebrates her team’s comeback win. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Junior goalkeeper Alexis Saladino made a diving save on Bay Shore’s first shot on goal of the game almost 10 minutes later. A direct free kick at the 20:20 mark went just over Saladino’s head, as she jumped straight up but couldn’t get her fingers on the ball. Six minutes later, she rushed out of the box to make a block, but missed on Bay Shore’s breakaway, as the ball rolled into the net to give the Marauders a 3-1 edge.

Prevosto pulled her team within one when she sent a shot from 20 yards out straight into the net off another free kick from Volino, and junior defender Taylor Regensburger tied the score off a breakaway pass from Volino with 6:38 left in regulation.

“I saw the ball and I thought the girl in front of me was going to head it, but I saw it go over and I know how to bring it down, relax and find the low corners, and I got it,” Prevosto said. “We came in, we were hungry, and obviously, we ate.”

Regensburger said her strategy was to also keep the ball low.

“It was me and the goalie and I knew I had to play to the corners because she’s very tall,” she said. “It feels great to come this far because we’ve never done it before.”

Taylor Regensburger heads the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Taylor Regensburger heads the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The Wolverines were part of a developmental league in 2012, designed for weaker teams to play competitive games without the possibility of postseason play, and tallied 15 wins over the following three seasons. Many girls on this Newfield team were on a two-win team in 2013.

“This is my favorite season so far,” said Veraldi, who was an assistant coach in 2012. “They just made a memory they’ll have their entire life. When they play with that kind of heart and that commitment — they never give up and you can see it there with three goals in under 10 minutes — they don’t cease to shock me. This is what we expect. I was composed when we were down 3-1 because I expected them to, as a team, pull it together and come through. And they did.”

Newfield travels to No. 2 Smithtown West Oct. 27 for a 2:30 p.m. matchup.

“Newfield came from a developmentally challenged team four years ago, to being here in the playoffs, and we’re not done,” Prevosto said. “It feels great to make it this far but we’re not finished. We’re going to go into the game on Thursday ready to win.”

Emily McNelis breaks down following the shootout win. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Northport was eliminated during the semifinals in penalty kicks last year, so when the No. 1 girls’ soccer team found itself in a similar situation Tuesday, the Tigers fought for redemption.

The victory was sweet, with Northport’s Cybele Laisney, Stephanie Rapp and Caeley Gruhn sending their shots home, and Emma Havrilla making two saves to seal the 3-1 shootout win over Walt Whitman Oct. 24.

Northport teammates surround goalkeeper Emma Havrilla following the win. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Northport teammates surround goalkeeper Emma Havrilla following the win. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“I haven’t felt this way in a long time,” the junior goalkeeper said following the win. “Once I got one stop I knew I was going to get another. I felt confident.”

Although Northport, 16-1 overall and 14-0 in League II, was going up against a No. 16 seed in Walt Whitman, it wasn’t as easy for the Tigers as it would sound. Northport faced off against its playoff opponent three times this season, most recently, coming away with a 3-1 win Oct. 18.

“It’s always harder to play a team the second time around, let alone the third time, so we knew what we were in for,” said Rapp, a senior defender. “They have drastically increased their gameplay, which was a challenge, but we worked around it and pulled through.”

Laisney said the increased toughness was expected.

“Once you play a team three times they know who you are, they know how you play and they work on how to break you down,” the senior center midfielder said. “So it gets tough.”

Cybele Laisney moves the ball across midfield. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Cybele Laisney moves the ball across midfield. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The two teams battled through two 40-minute halves, two 10-minute overtime session and two five-minute sudden death periods before heading into the shootout. Northport had multiple attempts at goal, the largest coming when junior forward Victoria Colatosti made the goalkeeper come out of the box, and raced between three defenders to the open net, but her last touch went wide amid the swarm of players.

“It’s scary in the first round to have to get to penalty kicks, but there’s a reason this happened,” Northport head coach Aija Gipp said. “And our goalkeeper was just amazing. This gives us confidence and gives her confidence moving forward.”

Walt Whitman scored first in the shootout, but Laisney countered.

“We just went through such emotional turmoil,” the co-captain said, adding that scoring the first goal for her team took a huge weight off her shoulders. “It’s nerve-racking, but you get in the zone and you realize it’s this or it’s nothing, so you chose your side and hit it hard. We just could not see ourselves end here.”

She said it wouldn’t have been made possible without her goalkeeper, who blocked Walt Whitman’s next shot.

“Emma is incredible and we could not have done any of this without her,” Laisney said. “She is such a solid, solid rock in our goal and I’m so happy she’s on our team.”

Emma Havrilla makes her first save in the shootout. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Emma Havrilla makes her first save in the shootout. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Rapp, a co-captain, scored the next penalty kick for the Tigers.

“I took one last year and made it in, so I used that as confidence,” she said. “We have a lot of heart and dedication. We weren’t going to let this be our last game.”

Havrilla made another diving block on Walt Whitman’s next shot, and after junior defender Caeley Gruhn scored another, Walt Whitman’s final attempt hit the crossbar to give Northport the win.

“This team is all about heart,” Gipp said. “The girls have a lot of passion and they never give up. I’m proud of them.”

It came down to the Tigers’ mentality, and Laisney agreed with her coach that her team had too much heart to get upset in the first round.

“We love playing soccer so much,” she said, fighting back tears of joy. “We have so much heart and that’s what keeps us going forward. That’s what allows us to have the composure we have to pull through with the PKs. It’s what allows us not to choke and break down.”

League III's No. 1-ranked Bulls tally fourth shutout in last five games

Smithtown West's Andrew McDonnell heads away a Huntington corner kick. Photo by Desirée Keegan

By Desirée Keegan

Brandon Erny has now scored the game-winning goal in four of the last five games for Smithtown West boys’ soccer team.

Smithtown West's Brandon Erny moves the ball through midfield. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Smithtown West’s Brandon Erny moves the ball through midfield. Photo by Desirée Keegan

In the Bulls’ 2-0 victory over Huntington Oct. 10, Erny knocked in Smithtown West’s first goal with 22 minutes left in the first half.

A senior co-captain, Erny made his way through midfield and passed the ball to junior Andrew McDonnell at his left. Erny then booked his way to the top of the box, grabbed the ball back from McDonnell and tapped it into the far left corner for the early advantage, and ultimately his team’s six straight win.

“I just wanted to get the ball up top,” he said. “I made the quick pass to Andrew and wanted to get the ball back as quick as possible. This was an important win today.”

Senior co-captain Aaron Siegel made multiple leaping grabs throughout the first half to preserve his clean sheet.

“I felt good today,” he said. “I was vocal; did really good in the air. All of their chances were basically long throw-ins, which I came out collecting. I was good on the line today and the back row did pretty well too, so that helped a lot.”

Smithtown West's Aaron Siegel makes a leaping save in the Bulls' shutout of Huntington. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Smithtown West’s Aaron Siegel makes a leaping save in the Bulls’ shutout of Huntington. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Huntington senior defender Matthew Gelb, with his mighty throw-ins, gave his team much of their chances at a goal, but the forwards had trouble capitalizing on any opportunities at the net. Huntington junior goalkeeper Nat Amato was also strong between the pipes.

Less than three minutes into the second half, McDonnell received the ball in the first half of Huntington’s zone, and moved it toward Amato — who started coming out of the box — and failed to beat him out as the goalkeeper made the stop. Amato did the same on a rebound opportunity. A minute later after a corner-kick send in, McDonnell got his head on the ball for the 2-0 lead.

Siegel said he knew Huntington was going to be a formidable opponent.

“It’s a tough win every year,” he said. “Huntington is really tough; always challenging. They have a coach over there who gets them energized. They always come at us full speed.”

He said his team stayed focused on Friday during practice to earn the win, his fifth shutout of the season and third at home, and will hope to do the same this Friday when his 10-1 top-seeded team takes on No. 2 Newfield (9-1-1 League III).

Huntington's Matt Gelb heads the ball over a Smithtown West player and into the Bulls' zone. Photo by Desirée Kegan
Huntington’s Matt Gelb heads the ball over a Smithtown West player and into the Bulls’ zone. Photo by Desirée Kegan

Siegel said the game will help them prepare for a postseason push. The co-captains are aiming for the county finals.

“We’re going to get playoff ready — playoff-speed ready — because there’s nothing like playoffs,” Siegel said. “Whether you’re the No. 16 team or the top seed, every team is coming at you, everything team is good and every team is fired up.”

Erny said heading into the matchup that the team will work on its defense against the closely-ranked Wolverines in the hopes that the Bulls can hold it down in the remaining two games against West Islip and Centereach to claim the League III title.

Newfield handed the Bulls their only loss this year. A 2-0 defeat Sep. 17.

“I’m looking for revenge,” Siegel said. “They took one from us on our own field and that’s the only time I’ve ever lost in three years playing here. It’s not going to happen again.”

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Bryan Yanes grabs a pass downfield. Photo by Desirée Keegan

By Desirée Keegan

With a 2-1 win over West Islip Oct. 7, the 8-1-1 Newfield boys’ soccer team is one step closer to being named League III champions.

Rafael Celanti moves the ball through midfield. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Rafael Celanti moves the ball through midfield. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The route to that ultimate goal will continue to challenge the Wolverines, with teams like West Islip fighting for postseason life, and others, like No.1 Smithtown West (10-1), challenging them for the top spot.

“We told them that against a lot of teams that are fighting for their playoff lives, it’s going to get chippy,” Newfield head coach Jamie Santiago said. “But they need to maintain composure, because a lot of teams are going to get them off their game and push them out of their element.”

West Islip did just that in the first half. After scoring the first goal of the game, tempers flared and pushing and shoving resulted in multiple yellow cards for both teams.

Heading into halftime still down a goal, the referees pulled aside captains from both teams to talk about the physicality.

“It happens — they talk — it’s a game, and I told the team to just relax,” senior center back John Alves said. “We’re trying to win the league here, so I told my guys to keep their hands down, get the ball, calm down and to just play our game.”

Mike DiDominico sends the ball into play. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Mike DiDominico sends the ball into play. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The Wolverines opened up the second half very differently. They finally broke through midfield and into West Islip’s zone.

Almost 10 minutes into the second half, senior midfielder Anthony Mauri grabbed a pass, raced around his opponents through midfield, and sent the ball up top to Rafael Celanti. One-on-one with a defender as he made his way to the box, the sophomore midfielder and center forward won the battle, and stuffed the ball into the left corner past a diving goalkeeper to even the score.

“I thought the defender was going to come in at me, so I took a touch forward and got past him,” Celanti said. “Then, it was just me and the goalie and I tapped it into the corner and felt a rush of excitement. This was an important win.”

Celanti had plenty of other opportunities in the game, which impressed his coach.

“Raphael Celanti had a great game,” Santiago said. “He scored, and he missed a couple of headers, but he was just all over the field creating a lot of opportunities. I thought our center midfielders also played a great second half.”

Winning the 50/50 balls was a key to the team’s second-half success.

“When you go down you think you’re going to keep getting scored on, but our team, we get back up — our hearts are always in the game,” Alves said. “So we kept possession — winning the first and second ball — we’re not scared of going into tackles, we’re not scared of shooting the ball. It’s all about going hard and having heart.”

Adrian Izzaguire battles for the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Adrian Izzaguire battles for the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

With 14 minutes left, senior forward Michael DiDominico headed in the game-winner.

“We gave up a bad goal early — we got punished for being slow out of the gate — but as the game went on we built momentum and finally started playing the way we’re capable of, and we turned the tide our way,” Santiago said. “That’s what good teams do. They find a way to win even when they’re not playing their best game.”

He’s hoping his team can do the same thing against Smithtown West Oct. 14. Newfield faced off against the Bulls Sept. 17 and came out on top 2-0, handing the team its only loss of the season.

“It’s a really, really big game,” Santiago said. “Hopefully they can pull out a big win. We have good senior leadership with a great core of young kids — we start five sophomores out of the 11 — and it’s just a good mix. This is one of the best teams I’ve had in my 12 years being a coach. They’re going to fight to the end.”

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Selena Ubriaco races her way between two East Islip players to gain possession. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Kings Park has come back from behind three times this season — and tried to recreate that success for a fourth time against East Islip Sept. 30.

Kayla Homeyer blocks an East Islip pass. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Kayla Homeyer blocks an East Islip pass. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The Kingsmen kept pushing in the final minutes down 2-0, and sophomore forward Samantha Hogan made it a one-goal game with 3:41 left to play, but the team couldn’t come up with the equalizer, falling 2-1 to East Islip at home.

“I think we really played as a unit, I don’t think we ever changed our style of play to match theirs or change anything to match them,” senior center defender Kayla Homeyer said. “I think we continued to play the way we wanted to play, and with that, we put up the best fight that we could. Every now and then a call doesn’t go your way — we had a hand ball and an offsides — but we kept our cool, we fought our hardest and for us to score that goal in the last 10 minutes really showed we played that way.”

Sophomore goalkeeper Nicole Scott, who made 10 saves during the game, held off East Islip in the opening minutes, along with her defense — batting the ball away, getting in front of shots and grabbing corner kick send-ins.

A flurry of back-and-forth passes between East Islip players became too hard for Scott to handle though, and with 5:27 left until halftime, Rachel Florenz put one in.

“They work hard and they try to stick together,” Kings Park head coach Bryan LoPalo said. “We have 11 seniors on this team and they showed their leadership and played hard from whistle to whistle.”

Jessica Hoyt tosses the ball into play. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Jessica Hoyt tosses the ball into play. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Early into the second half, East Islip was awarded a penalty kick, and Florenz’s second goal of the game gave her team a distinct advantage. The wind and rain left players slipping and sliding across the muddy field, and that made it difficult for Kings Park to even the score.

“The ball didn’t bounce our way, especially with the weather, but we always have each other’s backs and that’s all that really matters,” senior right and left back Jessica Hoyt said. “We kept composed and stayed calm. We tried to pass it around and play to feet — we don’t like to kick and run, but if we have to we have to.”

Keeping their composure led the Kingsmen to the late goal by Hogan. She races up top, leading the pack toward the box, and knocked her shot into the left corner to cut the deficit.

“We just have to ignore the goal and ignore the conditions, focus in and not let it get to us,” senior forward and center midfielder Emily DaVella said. “Sometimes the little things make a big difference, and we just have to step up faster and try to get to every single ball.”

The Kingsmen pressured in the game’s final minutes, but the ball kept skipping away through the wet grass as the rain continued to come down. East Islip’s dump-and-chase style also made it difficult for Kings Park to keep it in the forward zone.

Samantha Hogan redirects the ball around East Islip defenders. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Samantha Hogan redirects the ball around East Islip defenders. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“We play in a tough league,” LoPalo said. “Every game seems to be tough and every game is a one-goal game, and we had another one here today.”

Homeyer said she was proud to see how her team kept with it, despite being down and despite the weather.

“Playing in the rain is always a little more intense, and I think we matched that intensity and kept things under control,” she said. “We get better and better every day. We just need to play our hardest every game. We need to continue to pull together, play as a unit and work toward the same goal.”

With the loss, Kings Park moves to 8-3-1 overall with a 6-3-1 mark in League IV play, putting the Kingsmen tied with East Islip for the No. 2 spot. Deer Park remains the No. 1 team to beat, going undefeated with a 9-0-1 mark. The team traveled to Half Hollow Hills next, Oct. 5, but results were not available by press time.

As Kings Park moves into the final few games of the season, postseason play is in its sights. But for now, the Kingsmens’ head coach just wants his players to enjoy the ride.

“I just want them to make everlasting memories — I want them to remember this for the rest of their lives,” LoPalo said. “We’ll see what happens from here on out.”

Wolverines are on track to make the playoffs for the first time in over 10 years

Newfield's Emily Diaz gets her body on the ball as she sends it into the net. Photo by Desirée Keegan

All Emily Diaz had to do was put her body on it.

As senior center midfielder Kristen Prevosto sent in a corner kick for the Newfield girls’ soccer team, Diaz, a junior forward, was in the right place at the right time.

Newfield's Kristen Prevosto heads the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Newfield’s Kristen Prevosto heads the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“When I was standing in front of the net — I’m always on the goalie — I asked Emily [Caso] to go on the goalie so I could get the ball,” Diaz said of her game-winning goal. “I saw it, and thought, ‘this is me.’ So out of the air I had nowhere else to go with it then to push it with my stomach. It went in, and I was psyched.”

With a 2-1 victory over Smithtown East Sept. 26, the Wolverines are on track to make the postseason for the first time in over a decade. Although compiling two ties over a nine-game span, the Wolverines bested reigning state champion Port Jefferson, 3-2, in their season opener, proving they’re talented enough to hang with the best. They’re also learning from their mistakes.

Newfield tied Smithtown East, 1-1, the first time the two teams saw each other Sept. 7. This time around, the girls were hungry to continue their winning ways, with the team’s third straight win, and now have a record of 5-1-2 in League III.

“It’s one of the strongest starts we’ve gotten off to, ,” Newfield head coach Domenik Veraldi said. “But we just think about winning this game, winning the first half, winning the first 10 minutes and winning the ball. We compartmentalize into small, small goals and eventually when we accomplish those small goals it turns into what we want in the end.”

And Newfield did all of those things.

First, the team won the 50/50 balls, and despite Smithtown East senior midfielder Brianna Donato getting back-to-backs shots on goal, Newfield’s junior goalkeeper Alexis Saladino made save after save.

Smithtown East's Brianna Donato controls a pass. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Smithtown East’s Brianna Donato controls a pass. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“We try to keep the ball in the offensive third, and when we can do that, it takes the pressure off of our defense,” Veraldi said. “The only way to keep it up there is to win those air balls; work to every play. We train them to win — not the 50/50 balls — but our balls.”

Newfield junior defender Taylor Regensburger, who was soft but tactical with her foot skills, curled a corer kick into the goal to open the scoring for the Wolverines three minutes into the second half.

Three minutes later, Donato knocked the ball to the floor as she dribbled toward the box, and sent it into the left corner to tie the game for the Bulls.

The two teams traded possession throughout much of the game, but the Wolverines clawed their way up top, making strategic passes and remaining aggressive until, and even after Prevosto set up the game-winning shot.

“It’s awesome to see a team come together as well as we have,” Prevosto said. “I knew we needed to score, so I set the ball up, concentrated on where I was going to put it, and placed it.”

She said her team has improved tremendously from her eighth-grade year to now, and Diaz agreed.

“We have been playing together for a long time,” Diaz said. “We were a young team that continued to grow together. As the season progresses we build on that chemistry day after day, we’re working hard in practice, we’re all really good friends and it’s fun to be on the field, and that’s why we keep winning.”

Newfield's Taylor Regensburger leads the race to the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Newfield’s Taylor Regensburger leads the race to the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

What she liked about her team’s style, compared to Smithtown East’s, is that the Wolverines use more combinations, whereas the Bulls kicked and ran.

Chemistry plays a part in the team’s ability to transition the ball up and down the field. Veraldi said because of this, his group is one to be reckoned with.

“When they play with that much heart and that kind of work ethic, we’re a dangerous team,” he said.

And Diaz anticipates for her team to take it all the way.

“We have to keep our heads up and keep fighting back for the win,” she said. “I have high expectations for us and we’re achieving them every game. We take it game by game by game, and we’re on the road to playoffs.”

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Ward Melville deflated following a Brentwood score that unbalanced a 0-0 stalemate, and with the 2-0 loss on the boys’ soccer team’s home turf Sept. 19, the Patriots slipped under .500, falling to 2-3 in League I.

“I think that we let down a little bit once we were scored on, and that’s something we’re looking to change,” Ward Melville head coach Jon Stecker said. “Having a young team — we want them to grow in those areas. I don’t think they were out of the game, and I think we could’ve come back at 1-0, but at 2-0 I think we gave up a bit.”

He also doesn’t believe his team capitalized on its opportunities.

Anthony Cassano stops a pass a midfield. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Anthony Cassano stops a pass a midfield. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“You don’t get a lot of opportunities in soccer — it’s one of the sports unlike basketball or football,” Stecker said. “[Brentwood] had it a couple of times and they were able to finish, which is pretty indicative of how they play. We definitely need to take advantage more of those opportunities if we’re going to win games.”

Ward Melville sophomore goalkeeper Caleb Rosenthal made three big stops to preserve the clean sheet in the first half, but his team’s offense struggled to take shots.

“It was a rough game,” he said. “We played pretty well, but there was a 10-minute lapse and they put two in on us and that was it.”

He admitted he was nervous coming into the game, but helped hold it down on the defensive side of the ball to maintain the 0-0 score heading into the second half.

“Brentwood is a good team, very competitive — but you have to keep your head straight and stay motivated,” he said. “It’s wet, so you really have to control the through balls, but I think we needed more through balls on the ground to be able to run into them, and more combination play.”

Conor Long sends the ball into play. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Conor Long sends the ball into play. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Rosenthal made a leaping save when he tipped the ball away with less than 25 minutes left to play, but five minutes later, as he came out of the box to make a save, the ball was passed up top to a forward who shot the ball into an empty net.

“I saw the ball go through and I was a little slow to react to it, so I tried to make up the space, but he was able to play it through and he was onside,” Rosenthal said. “So he got lucky there.”

At the 14:54 mark, Brentwood beat out Ward Melville’s defense up top, as the boys backed up, and the opposition beat out Rosenthal with a shot to the left corner for a 2-0 edge.

“It hurts a lot,” said junior forward and outside midfielder Harry Radke, who played outside back for much of the game. “It takes a lot out of you after you’ve put in all that work, but we just have to rebound after that, and we didn’t do that today. We slacked at some points and that hurt us.”

Like Rosenthal, Radke said the team needs to improve its combinations while switching the ball more and communicating as a unit to help the team grow this season.

Senior forward Jared Lee said he agreed that his team collapsed once the first goal went in, but added that the time spent in the Patriots’ zone didn’t help.

“We spent too much energy playing defense,” he said, “and we didn’t have enough energy to get back up the field.”

Being one of the lone senior starters, Lee has his plate full leading his team on the field during gameplay, and standing as an example to show his teammates where the rest of them should strive to be.

Jared Lee avoids a trip as he regains possession of the ball at midfield. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Jared Lee avoids a trip as he regains possession of the ball at midfield. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“He is the best player that I’ve ever had in the last 20 years that I’ve been here,” Stecker said of Lee. “He just conducts himself with 100 percent class all the time, he gives 100 percent, he doesn’t open his mouth; he’s the epitome of a class player. I’d like to do better for him. He just gives us everything he has, and he’s phenomenal.”

Lee battled up top all afternoon, and had several close looks, but Brentwood’s defense double and triple-teamed him to kept him away from the box for most of the game.

“We need to keep the same mentality through the whole game,” Lee said. “And not get let down if we let up a goal.”

The Patriots have made the playoffs nearly every year over the last 20 years, according to Stecker, who hopes to put the team on a new trajectory to get them the postseason experience it so desperately needs.

“We do think [the Patriots are] going to be a much better team in October,” Stecker said. “Due to the fact that we really only have one or two seniors starting — there is a maturity aspect there — but again, everyone steps on the field, everyone has a heart, so they should be giving 100 percent, there’s no excuses.”

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