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Soccer

Newfield's Kristen Prevosto challenges Half Hollow Hills West's Grace Walker as she reaches for the ball. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Many coaches say that the purpose of nonleague games is for one team to play a better team, or to “play up,” in an effort to raise their game and improve their play by facing a faster team with greater skillsets. Newfield girls’ soccer head coach Ann Marie Hassett agreed in the offseason to a nonleague matchup against Half Hollow Hills West, but this year she sensed something was different.

Newfield's Sierra Rosario battles a Half Hollow Hills West opponent for possession. Photo by Bill Landon
Newfield’s Sierra Rosario battles Half Hollow Hills West’s Nicole Gluckman for possession. Photo by Bill Landon

“This is the first year they’re not in our league, so when the coach called and asked if I wanted to play a nonleague game, I paused, because we’ve never beaten them in the eight years I’ve been here,” Hassett said. “But our team has come a long way. We’ve grown; we’ve played well together, so I thought that this time we could beat them.”

Her inclination was right, as on Saturday, for the first time in eight years, the Wolverines outlasted Hills West to claim a shutout victory, scoring three unanswered goals and using defensive play to keep their opponent on their heels.

Ten minutes in, Newfield sophomore midfielder Taylor Regensburger started the scoring when she drove her shot to the back of the net off a feed from eighth-grade midfielder Sierra Rosario, to take the lead 1-0.

Under a hot sun in a game riddled with injuries, Hills West struggled to get the ball to its forwards, as the Newfield defensive pressure was more than the team could handle.

With 11 minutes left in the first, senior forward Michelle Bartolo, a co-captain, set up the next score with a cross pass to Rosario, who chipped it in for the 2-0 advantage.

“It was a really good cross — a really good cross from Michelle,” Rosario said. “I just redirected it and it went in.”

Hassett said Bartolo was playing defense for the first time, and her senior captain did an amazing job in her defensive role.

Michelle Bartolo heads the ball for Newfield. Photo by Bill Landon
Michelle Bartolo heads the ball for Newfield. Photo by Bill Landon

“I was playing defense and there was a free ball so I crossed it in and [Rosario] kicked it in,” Bartolo said.

As time wound down in the final half, Newfield junior midfielder Kristen Prevosto, on a crossing pass, fed senior forward Cori Myers, who shot the ball into the corner of the net.

With their league opening loss to North Babylon in overtime, along with their blowout victory over Riverhead on Friday, the Wolverines improve to 2-1 overall. Newfield will take on Smithtown East next, in League III action at home on Thursday at 4 p.m.

Hassett said that the heavily favored North Babylon team was expected to easily outscore Newfield, but said her team held its own and took the game into overtime. The coach added that the win over Half Hollow Hills West was huge for her team, and said that other teams have taken notice.

“In years past other teams regarded Newfield as an easy win,” Hassett said. “And now, for the first time, other teams are talking about Newfield soccer.”

The Comsewogue boys’ soccer team got the ball rolling.

In League V action Friday, the Warriors invaded Rocky Point territory and blanked the Eagles, 5-0, to earn their first win of the season.

“Today was a big improvement,” Comsewogue head coach Don O’Brien said. “We’ve been struggling with some injuries and today we finally put a team on the field. They executed the offensive system of play and we created a lot of chances.”

Comsewogue sophomore forward Luis Hernandez scored first less than four minutes into the game from outside the right goal post, giving his team the early lead.

Almost 10 minutes of back-and-forth action later, Comsewogue made another good attempt, but Rocky Point junior goalkeeper Michael Antici made one of his eight saves on the day.

Despite Antici’s efforts, the Warriors found the back of the net again before the halftime break.

With 3:30 left, senior midfielder Nick Towler headed the ball off a corner kick into the right side of the goal to give his team a 2-0 advantage.

“I was going toward the goalie and just saw the ball coming and hit it in,” Towler said, laughing. “I wasn’t trying to do anything special.”

The Warriors were gunning to get another one at the start of the second half, but didn’t capitalize until senior midfielder John Koebel scored off a foul kick that had been sent into the box and rebounded off an opponent.

On the other end of the field, Warriors senior goalie Steven Towler made a couple of strong saves during the second half to preserve the shutout, but overall did not see much action.

Comsewogue senior midfielders Jake Muller and Trevor Kennedy tacked on the final two goals of the game, the latter lighting up the scoreboard when Antici tried to catch a corner kick but instead sent the ball bouncing off his hands and into the net.

The victorious Warriors were optimistic about the future, despite losing some of their top playmakers to graduation last year.

“I think we need a little more experience,” Nick Towler said. He is one of this year’s starters who was a sub last season, and he thinks he and his counterparts are “really holding the team together.”

Rocky Point head coach Joe Camarda was disappointed with his team’s effort.

“They played very flat,” he said. “It just wasn’t our game today. They didn’t really step up the way we’ve been playing, so it was one of our weaker games.”

Through the midfield and attack, Camarda said his athletes weren’t patient enough to get opportunities and finish them.

Rocky Point senior defender Jimmy Gohn agreed.

“We just had an off game,” he said. “We had some OK plays every now and again when we blasted the ball and made some connections up top, but unfortunately we didn’t get too many of those and didn’t do well clearing the ball in the back.”

But Camarda thinks his team has what it takes to be a contender in League V.

“This is, to me, one of my best teams,” he said. “Talent-wise and attitude-wise, they’ve really come together. I think we’re going to have a good season and surprise a lot of people, but if we play like today, I don’t think we will.”

O’Brien said that after a performance like the Warriors had, he’s looking forward to seeing what the rest of the season holds for his squad.

“The game plan was executed to perfection — we just have to keep building and get better,” he said. “I knew it was going to take some time for them to work together offensively to create chances, and that’s exactly what they did today. They’re getting better every game, just like we thought.”

Smithtown's Matt McDonnell gets his head on the ball during a game against Ward Melville. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The Bulls came out charging and are off to a good start after blanking Ward Melville 1-0 in a nonleague season opener for both teams Tuesday.

But Smithtown West head coach Tom Lips said he’d like to see more out of his team.

“We looked like it was preseason,” he said. “The kids were heavy and we’ve done a lot of fitness over the past week or so. But for what they had gone through physically with the bus trip and the heat wave and all of that, I thought they did a good job.”

Both teams started off trading possession for the first 20 minutes with neither team dominating before the referees called for a water break on account of the high heat index.

“We came in flat,” Ward Melville head coach Jon Stecker said. “Usually we come in and I’m worried about the young guys, but the young guys played well. I definitely need more leadership from my seniors. I think that’s where we had some problems today.”

Smithtown's Harrison Weber gets in front of a Ward Melville player as he reaches for possession. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Smithtown’s Harrison Weber gets in front of a Ward Melville player as he reaches for possession. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The game remained scoreless after the first half. And coming back onto the field more rejuvenated, Smithtown West senior forward Matt McDonnell stuffed the ball into the right goal side after a cross and rebound less than 15 minutes into play to give his team its first goal and, ultimately, the win.

Smithtown West came close to another goal at the 20:11 mark with a shot just above the goalkeeper’s head, but Ward Melville senior Peter Jespersen reached up toward the crossbar and just grazed the ball with his fingertips before pulling it down for the stop.

“I think we’ve been coming together well,” Stecker said. “We are young, but we still have high expectations for these guys. Today was disappointing, because we can play better than we did today.”

Ward Melville junior midfielder Jared Lee said he thinks his team didn’t play as good as it could, and said the Patriots have been coming together, but still have a long way to go.

“We were just too soft and we were scared of the ball,” he said. “We didn’t play well at all. We need to work on playing together and connecting everywhere on the field.”

For Stecker, he said he’d like to see his seniors step up.

“We need to work on communication a little bit and that’s one of the issues when you have a young team,” he said, with a starting lineup that boasts seven seniors and three sophomores. “The sophomores hesitate at times to communicate because other guys are significantly older than them, so we have to get past that. We also need to stick to our game plan, and our game is to put the ball on the ground and play. We got into their kick-and-run style, and they’re more physical than us and faster than us, so we can’t play to their strengths — we need to stay consistent and play to ours.”

The Bulls got one more chance with less than 10 minutes left to play with a quick shot toward Jespersen, but he was able to grab the ball and pull into his chest for his final save of the day.

“The matchup against Ward Melville was very physical, like usual, and we’re going to see that all season — we just have to work hard and keep our minds straight,” Smithtown West senior forward John Barone said. “We can always work harder. It’s just the beginning of the season; we need to work out the kinks.”

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Comsewogue players Trevor Kennedy and Mike Stiles swarm around a Rocky Point player in a game last season. File photo by Desirée Keegan

By Clayton Collier

As the Comsewogue boys’ soccer team gears up for another season, they welcome a crop of new faces, headlined by a new head coach.

The reigning league champion Warriors have hired longtime Westhampton Beach varsity coach Don O’Brien to take over the program following the retirement of the now former head coach Dan Costello.

Comsewogue's Jake Muller heads the ball. File photo by Desirée Keegan
Comsewogue’s Jake Muller heads the ball. File photo by Desirée Keegan

Comsewogue athletic director Matteo DeVincenzo said O’Brien was brought in because of his experience and track record for success. DeVincenzo said his expectations for the soccer program remain the same despite the coaching change.

“Our boys’ soccer teams always play hard and I expect this year to be no different,” he said.

Trevor Kennedy, an All-League defender, said the team had made a smooth transition with their new coach.

“Coach O’Brien has been a great fit,” he said. “Coach Costello picked him out, so I knew he was going to be a good. The whole team gets along with him and he wants to win, just like the rest of us.”

O’Brien, who coached against Comsewogue for more than two decades, said the environment has been positive in his first summer with the Warriors thus far.

“The kids have been awesome,” he said. “We worked together all summer, so I knew most of them. The kids have been very polite, they’re hardworking; they’re great.”

O’Brien is joined by first-year assistant Will Casey, an All-State player at Ward Melville, who went on to play soccer at Stony Brook University.

In addition to a new coaching staff, the Warriors also have the challenge of replacing a talented core lost to graduation. The biggest hurdle to overcome is the loss of forward James Thristino, who will play for Adelphi University this fall. Thristino finished his high school career third all-time in Suffolk County history with 78 goals, 41 of them coming in his senior year.

Returning for Comsewogue, however, will be All-County center midfielder Jimmy Contino. Finishing last season with 14 goals and 19 assists, Contino will be looked to as a primary offensive force for the Warriors.

“He’s one of the best players I’ve coached in a long time,” O’Brien said of Contino. “It’s not too often you get a junior All-County player unless they’re extremely special; and he is special.”

Comsewogue's Jimmy Contino holds back a Rocky Point player as he gains possession of the ball. File photo by Desirée Keegan
Comsewogue’s Jimmy Contino holds back a Rocky Point player as he gains possession of the ball. File photo by Desirée Keegan

Unlike last year, O’Brien said there will be a number of his players looking to score.

“I have six capable goal scorers, which is more dangerous than one,” he said. “I think the kids are ready, and they’re good enough to win.”

O’Brien said having multiple scoring options will relieve some of the pressure off of sophomore Luis Hernandez, who will be seeing much of the time at forward in place of Thristino. Other scoring options include seniors Jake Muller and Nick Towler, among others.

Also taking over a starting role for the first time is senior goalkeeper Steven Towler, Nick’s twin brother. Towler, who replaces a goalie who made 111 saves in Chris Pedone, said watching his predecessor last season has helped prepare him to take over this fall.

“I learned a lot from him, but most of all, [he taught me] how to keep calm in stressful situations,” Towler said. “Composure is key in big games.”

Perhaps easing some of the pressure on Towler will be the predominantly returning defense, including seniors Trevor Kennedy, Mike Stiles, Henry Garcia and Cameron Patricio. O’Brien said Stiles, in particular, should have received some sort of recognition for his work from the league last season.

“Not to take anything away from the defense or the goalie last year, but they didn’t let up many goals last year and [Stiles] was a big part of it,” the head coach said. “The center defender sees a lot of action and he’s extremely physical. No one gets around him.”

Comsewogue's Trevor Kennedy dribbles up the field. File photo by Desirée Keegan
Comsewogue’s Trevor Kennedy dribbles up the field. File photo by Desirée Keegan

Between Contino, Kennedy, Stiles, the Towler brothers, Garcia, Muller and Patricio, O’Brien has a veteran crew behind him this season.

“They’re already seasoned; they’re playoff proven,” he said. “Many of these kids started last season or came off the bench. There is a reason why they’re so good this season, and it is because of the players that are returning.”

Contino said, as a leader this season, his goal is to have a positive impact on the rest of the team.

“The main thing I am trying to do is just give every single player confidence and help every player play to their best of their abilities,” he said. “Not only am I trying to help them play as a team, but I do my best to make the players realize this is a family, a brotherhood, and by that, the kids will know someone always has their back, which will help boost confidence.”

Last season, in the Suffolk County Championship, the Warriors fell to East Hampton, 1-0. Though the postseason loss certainly stung, Contino said the game isn’t necessarily circled on the calendar for his team; they’ll just play it like any other match.

“We are going to go into each game with the right mindset,” he said. “We will take it one game at a time, and when we get to East Hampton, we will deal with them then.”

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The Suffolk County Community College 2014 men’s soccer team poses for a group photo. The team finished the season 21-4 and won the school’s second National Junior College Athletic Association Division III men’s soccer national title to earn its No. 1 ranking. Photo from Suffolk County Community College

The Suffolk County Community College Men’s Soccer team is the No. 1-ranked Division III team in the nation, according to the 2015 National Soccer Coaches Association of America preseason rankings.

The Sharks made it to the national championship game in 2013, falling to Herkimer County Community College, 1-0, but are two-time national champions – 2010 and 2014 – and are looking to defend the national championship, with three starters returning and a core of talented incoming freshman.

Led by head coach Frank Vertullo, who was named the Coach of the Tournament following the national championship win, the Sharks will kick-off the 2015 season on Aug. 22 at Holyoke Community College in Massachusetts.

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Long Island’s leading goal scorer for last two seasons to join Adelphi University team

James Thristino kicks the ball in a preseason game. File photo by Bill Landon

Although he always had his heart set on playing Division I soccer, and despite offers from Division I schools like Stony Brook University, Long Island’s leading goal scorer for the last two seasons, Comsewogue’s own James Thristino, has decided to take his talents to the Division II field at Adelphi University.

“I was choosing between four colleges across the Island, but when I visited the other campuses, it just didn’t click,” Thristino said. “I love the campus and I was able to get out on the field and play with the soccer team, and I felt comfortable. The coach told me he wanted me playing as soon as I get there and wanted me to make an impact. Other places took the time and we spoke, but no one was as direct as he was.”

James Thristino muscles his way past an East Hampton player in the Suffolk County finals last year. File photo by Desirée Keegan
James Thristino muscles his way past an East Hampton player in the Suffolk County finals last year. File photo by Desirée Keegan

Thristino, a forward, first started kicking around a soccer ball when he was 3 years old, and after playing club soccer for the Terryville Santos, he moved on to play for the Middle Country United’s Intense Soccer Academy travel team.

Dan Costello, Comsewogue’s varsity boys’ soccer coach, knew right from the start that Thristino was a talented and dedicated soccer player, which is why he pulled him up to the varsity level in ninth grade.

“James is a coach’s player,” Costello said. “He’s a great young man. He’s respectful, into his studies, responsible and very talented, so you don’t have to worry about James. He’s a great motivator for his other teammates, too, so for me as a coach, if I could have 11 Jameses, that’s a dream team.”

Thristino said he had a difficult time
adjusting to the varsity level at first, but eventually the league MVP and All-
Conference, All-County, All-Region and All-State selection found his way.

“Freshman year was a little hard for me — I was a little guy out on the pitch and wasn’t trusted by anyone in the beginning. But as the years progressed, I was able to play some good soccer,” he said. “I could remember, in ninth grade, Costello took me in and I played a lot. I got hurt one game and he carried me off the field like I was a little kid. He was like another dad to me.”

While the coach always felt he could count on his player, Thristino also thought he could count on Costello to help him excel in the sport.

James Thristino with his senior awards. File photo
James Thristino with his senior awards. File photo

“He pushed me,” Thristino said. “He knew what I was made of; he told me I could do anything I put my mind to — that I could break records or win a state title, bring the team through the playoffs and to counties.”

He captained the Warriors to the 2014 League V title, after going undefeated in the conference at 9-0-1, and earned a trip to the Suffolk County finals, where the team fell, 1-0, to East Hampton.

Thristino was Long Island’s leading scorer for the last two seasons, with 27 goals and eight assists in 2013 and 41 goals and four assists in 2014. He finished his high school career ranked third all-time in Suffolk County, with 78 goals, and he contributed 19 assists.

He also played three years of varsity basketball, two years of varsity golf and a year of varsity football.

“He pretty much always trained at a high level,” Thristino’s father, Peter, said. “He’s a dedicated player. He’s always there for his team — high school or travel — and I think that’s one of his most important traits. He never gives up. He could be losing 4-0 and it doesn’t matter. He plays the same way from start to finish.”

With a ton of accolades to his name, James Thristino will take his high school coach’s mantra with him onto his next athletic venture.

James Thristino dribbles the ball. File photo by Bill Landon
James Thristino dribbles the ball. File photo by Bill Landon

“Costello always said that hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard, so even if you’re not the best and you work hard, you’ll be able to do whatever you want to do,” he said. “I feel like I can make a lot more of myself after winning awards like I have, and I feel like I can continue to push myself to go further. It makes me strive for more, and I want more all the time.”

Thristino, who received offers from Stony Brook, Hofstra University and Marist College before settling on Adelphi, said he hopes to continue his success at the next level.

“It would be great to go in and start as a freshman and do some damage,” he said. “I’ve formed so many friendships, learned so much, played some good soccer and I hope to continue that at Adelphi.”

Adelphi men’s soccer head coach Carlo Acquista said Thristino is a great investment, and he’s hoping for continued success for his new addition.

“To get any local player with ability, who has a history of doing very well, is huge for us,” he said. “The team was able to meet and practice with him, and he came in and did a very good job. We’re extremely excited that he chose to play here. He’s got a history of scoring goals and we’re hoping that history repeats itself at Adelphi.”

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Courtney Clasen reaches for the rim. File photo by Bill Landon

By Clayton Collier

Going through the process of choosing a college for a high school senior is tough enough, but for one student-athlete, factoring in both academics and athletics made the decision all the more difficult.

For Shoreham-Wading River’s Courtney Clasen, who committed to play basketball at Coastal Carolina University in South Carolina, the first decision to be made was whether to remain on the court or the soccer pitch.

“It wasn’t an easy decision at all,” said Clasen, who also ran track. “I’m passionate about both sports. However, I saw a future in basketball. It was hard answering coaches when I didn’t know what sport I wanted to pursue.”

Clasen’s father, Craig, said his daughter’s decision was somewhat unexpected as they had long believed she would play soccer in college.

“It was a little surprising because she had been involved with club soccer since like sixth grade,” he said. “But I’m proud of her, she’s an incredible student, she’s an incredible athlete and she worked her tail off.”

Courtney Clasen said the decision between the two sports she loved weighed on her, only becoming more difficult throughout her junior year as her passion for basketball became stronger.

Courtney Clasen races downcourt with the ball. File photo by Bill Landon
Courtney Clasen races downcourt with the ball. File photo by Bill Landon

“I was an emotional basket case and I was extremely overwhelmed,” she said. “I remember breaking down in class several times my junior year because there wasn’t enough time for it all and I couldn’t make a decision.”

Opting to play Athletic Amateur Union basketball last summer, she began receiving interest from Coastal Carolina after seeing her play in a tournament in Washington, D.C.

“She’s a flat out athlete that does great things on both ends of the ball,” said Jaida Williams, the head women’s basketball coach at Coastal Carolina. “I believe her competitive edge is what made Courtney stand out above anyone else.”

Clasen said it was her official visit that convinced her to become a Chanticleer.

She enjoyed the warm weather and said it felt like home to her. Clasen recalled that she was immediately struck by the fact that the university’s mascot coincidentally wore the number 54, the same as her late-classmate Tom Cutinella, who died from a head injury in October following an on-field collision during a football game.

“I kind of stopped right in my tracks and got the chills really bad,” said Clasen of the mascot’s number, which represents 1954, the year of Costal Carolina’s founding. “No one really understood why besides my parents until my parents explained it.”

Clasen, who described herself as friendly with Cutinella, said seeing the number 54 really hit home.

“He was one of those kids that everyone was friends with,” she said.

Clasen verbally committed to Coastal Carolina in January and signed her National Letter of Intent in April. The plan for the forward is to redshirt her academic freshman year.

“It gives me a chance to get stronger and develop my game further,” she said. “It’s actually the option I prefer since I chose to play basketball over soccer in college so late.”

Williams said redshirting a year will give Clasen the opportunity to focus solely on basketball.

“During her entire career she’s been a dual-sport athlete,” Williams said. “I am excited to see the progress that Courtney will make when her focus is primarily on basketball.”

Shoreham-Wading River’s girls’ basketball head coach Adam Lievre said he is pleased to see his star athlete move on to the next phase of her life, though Clasen filled a number of roles on his squad that now need to be filled.

“She did it all,” he said. “We relied on her to be our main scorer, passer, rebounder and to block shots. We have very big shoes to fill going forward.”

As much as he enjoyed coaching the Academic All-County athlete, Lievre said it is the Clasen off the court that he will remember most fondly.

“As a person,” he said. “She is someone I would want my kids to turn out to be like.”

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