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Tigers

Tigers take 9-6 win over Ward Melville's, which was the 400th of head coach Carol Rose's career

The Northport girls lacrosse team’s motto this season is “earned, not given,” and the Tigers proved Tuesday that they’re heeding the message.

In a battle of undefeated teams, Northport worked for each possession, goal and turnover to take a 9-6 win over host Ward Melville April 24.

“It’s the best feeling knowing we came out strong and were able to finish against a really great team,” said junior midfielder Olivia Carner, who scored a game-high four times and added an assist. Her final goal served as insurance, finding an empty net with 33 seconds left. “I was nervous, but I knew we had to be confident and work together.”

“I’m just so happy that they kept up the intensity throughout the entire game. They’re fighters, and they kept their composure.”

— Carol Rose

Northport junior goalkeeper Claire Morris made a stop with 7:18 remaining, and senior midfielder Nicole Orella scored the go-ahead goal off that possession for a 7-6 advantage in a game that saw five ties.

“We wanted to take care of the ball, make good decisions, and they were able to do that,” said Northport head coach Carol Rose. “They played as a team — they needed everybody.”

Rose said she was most impressed with senior attack Katherine Meyer, who scored twice. Her second goal, off a Danielle Pavinelli assist, gave Northport an 8-6 cushion with 2:03 left in the game.

“That’s the most she’s scored in a game, so she stepped up big for us,” the coach said. “Everybody contributed in some way. The defense was relentless, they caused a lot of turnovers. The goalie played really well. I’m just so happy that they kept up the intensity throughout the entire game. They’re fighters, and they kept their composure.”

After the teams traded scores until the game was 4-all, senior midfielder Emerson Cabrera popped outside the zone and made an arc around to the front of the cage where she scored from the left side to give Northport its first two-goal lead, 6-4, with 20 minutes left in the second half. Once again Ward Melville raced back into contention, with seniors Kate Mulham and Shannon Brazier scoring on free position and diving shots, respectively, to make it a new game.

“Kate Mulham is a really fast girl and we all knew we needed to be on our toes with her,” said Northport junior defender Isabella Hubbard. “We paid attention to her a lot throughout the game. There was a lot of pressure on [the defense], but we knew what we had to do and how to get it done.”

“It was a midseason battle, a test, and I told [my girls] to remember this feeling, because I can guarantee we’ll be seeing [Northport] again somewhere down the road.”

— Kerri Kilkenny

The senior, who scored three goals, said she uses the pressure placed on her from being the team’s leading scorers as motivation.

“I’m confident in the talent of my teammates and know that if I am shut down by a double team or a faceguard, my teammates around me will step up,” she said. “Every girl on the field deserves to be there, and I know that they will perform just as well in high-pressure situations. Northport is a big and fast team, and we knew they had some serious skill and speed in the midfield. Possession was crucial, and Northport’s players on the draw circle were tall and shifty. We knew the draw controls could determine the outcome of the game.”

Ward Melville head coach Kerri Kilkenny said she saw her team struggling to move the ball, and that losing draws early on put the Patriots in a hole.

“Northport was shooting the ball — they took at least double the amount of shots that we did,” she said. “They were more disciplined today than we were. They were absolutely the better team, but we hung in there. It was a midseason battle, a test, and I told them to remember this feeling, because I can guarantee we’ll be seeing them again somewhere down the road.”

The win was Rose’s 400th during her 29 years at the helm. She has averaged more than 14 wins per season at Northport.

“It’s kind of surreal — that’s a lot of lax games,” she said. “It’s an honor to have had the privilege to coach these wonderful, talented players in Northport throughout my tenure. It would not have been possible without the dedication and hard work that these kids put in throughout the years. They wanted this win bad, more than me, and they were really excited. They’re taking care of business and they’re on a mission.”

Northport (9-0 overall, 8-0 in Division I) plays host to Sachem North April 27 for a 4 p.m. matchup. Ward Melville (8-1, 7-1) will travel to Sachem East for a 4:30 p.m. game April 27.

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Northport's Danielle Pavinelli, on left, and Shea Cronin, on right, with Hannah Stockman after she scored her 1,000th career point. Photo by Emmet Hawkins

By Emmet Hawkins

Hannah Stockman knows how to score.

The junior knotted the game in the fourth quarter in epic fashion, recording her 1,000th career point with a move down low. After a brief stop in play to commemorate the milestone, she quickly got back in the swing of things, dropping another bucket to put the Tigers back on top against Central Islip and give them a lead they’d never relinquish. Stockman’s team-high 13 points helped the Tigers to a 41-37 win over the reigning Suffolk County champs Feb. 9. Northport finishes the season undefeated in League II (12-0).

Danielle Pavinelli shoots from the free-throw line. Photo by Emmet Hawkins

Stockman had one word to describe her accomplishment: “Incredible.” Although underclassmen stole the show on senior night, head coach Rich Castellano said his team is selfless. A share of the points proved that, with sophomore Kerry Dennin contributing nine points and junior Shea Cronin and sophomore Danielle Pavinelli adding eight points apiece.

“It is a team-first mentality, and these girls buy into the system,” Castellano said. “It’s about being unselfish and moving the ball around. I just tell them what to do, they’re the ones who execute it.”

In a back-and-forth defensive battle against her team’s rival,  guard Pavinelli showed the poise and leadership of a veteran player. She had a handful of assists and took charge in the fourth quarter to help secure the win. She prides herself on playing both sides of the ball and making her team better.

“I like to capitalize when I drive to the basket,” she said. “I’ve been playing with these girls a long time, so I’m comfortable giving up the ball.”

Central Islip guards Kaira Rodriguez and Naabea Assibey-Bonsu scored 16 and 11 points, respectively. Their efforts were not enough to overcome the scrappy hustle of guard Cronin or the clutch playmaking of Dennin, who grabbed 11 rebounds.

Unsure of who will be drawn in the first round of playoffs Feb. 16, Castellano said it doesn’t matter.

“I don’t think about it,” he said. :Whoever we get, we get. The game plan remains the same.”

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Northport's girls basketball team took the League II title with a 50-42 win over Walt Whitman to remain undefeated (11-0). Photo by Jim Ferchland

By Jim Ferchland

League II play did not phase Rich Castellano and his Northport Tigers this season.

Hannah Stockman ready to make a pass. Photo by Jim Ferchland

The girls basketball team took down Walt Whitman on the road Feb. 2 in a 50-42 victory to remain undefeated at 11-0 and claim the league crown. Junior guard Hannah Stockman was the catalyst with 16 points.

With the Tigers lead 23-19 at the halftime break, the four-year varsity player’s mind was set on taking the title.

“From the beginning of the season our goal was to be league champions,” Stockman said. “Tonight, we finally achieved that.”

Castellano said he was expecting a close game against Walt Whitman. The last time the Tigers faced off against the Wildcats Jan. 9, Northport won a tight 48-44 decision.

“I’ve been playing against coach Dan Trebour for many years and our games are always close,” Castellano said. “They play good defense, we play good defense. Every shot is contested. It’s always close at best.”

Kelly McLaughlin jumps for the 3-pointer. Photo by Jim Ferchland

Stockman and sophomore guard Danielle Pavinelli notched double-digit point totals for Northport. Pavinelli finished with 10 points, six of them coming the third quarter.

The Tigers faced an unfortunate scene late in the first quarter when one of their sharpshooters hit the floor hard. Senior guard and four-year varsity player Shelby Maldavir tripped and landed hard on her knee. She didn’t return to the court, finishing with one point.

“I felt a little pop right on my knee cap,” Maldavir said. “The doctors looked at it and said it’s not an ACL injury. The best it could be is just a bruise.”

Castellano said losing Maldavir, one of his biggest point scorers, was a tough break.

“That hurt us,” Castellano said. “She’s a leader. She’s an outside threat — she hits threes. But the testament of the team is that you have players to replace. That’s why you have 15 girls on the team.”

Northport sophomore guard Kelly McLaughlin filled in for Maldavir. She had five points with two three throws made late in the fourth quarter.

Danielle Pavinelli leaps above the blocks as she reaches for the rim. Photo by Jim Ferchland

Castellano rotated players for different assignments to set them up for success. After Maldavir’s injury, Castellano said he wanted to “go big” and bring in 5-foot, 10-inch sophomore Leah Morawski. When she took to the court, McLaughlin came in to provide inside help for sophomore forward Kerry Dennin, who caught 16 rebounds on the night.

“You put all of those little pieces together and it’s an 8-point win,” Castellano said. “We were just a little better tonight.”

Walt Whitman’s Meghan Soulias caught fire in the second half scoring 19 of her game-high 23 points in the second half. Twelve of them came in third quarter — with two threes — where the Wildcats cut deficit to five. Four other players scored for Walt Whitman, but she was the only player in double figures.

“She’s a great player,” Castellano said of Soulias. “We knew that. We know she’s going to get her points.”

Northport has won over 20 league titles and 10 county championships under Castellano, who has been at the helm for 39 years.  Northport is scheduled to face Central Islip Feb. 9 in the final game of the regular season. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.

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Undefeated Tigers boast strong swimmers, maintaining streak with no divers

Northport freshman Aiden Greenfield, won the 200-meter and 500 freestyle events, and was a member of the first-place 200 freestyle relay quartet. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Not fielding a single diver doesn’t faze the Northport boys swim team.

It hasn’t effected a single meet’s outcome yet either, as the Tigers edged previously undefeated Connetquot on the road Dec. 18, 93-90, for their fourth win of the season.

Being down 13 points before the first gun ever sounds has its challenges though, according Northport head coach Drew Modrov’s athletes though, especially when up against a strong swim team like the Thunderbirds have.

“Connetquot’s always a fierce team — we have kind of a rivalry with them — so we always know that when we come here it’s going to be a close meet,” the coach said. “It’s intense, and every point is going to matter. I’m just happy we came away with the win.”

The Greenfield brothers boasted big point totals for the Tigers.

Northport senior Zach Papsco clocked in with a state-qualifying time in the 100-meter butterfly, and was first to the block in the 100 breaststroke. Photo by Bill Landon

Senior Ethan Greenfield, along with 200-meter medley relay teammates Nick Millkey and Zach Papsco and Dylan Karpf, came in first with a state-qualifying time of 1 minute, 40.25 seconds. He added to Northport’s point total with a state-qualifying times of 22.05 in the 50 freestyle and 48.73 in the 100 freestyle.

“A lot of our guys came up big — Ethan Greenfield had a couple of best times in crucial wins,” Modrov said. “It was Ethan’s personal best in the 50 free.”

Freshman Aidan Greenfield, Ethan’s younger brother, won both the 200 and 500 freestyle events, and was a member of the first-place 200 freestyle relay quartet.

“I thought that the turning point was the 500 free — we went out and finished first and third, which dropped us even,” said Karpf, the only sophomore on the 200 medley relay. “And the last relay is what I thought really cemented it for us.”

Each member of the 200 medley also shined individually.

Papsco clocked in with a state-qualifying time of 53.57 in the 100 butterfly, and was first to hit the pad in the 100 breaststroke. Millkey won the 200 individual medley, and followed it up with a victory in the 100 backstroke, also stopping the clock with his own state championship time: 54.43.

Modrov said he was particularly impressed by the performances of his underclassmen, noting Aidan Greenfield and freshman Austin Neuf’s high placements.

“At the end we had a great swim from Austin Neuf, a freshman who took second place in the 100 breaststroke, and that put us over the edge and helped us win the meet,” the coach said.

After the holiday break Northport is back in action at Ward Melville Jan. 5. The meet is currently slated to begin at 4:30 p.m.

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Iris Sovocchi goes for a layup. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Northport’s girls basketball team was unable to keep up its streak of close games against former League II foe Half Hollow Hills East, as the Tigers fell 59-45 to the now League III Thunderbirds on the road Dec. 11.

Even so, Northport sophomore guard Danielle Pavinelli did what she could to counter Hills East’s leading point scorer Alexa Wallace, matching her with a game-high 21 points.

Danielle Pavinelli reaches over blockers to make her shot. Photo by Bill Landon

Northport head coach Rich Castellano said the result was not indicative of how the Tigers typically play, noting junior Hannah Stockman’s early foul trouble.

“Hannah [Stockman] … she’s our biggest scorer and our top 3-point shooter, and Shelby [Maldavir], our senior captain, I don’t think she hit one 3-pointer today,” Castellano said. “I think Kerry [Dennin] and Danielle [Pavinelli] — those two carried us for several long stretches.”

Pavinelli, who is following her sister Allie, a 2014 graduate, by committing to play lacrosse at the University of Florida next year, nailed two free throws to give Northport its first lead of the game, 6-5. But it was short lived, as the foul trouble led to a collection of free points for the Thunderbirds, which led 26-11 at the end of the first quarter.

Junior guard Iris Sovocchi attempted shift momentum Northport’s way, nailing back-t-back 3-pointers to close the deficit to 12 points both times, and Pavinelli added a three of her own, but it was Kerry Dennin that was able to break through. The sophomore forward drove the lane and wouldn’t be denied the scoring opportunity, as she added a bucket that brought the Tigers within 10, 32-22, at the break.

Dennin matched a Hills East 3-pointer with one of her own to start the scoring for the third as minutes ticked off the clock, but Northport was not able to chip away at the 10-point margin. The Thunderbirds diligently drove the baseline, drawing fouls as they continued to collect points from the charity stripe.

Kerry Dennin pushes past Half Hollow Hills East defenders to take a shot. Photo by Bill Landon

“This was not a normal games for us — we didn’t shoot well tonight,” said Castellano, who was recently inducted into the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame and begins his 39th year at the helm of the Northport program. “But I give [Half Hollow Hills East] credit; they did a great job on defense against us, they worked hard and they played better. They did what they had to do to win the game.”

Behind Pavinelli was Dennin with eight points and Sovocchi added six.

“We usually have a strong three-point game, but tonight we didn’t,” the head coach said despite the Tigers matching the Thunderbirds with six 3-pointers. “Our offense stalled a little, but Kerry Dennin played a great game for us tonight.”

Northport has two more nonleague contests, against Smithtown West and Massapequa, before opening league play hosting Bay Shore Dec. 19 at 6 p.m.

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Victoria Colatosti dribbles the ball downfield. Photo by Jim Ferchland

By Jim Ferchland

Seniors Victoria Colatosti and Emily McNelis have led Northport soccer to the finish line.

With a 5-0 win over Walt Whitman Oct. 18, the Tigers tallied their eighth shutout of the season, while finishing undefeated at 14-0 overall and 12-0 in Legaue II.

Emily McNelis moves the ball through midfield. Photo by Jim Ferchland

“I cried,” McNelis said. “It’s our last real game. You never know — you could lose in the playoffs, even though we aren’t going to lose. It’s going to be really weird next year not being on this team and playing on this field. Every minute counts.”

The Tigers made every minute count Wednesday with a balanced attack. Sporting two of Suffolk County’s Top 10 scorers in Colatosti and McNelis (28 points each) doesn’t hurt, and senior Juliana Conforti and junior Olivia Carner combining for five points doesn’t hurt either.

Conforti scored Northport’s third goal in the 69th minute, and did it again two minutes later, with Carner assisting on both.

“On the first goal, Olivia saw me in the back, so she gave it back to me and it kind of went off the goalkeeper, kind of went off me,” Conforti said. “It was really the both of us, so we got that goal together.”

Carner said her team was ready to take the win, but she’s not ready to bid farewell to the seniors just yet.

“It’s really easy to see my teammates, like Conforti,” she said. “We practice all the time so the second I see her, it’s so easy to know that she can finish when I pass it to her. It’s really sad to think about our best friends not being here with us next year.”

Julilana Conforti sends the ball downfield. Photo by Jim Ferchland

Colatosti scored two goals, her second was unassisted in the 72nd minute. She scored the second goal of the game in the 37th off an assist from Conforti, who controlled the ball on the right side and saw Colatosti open in the center, and took advantage of the opportunity.

“If the team continues to play the way they’ve been playing all season, they have a real shot at winning the Long Island Championship,” Northport head coach Aija Gipp said. “It’s a long road to get to that final game, but they definitely have what it takes to get there.”

It was a quiet 0-0 affair through 24 minutes of action though, until McNelis put one past Walt Whitman’s goalkeeper with an assist from junior Isabel Yeomans. McNelis said her team was not accustomed to being locked in a stalemate for that long.

“We usually score in the first 10 minutes,” McNelis said. ‘We got a little frantic in the beginning, but we settled down and we caught the defense off guard. Isabel made a good kick and I attacked.”

The team reflected on last year’s win on penalty kicks over Walt Whitman prior to the senior day game. McNelis said her Tigers knew they needed to come out strong to ensure that wasn’t going to happen again.

“That was insane,” McNelis said of last year’s win. “We were not letting them tie us again on this field. We came out strong. It’s our turf.”

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Tigers rack up 28 first-quarter points in 48-7 homecoming win

Northport's Andrew Bolitho returns an interception for a touchdown Oct. 14. Photo by Jim Ferchland

By Jim Ferchland

Northport’s football team was all over Sachem North Saturday, picking up a monster homecoming win in front of its fans Oct. 14. For the Tigers, the 48-7 victory was the fourth straight.

“I knew we were the better team,” Northport head coach Kip Lukralle said. “I feel we were better prepared. It’s our first home game, so there’s a lot of emotion. Sachem’s been a rivalry over the years. Staying focused was key, and our kids did that.”

Northport’s Max Napoli avoids a tackle as he moves the ball downfield Oct. 14. Photo by Jim Ferchland

The Tigers came out firing, and racked up 28 points in the first quarter alone. Senior quarterback Ryan Walsh completed all four of his passing attempts for 140 yards and three touchdowns in that 12-minute span.

“I thought the team as a whole performed very well,” Walsh said. “There was great protection up front and the receivers ran great routes. It was all around a good day.”

Along with three passing touchdowns on the day, the Tigers added two rushing touchdowns and two interceptions returned for a touchdown.

Senior running back Sean Eagers made big plays on both sides of the football in his last homecoming game. He had a 4-yard rushing touchdown in the first and a 60-yard interception returned for a touchdown in the third quarter. For a player who says he loves football, it could not have been a better day.

“It’s just really special to me,” Eagers said of the sport. “It’s been a lot of fun this season and football means the world to me. It was great having two touchdowns on our homecoming day.”

Northport’s Sean Eagers rushes with the football Oct. 14. Photo by Jim Ferchland

Sachem North started the game with the ball, but their first drive resulted in a blocked punt. Senior Bobby Labatto was credited with the stop and what would later set up Eagers’ touchdown with 6:35 left in the first.

Not even two minutes after the touchdown, the Tigers found the end zone once more. This time, Walsh dumped the ball to classmate wide receiver Curtis Lafond, who ran a curl route, found an opening on the left side and took it to the house for a 40-yard score to make it 14-0 Northport.

With 2:14 left in the first, Walsh continued to lead his dominant offense when he connected with sophomore running back Max Napoli on a pass across the middle of the field. Napoli scored from 40 yards out to increase the Tigers’ lead to 21.

In the final play of the first quarter, it was Walsh to Lafond for the longest passing play of the day. With two seconds left, Walsh heaved the ball from midfield and Lafond retrieved it in double coverage in the back of the end zone to give the Tigers a commanding 28-0 lead. Lafond was quite content with his performance, and even though he’s also a basketball player, he said football is what really gets his engine revving.

“It was awesome,” Lafond said of making the catch. “I’ve been waiting for a day like this the whole season. Football is the most emotionally investing sport you can play and to have your whole school come out and support you and get a win like that, it doesn’t get better.”

Northport’s Curtis Lafond celebrates a touchdown Oct. 14. Photo by Jim Ferchland

Sachem North got the ball to start the second quarter, but the possession didn’t last long. Flaming Arrows quarterback Nicholas Gambino threw the ball into the hands of Northport’s Andrew Bolitho, who carried the interception back 15 yards into the end zone.

Northport’s Jeremy Gerdvil made the longest play of the day six minutes later. The junior running back cut loose from Sachem North’s defense and cashed in a 65-yard rushing touchdown increasing the lead to 42-0.

The Flaming Arrows were in Tigers’ territory late in the third, but Gambino made the same mistake a second time when he threw toward Eagers, who picked off the pass and carried the ball 60 yards for the defensive touchdown. The point after attempt was no good, but it was still 48-0 Tigers.

With 7:39 left in the fourth, the Flaming Arrows finally got on the scoreboard. Senior Alezandro Aponte scored on a 3-yard rushing play to cut to deficit to 41.

“It’s great to win, period,” Lukralle said. “It’s great to beat Sachem, double period. And it’s nice to win at homecoming also. It was a great day for Northport football.”

The Tigers have two games left on their schedule with one at home and one on the road. Northport will host Connetquot Oct. 21 before hitting the road to play William Floyd Oct. 27. Both games are currently slated for 2 p.m. starts.

Northport High School has replaced its wood bleachers, pictured above at a prior homecoming celebration. File photo

By Kevin Redding

The Northport-East Northport Tigers’ challenges this football season have given them a whole new perspective on why there’s no place like home.

On Saturday, Oct. 14, Northport-East Northport’s varsity football team will celebrate homecoming by stepping onto their own field for the first time this season after a recent announcement that the district has completed its thorough and long-proposed bleacher repairs.

The process of replacing the football field’s deteriorated wooden bleachers with new metal bleachers officially began in late August and ended Monday, Oct. 9. This was a period of frustration and uncertainty for many parents and players within the district as it forced the Northport Tigers to go to other fields for the first two home games of the 2017 season.

The team’s first home game in September was moved to Elwood-John H. Glenn High School. Their Oct. 1 game was relocated to Half Hollow Hills High School East’s field.

Northport High School. File photo

The new structures passed inspection with Texas-based LandTech Inc. at the helm of construction. Total cost for the project was more than $1 million, which came from the district’s general fund as well as state aid, according to school officials.   

“We’re going to be back on course for homecoming Saturday,” Northport Superintendent Robert Banzer said.

A former football player himself, Banzer claimed the stadium had the same wooden bleachers when he was there in the early 1980s. The upgraded bleachers are far less dangerous and were built in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“I’m excited to have everybody see the work but, most importantly, to be at home,” he said. “It’s always a very fun time.”

Banzer and the school board initially approved the bleacher repairs in the 2015-16 budget, along with a variety of infrastructure projects throughout the district. But the construction couldn’t move forward on it right away as it faced a lengthy state approvals process.

The first opportunity the school district could seize to begin repairs was in late spring of this year prior to
graduation ceremonies. Banzer said he didn’t want to risk the job not being done in time for a large event. By the time the district hired LandTech to build the bleachers, the construction company was booked for most of the summer and couldn’t begin the project until a couple weeks into August.

School officials projected the bleachers would be finished by the team’s second home game, but as that proved to be overambitious, the community grew increasingly anxious that the job wouldn’t be done in time for homecoming. Some residents made sure their voices were heard.

“It’s a disgraceful, embarrassing, hurtful situation that in my opinion could’ve been avoided,” Mike Gozelski, president of the Northport Football Booster Club, said during the Sept. 28 board of education meeting. “We’re halfway through the season and the athletes, marching band, cheerleaders and the community have yet to set foot on our home field. It’s heartbreaking for most of us. Part of our anger comes from the fact that work on the bleachers didn’t start until August with football season starting in September. It’s negligent.”

Gozelski, a former Tiger, said for many seniors on the team, including his son, this season is the last chance they had to show their school pride in the stadium.

A previous Northport running back rushes across the football field. File photo by Bill Landon

“These kids practice for two hours a day and work hard 12 months a year to be able to play on this field,” he said. “You have to understand how disappointing this is for them.”

Banzer responded, explaining the school’s side of the situation to Gozelski, as well as about a dozen parents and football players in uniform in the room.

“I know it’s disappointing,” the superintendent said. “But we also wanted to make sure we provided the best product going forward. We just want the job to be done right.”

At the end of the exchange, the board said it was hopeful the bleachers would be ready to go for the district’s pep rally Oct. 13 and Oct. 14 homecoming.

Gozelski said he received the good news from the school’s athletic department on Monday morning.

“Now we’re going to be out there and opening up a brand new, refurbished Tigers stadium,” Gozelski said. “The players get to play, the band gets to play, the cheerleaders get to cheer and the community gets to see a good football game … and hopefully a victory.”

Gina Macchia-Gerdvil, a mother of two students on the team and a member of the Booster Club, was equally upset over the situation, believing the district should have replaced the bleachers after the football
season was over. She said up until Monday’s announcement, nobody was certain if homecoming would take place at home.

“I’m excited for all the kids,” Macchia-Gerdvil said. “My boys are in their second year on varsity and they haven’t had a chance yet to step into their stadium and see the big crowd and all the festivities.”

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Michael Kuzca sends the ball into play between two opponents. Photo by Jim Ferchland

By Jim Ferchland

Northport came into Connetquot Sep. 9 and shut out the Thunderbirds on their home turf 8-0, the two team’s Oct. 3 matchup on the Tigers’ home field was no different, as Northport continued its play of dominance and blanked Connetquot 4-0 to remain undefeated in League II.

“We just always like to possess the ball,” Northport head coach Don Strasser said. “We want to be patient, and I think the boys did a really good job of executing the plan today.”

Jack Wetzel moves the ball across the field. Photo by Jim Ferchland

It was a one-sided affair for Northport (10-1, 8-0). Jack Wetzel, who scored 14 points coming into the matchup, added three points to his his total with two goals and an assist, moving him into the Top 10 list of Suffolk County scorers.

Wetzel assisted on Konstantine Mendrinos’ first goal of the game in the 25th minute.

“I saw Jack get the ball down the sideline and I knew he was going to drive it into space with his pace, and I ran into the middle and I saw the gap open,” Mendrinos said. “I was there to put it home.”

Northport piled it in the next few minutes, as Wetzel scored both his goals between the 32- and 25-minute marks to give the Tigers a 3-0 lead.

“Chris [Fertig] won a very good 50-50 ball for me and I could have dribbled up and got a better opportunity,” Wetzel said on his first goal, adding that his teammates gave him plenty of opportunities throughout the game. “I was able to make good contact on the ball.”

Connetquot struggled to possess the ball all game, and had one shot on goal in the first half compared to Northport’s 19.

Matt Brennan moves the ball with an opponent on his back. Photo by Jim Ferchland

“We played them better than we did the first time,” Connetquot head coach Nick Sturtz said. “We came in with three or four starters short, so it was kind of scrappy play all day.”

Northport scored its fourth goal late in the game off the foot of James Diaz to make the score 4-0.

Wetzel said he hopes the Tigers can keep their streak going.

“We’re very excited and very happy about the position we’re in right now, but we are still taking it one game at a time,” Wetzel said. “We are not trying to think about going undefeated right now. We are thinking about beating Lindenhurst. They are very good and we are away, so we are just trying to care of business.”

Northport faces Lindenhurst (7-4, 4-4) Oct. 5. At 4:30 p.m. Northport won the first battle between the teams back on Sep. 12 with a 2-0 win.

Strasser said he likes the way his team is playing this season, but also knows the upcoming games will be a challenge for Northport.

“We don’t want our forecast too far ahead,” Strasser said. “We still got to to try to win the league title, and now our focus is on Lindenhurst. It won’t be easy, so we just have to continue to work hard.”

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

By Bill Landon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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