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Undefeated

The Kings Park girls volleyball team, above, takes its annual team photo before heading to states, which has become a tradition within the successful program. Photo from Erika Benson

The Kings Park girls volleyball team has been there seven straight times, but this time, the result was different.

The 20-0 Kingsmen were confident as they headed upstate, blasting Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the USA” to get excited to compete in the state championship at Glens Falls Civic Center Nov. 18 and 19.

The Kings Park girls volleyball team celebrates on the
court after winning a state set. Photo from Erika
Benson

“We knew that we had all the tools to be successful, and we were anxious to get on the court and execute,” senior Lexi Petraitis said. “We’re such a tight-knit team, but what hurt us a little bit was that our nerves didn’t kick in until the first serve of our first set.”

After splitting pool play sets 3-3, Kings Park was eliminated from contention for Sunday’s state championship, but outscored Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake to salvage a third-place finish. Last year, the Kingsmen made it to the final match where they fell to Walter Panas in straight sets.

“There were sets where everything just clicked,” Petraitis said. “We had Meagan Murphy getting sick digs, which made it easy for Haley [Holmes] to set perfect sets, which our big hitters, me, seniors Kara Haase, Erika Benson, Sam Schultz and freshman Liv Benard, slammed into the ground. I think we played to our absolute fullest potential. Out on the court our energy was electric. There were just a few sets that didn’t really go our way.”

Kings Park faced Williamsville East first, dropping set one 26-24 before coming back to win the second 25-12.

“We gelled more during that second set and then throughout the day we just had to realize what worked and what didn’t and change things up,” senior Benson said. “Our ultimate goal is to place first, but third is still something very special, something that we’re proud of. It’s been a great season with my team and I really loved every minute of it.”

Haley Holmes reaches for a save with Meagan Murphy
and Megan Sticco alongside her to back her up.
Photo from Haley Holmes

Benson said she appreciated how supportive everyone in the district community was. The team was sent off to states escorted by the Kings Park Fire Department and led by the high school’s marching band, with members of the high school and elementary school marching, too. The positive mindset carried through the weekend even as the team stumbled in trying to capture a state championship.

“We practiced hard all year with states in the back of our minds — entering the tournament, our mindset was to take it one set at a time and to not look too far ahead,” senior setter  Holmes said. “We ended up not executing the way we had hoped, but we stayed positive and worked as a team. We performed great, but it’s the state tournament, every team there is elite.”

The Kingsmen amped up the intensity in the semifinals, battling for every point in a 25-19, 25-22 win.

“I feel like we had moments where we weren’t so sharp, but as the day went on we straightened it out,” senior Haase said. “Being a Kingsman has been the greatest honor and I look forward to seeing the
program grow.”

Benson agreed, adding how much she wishes others could share in the seasoned legacy her team has experienced.

“Being a Kingsman is something most people will never experience and I wish they could,” she said. “It’s really an amazing thing, especially with this team, knowing I have 17 best friends and sisters that I can depend on. It’s really special to me and I don’t take it for granted. I just wish I had more time with them.”

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Patriots powerhouse wins two 1-0 games for first state crown since 2008

Kerri Thornton has become a thorn in the side of her opponents.

The senior standout scored Ward Melville’s game-winning goal in overtime to help the Patriots bring home the first Class A state title in field hockey since 2008 with a 1-0 win over Maine-Endwell on their field Nov. 12.

“At first, I honestly did not think it went in,” Thornton said. “When Kate [Mulham] got the back ball, I ran back into the circle and got ready for her to send it in. When she did, I received it, and just turned around and shot it hard hoping that it would go in.”

As Thornton’s teammates surrounded her in celebration, she said she knew what she’d done.

“I let out a huge shout in relief,” she said as she saw the smiling faces racing toward her. “It has been our dream ever since we were kids to win a championship like this. The journey this season — as a senior this year — this was what I wanted. I’m just so proud of my team for putting in the time and effort to get to where we got. It’s incredible that we finally pulled it off.”

The game-winning goal was scored with 4:37 left in overtime. Mulham said despite the team’s perfect 21-0 record, losing in the state final and semifinal games in extra minutes in the last two years lingered in the back of their minds. She said despite coming up just short in recent years, she knew the qualities her surrounding teammates possessed.

“What makes Ward Melville field hockey different is that we field a team where every girl is extremely talented,” she said. “Overtime is a high-pressure situation, but I was confident. That’s what makes us so successful.”

She said when she heard her classmate calling for the ball from the circle, she knew what she had to do.

“All I could see was a swarm of defenders when I passed the ball to Kerri,” Mulham said. “But I heard her calling for it, and I trust her, so I sent it to her. When I saw it go into the net, I broke down — tears of joy, and I rushed to hug her so tightly. I never wanted something so badly, and to accomplish something like this with your best friends is a feeling I can’t even put into words.”

With the intensity up and with a huge target on its back, Ward Melville began its journey upstate Nov. 11. With a second trip to the finals in three years on the line, junior Lexi Reinhardt was the first Patriot to jump for joy. Long Island’s leading goal scorer (33 points on 24 goals and nine assists) found the back of the cage in another pressure-filled situation. With 23 seconds left in the first half of a 0-0 game with Baldwinsville, she scored off an assist from senior Shannon Coughlan to send Ward Melville to the finals.

“The play was on a corner and in these games corners are precious,” Reinhardt said. “It was just a great pass from Shannon Coughlan and I was in the right position to finish it.”

She said the Patriots wanted to make a statement being back in the state semifinal game for the third year in a row.

“Heading in, there was definitely some nerves, but I think we channeled that and we were able to play off of the energy of the situation,” she said. “During the game we didn’t focus on that though, we were just focused on playing our game, and winning. The joy and happiness that we feel has radiated throughout the entire program. I will never forget this team.”

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Haley Holmes is used to lending a helping hand.

But what was maybe unexpected was six service aces that went along with her 31 assists in Kings Park’s girls volleyball team’s 3-0 sweep of South Side Nov. 11, 25-15, 25-13, 25-16, for the Kingsmen’s seventh straight Long Island championship crown.

Haley Holmes recorded 71 combined assists in the Suffolk County and Long Island title games. Photo by Bill Landon

Head coach Ed Manly said her floating serve has some spin-drop action to it, making it more difficult for defenders to return. She showed that during a 6-0 run in the second set, which she recorded two aces during.

Holmes received many of senior libero Meagan Murphy’s passes throughout the game to set up Erika Benson (10 kills), Lexi Petraitis (eight kills), Kara Haase (three kills) and Samantha Schultz (three kills).

“Hitters like Lexi, Sam, Kara and Erika — I can count on them to put my ball away,” Holmes said.

The aggressive attack action is what Manly said he prefers seeing from his athletes.

“When we’re aggressive on offense is when we play some of our best volleyball,” he said. “But sometimes through the course of a match, there are ebbs and flows.”

Having multiple weapons on offense and defense is what is leading Kings Park to another state tournament appearance.

In the No. 1 Kingsmen’s 25-13, 25-23, 25-15 shutout of Westhampton Beach Nov. 9, the team relied more on its defense to take the title.

“Our defense and our blocking is what won the game for us today,” said Haase after the Suffolk game, who’d finished with seven kills. “We had so many touches on the ball; [Westhampton] didn’t have one outside hit that we didn’t have a touch. It was just a great overall performance.”

Alexa Petraitis slams down one of her 18 kills on the week. Photo by Bill Landon

Holmes, who recorded 40 assists, was also quick to point to the team’s defense across the postseason.

“We always have great defense in the back row,” Holmes said. “We have Megan Sticco and a bunch of people I can always count on to get the ball to me. We’ve also been working on a huge block with Erika, and that’s helped us a lot in the past few games.”

While the offense was there too — Murphy finished with 33 digs; Benson notched 12 kills and three blocks; Schultz added eight kills; and Haase had seven — the serving was sloppy for Kings Park in the second set of the county win, according to Manly.

“In that second set Westhampton picked up its defense and we got into some trouble were we didn’t serve particularly well in certain points,” he said. “We had a hard time putting balls away [because] they’re a solid defensive team. We didn’t hit a very high percentage and that’s a tribute to their defense.”

Schultz said she isn’t concerned about what other teams are doing though.

“I knew that if we played the way we’re supposed to play we would definitely get the job done,” she said. “I wasn’t concerned about what they were doing, but what we can control and how we can play. And if we did that we’d get it done.”

Meagan Murphy returns the ball. Photo by Bill Landon

Kings Park is confident it can continue to use every weapon in its arsenal while chasing the elusive state title. On top of extending their county and Long Island volleyball reign, the Kingsmen have now racked up 20 wins in a perfect season. Kings Park has also been dominant in sweeping all but one team, Half Hollow Hills West in a 3-1 win Oct. 11.

The team will be tested this weekend, as Kings Park enters the state tournament facing undefeated Walter Panas in the first round at Glens Falls Civic Center Nov. 18.

“We’re really excited to go up there, and we know we can actually do it,” Murphy said. “We’ve been looking at Panas, and we really think we can beat them and all the rest of the teams up there.”

While Holmes will be assisting in any way she can, she said her Kingsmen have all the pieces in place for the checkmate this time around.

“It’s our heart,” Holmes said has led her team to seven county and Long Island wins, and what could lead Kings Park to its first state title. “If we just play to our potential — with our dedication — if we bring our ‘A’ game, we’re tough to beat.”

Bill Landon contributed reporting

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By Bill Landon

Ward Melville’s girls tennis team’s unbeaten, 14-0, regular season record is unmatched by any of the 52 varsity squads in Suffolk County. Add to that four playoff victories, the last one leading to a Suffolk County championship title, and the Patriots are in rarefied air.

Head coach Erick Sussin said the remarkable winning streak is a once-in-a-lifetime achievement.

“No other team in Suffolk County has gone undefeated, in all leagues — all the others have at least one loss,” he said. “Now every team plays different schedules and sometimes you’re comparing apples and oranges, but we did have a tough schedule and not to drop a match.”

The Patriots tasted defeat for the first time when they fell to Port Washington, 5-2, in a rain delayed Long Island championship finale at Half Hollow Hills West Nov. 1.

Ward Melville junior Denise Lai had her hands full at first singles, but ultimately prevailed against seventh-grader Thea Rabman 6-3, 4-6, 6-3. Section XI had a surprise in store for the three-year varsity player after the match. Lai, who was been name All-State the last two seasons, learned she had captured the sportsmanship award for the season, as voted by Suffolk County coaches.

“There’s no doubt about, its humbling,” Lai said, overwhelmed. “I’m just happy I’m acknowledged for how nice I am.”

Sussin was quick to point out what his junior standout has meant to the team.

“Denise is not just our captain, she’s the team leader at the highest position,” the coach said. “She’s been top notch all year and she plays well under pressure. She represents our team at first singles.”

Ward Melville junior Anna Ma, a three-year varsity player who usually competes in first doubles, found herself competing in fourth singles and won her match 7-5, 6-3.

Sussin said his strategy for the match was to get to four wins as soon as possible. To try to do this, he continued to move some of his star doubles players to singles spots, like Keren Collins, who ultimately won the county championship for her team.

The senior, who usually pairs with Ma, competed in third singles throughout the postseason.

“We know that in our [matchups] we can get four points in other ways,” Sussin said. “They prefer doubles, and in doubles their hands get better, their volleys get better, and you can use that in singles play.”

Collins said she had confidence in her team throughout the playoffs no matter where her teammates were slotted.

“It didn’t matter who we were playing, everyone in every position had the ability to get it done —we all did our part we just kept pushing through,” Collins said. “We had confidence going out there each time, knowing we could do it. And every time we won, we’d have a quick 10-second celebration and move on to the next match. We set our goals and we conquered them.”

Julia Hu attributed her team’s remarkable season and its rise to Long Island level to the depth of Ward Melville’s roster.

“Reaching this game says so much about how deeply talented our team is from our first singles to our third doubles,” Hu said. “Our girls are so disciplined with their training throughout the year, and with their effort and support of the entire team — we all contributed to that 18-0 record.”

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Meagan Murphy digs out a serve receive. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Erika Benson slams the ball over the net. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Megan Murphy dug deep to pull out a win — quite literally Monday.

The senior libero threw herself all over the court to record 31 digs in a 3-0 sweep of Hauppauge Oct. 23, 25-14, 25-17, 25-10, to cap off Kings Park girls volleyball’s second straight undefeated League V season.

“Megan Murphy in the back row was strong on defense,” Kings Park head coach Ed Manly said. “Very rarely are you going to catch her off guard or get her to shank a ball during the course of play.”

With Hauppauge as close as 12-10 midway through the first set, three straight Kings Park points — a Hauppauge out-of-bounds hit, an Alexa Petraitis (eight kills) spike and a Kara Haas dump over — forced the Eagles to call timeout. The scoring streak was only briefly interrupted after the break, and Kings Park slammed home four more to make it 19-11. Murphy closed out serving on the last four of five Kings Park points, until an out of bounds serve made it 24-14 and a Hauppauge service error closed out the set.

“I don’t say this selfishly — we’ve been doing this for so long and I’m so honored to play with this team,” said Petraitis, a senior outside hitter. “Everything I do is because of my team, because of how much support I have. Hauppauge was great at getting the ball up, and we did great staying mentally focused, ready for it to come back over the net.”

Kara Haas serves the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Hauppauge was strong serving, and returning it. In the second set, the Eagles were cruising right alongside Kings Park, forcing five ties. A Petraitis kill put the Kingsmen up 6-5, but Hauppauge bounced right back to tie the score at 8-8 and again at 10-10.

“Hauppauge is always extremely scrappy and they make it hard to put balls away,” Manly said. “Every time we tried to tip or do something unconventional they picked it up, but we stayed consistent swinging at the ball and keeping the offense strong.”

Manly said his team worked on defensive drills, like service receives, to prepare for Hauppauge, but he still thinks his team has work to do heading into the postseason.

“That’s my biggest issue with my team — we’re pretty powerful offensively, but we rest on our laurels and let down a little bit on the defensive side,” he said. “But we weathered the storm.”

Senior Erika Benson (12 kills) took the game over, as the middle hitter spiked the ball for a big kill and a 12-10 advantage that gave Kings Park the push it needed.

Haley Holmes sets up a play. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“I thought when times were getting rough — we were in a little bit of a slump — we worked hard to get out of it quickly to move on to the next play,” Benson said. “Coach tells us to get ready for the next point. We’re never thinking ahead, we’re just thinking of what we can do to get that point.”

Right up the middle the team began clicking, with Murphy returning the serve, Haley Holmes (39 assists) setting up the play and Benson driving shots to the ground.

“Haley Holmes did a nice job setting,” Manly said. “She sets a really consistent ball, she didn’t get called for any doubles, lifts or carries, and she spreads the ball on offense really, really well. Erika Benson overpowers people in the middle, and up the middle with our libero, setter and middle is where our bread is buttered and that pretty much carried us tonight.”

Kings Park is the No. 1 seed heading into the playoffs, which begin Oct. 30. The Kingsmen won’t play again until November thanks to a first-round bye.

Meagan Murphy celebrates Kings Park’s undefeated League V season. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“I’m really excited to see what happens with this team,” Murphy said.

Graduating just one senior from last year’s team, Benson said her team’s accomplishments, including helping to win the seventh straight league title for Kings Park, means a lot to the seniors, who are following in the footsteps of those in years past, losing just one regular-season game in their entire careers.

“Being able to keep this League V title is pretty special,” she said. “Every season we have one goal: to win states. It’s always in the back of our minds and it helps us push through to win every game.”

Manly said he doesn’t see the streak weighing too heavily on the girls, because they’re focused on that one goal.

“They’re a pretty relaxed bunch — they’re more focused on their goals than about what’s happened in the past,” he said. “They’re focused on every point, every set and every match. I love my team very much, I think they’re extremely talented and I think the sky is the limit for them as long as they stay humble and hungry and don’t overlook anybody. They have the capability to do some pretty special stuff.”

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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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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.”

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By Desirée Keegan

Brooke Berroyer loves the burst of adrenaline she gets out on the volleyball court, and her team’s current winning streak certainly seems to be getting her engine revving.

Smithtown East’s Brooke Berroyer celebrates a point. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“Playing gives me such a rush — especially when you’re playing with such great players and you see all the hard work culminate in a win,” the senior setter and right side said. “We go to practice every day and work hard; we all trust each other a lot. I would never be able to play and set the people that I do if I didn’t trust them.”

That trust and confidence led Smithtown East to its seventh straight win Oct. 2 with a 3-0 sweep of Copiague, 25-18, 25-16, 25-23. Berroyer finished with 14 assists and eight digs in the win, but she credited teammate Allie Brady for getting the team to the No. 1 spot in the League III standings.

“Allie Brady is our powerhouse,” she said of the senior outside hitter. “No one can stop her. She puts the ball down every time. She’s our best player right now.”

Brady came through for Smithtown East in crucial situations, like when her back-to-back kills put the Bulls up 12-7 in the first set, or when her spike stopped Copiague’s momentum after three straight points, leading to three straight Smithtown East points in the second set.

“We believe in each other,” said Brady, who had 12 kills and 11 digs in the win. “We have great leaders on this team. All of us seniors work hard to get the team going in the right direction and the rest follow our lead. We always have each other’s back.”

The senior gave credit to the Bulls’ juniors that contributed to the win, and Berroyer recognized one in particular: Michelle Husslein.

Smithtown East’s Alex Colón receives a Copiague serve. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Husslein, an outside hitter, added a handful of service aces in a close third set, and closed out the match serving on the final two points, the second an ace to win the game.

“She’s a junior with a really strong serve, and it’s tough getting on that line, especially as an underclassman,”Berroyer said.

Husslein was filling in for the injured senior middle Steph Berdon, and Smithtown East head coach George Alamia pointed to his junior’s standout performance among others helping to fill the space.

“She was a spark plug,” he said of Husslein. “She hasn’t played a lot, and she was among several players that stepped in to play today, and she played really well.”

Alamia was quick to point to the stellar serving throughout the evening from not only Husslein, but the rest of the squad as well. In total, nine players added to the Bulls’ 41 service aces, accounting for a little less than 55 percent of Smithtown East’s total points.

“Our service team was excellent,” Alamia said. “Game three we had a lot of our bench in with starters sprinkled in. Michelle [Husslein] on the line changed the game — she ran off five or six points and gave us confidence. Logan Kozlowski is a nice young setter coming up and she also got some great opportunities today in the third game.”

Smithtown East’s Allie Brady spikes the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The Bulls remain undefeated at 7-0 on their quest to take their 11th straight League III title this season. Senior libero Alex Colón, who had 14 digs and 16 service receptions, said she’s moved by what her team has already done this year.

“It’s inspiring,” she said of the run. “At the beginning of the season it was a little rough — we all had to learn to work together [after losing seven senior starters to graduation]. We work harder than any team in the gym, we’re communicating and controlling the ball, and that’s key to getting our momentum going. When we come together and play as a team nothing can stop us.”

Smithtown East faces off against crosstown rival Smithtown West for the second time this season Oct. 4 at 5:45 p.m. Smithtown East edged its opponent 3-1 in close sets to open the season Sept. 9. Smithtown West is currently 7-2 overall and 7-1 in league play.

“This team has pressure on them — they want a league championship, they expect it and they’re looking to get it,” Alamia said. “Every year West is a challenge, and I think we’re ready for it — we’re all in. These girls are hungry for he league title, they’re focused, we’re going to have a great practice and we’re going to give them everything we have. I think we’re ready to take what’s ours.”

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Huntington's Carlos Reyes attempts to settle a pass. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

All the Huntington boys soccer team needed to do was change its offensive strategy after a scoreless first 40 minutes of play to top Copiague, 2-0, on the road Sept. 26, to remain undefeated in League III.

Huntington’s Freddie Amato grabs the ball. Photo by Bill Landon

“You know this is a really good league, and quite honestly, we’ve been lucky in some instances,” Huntington head coach John Pagano said. “We’ve had close games, one-goal games, and any game, even against a team like Copiague [that hasn’t won yet] but are well-coached, we know that we could’ve fallen.”

Copiague spent most of the first half up field, pressing but managing just two shots on goal. Huntington senior goalkeeper Nat Amato was up for the challenge, and made a pair of pedestrian saves to keep Copiague off the board.

Copiague’s goalkeeper returned the favor on the other side, stopping Freddy Amador’s shot after the senior midfielder slipped past a defender on a pass from the middle and fired a shot to the left corner.

Luis Ortiz broke the ice for the Blue Devils in the second half, scoring off a pass from the crowd in front of the Copiague cage at the 29-minute mark. The score changed the tempo of the second half, and Huntington took advantage — spreading out the offense to look for cross opportunities.

Manny Reyes heads the ball over the Copiauge goalkeeper. Photo by Bill Landon

“We pressed more in the second half,” Pagano said. “[Copiague was] laying back with an extra defender, and that made it difficult for us. Once we shifted and stretched them out a little bit it gave us a little bit more passing and running space.”

Opportunity found sophomore forward Carlos Reyes soon after, when he drove in a rebound shot for insurance just over five minutes later.

“It began with the defense and it built from there,” Reyes said of the play. “I thought he was going to cross it in from the far, post but once I saw it start to curve in and then it got past the defender, I was able to get it.”

With the win, Huntington improves to 6-0. Five of the Blue Devil’s wins were one-goal games.

“Our strikers are really fast,” Amador said. “[Copiague is] a really good team. They played really hard for every 50-50 ball, so we have to step up and play hard in every game.”

Huntington is back in action Sept. 28 when the team travels to Smithtown West (4-2) for a 4:30 p.m. game.

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The Ward Melville girls volleyball team celebrates a point.

By Desirée Keegan

The Patriots are starting to roll, and aren’t showing any signs of slowing down.

The Ward Melville girls volleyball team pulled away from Longwood 25-11, 25-20, 25-14 for its fifth sweep and sixth straight win of the season Sept. 19 to remain undefeated.

Allie Sturgess continues the volley. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Head coach Charlie Fernandes said he hasn’t been afraid his team was going to lose, but thought in earlier games this season the Patriots eased up on its opponents. As of late, he said he’s enjoying seeing his Patriots (6-0 overall, 4-0 League I) play with fire to the end of matches.

“We want to play everybody as hard as we can and I thought in an earlier match this year we were performing well, but we let up a little,” he said. “Today we played all out the whole time and that’s what we’re looking for.”

Ward Melville jumped out to an early 8-4 lead and scored four straight points before a Longwood hit slammed into the middle of the Patriots defense. The Lions hit out of bounds on the next serve and then an out-of-bounds hit handed Ward Melville two of its next three points before Longwood called timeout. The team still couldn’t regroup from there, and the Patriots cruised to the end of the set.

“Game one was very efficient and we started filtering the other kids in,’” Fernandes said. “I thought everyone did a great job.”

Ward Melville junior middle blocker Morgan Persky, who had four blocks, said her team wanted to bring the same high level of play and energy onto the court against Longwood that it did Sept. 15 at Smithtown West. After winning the first set against Longwood by 14 points, she said she thought her team again took its foot off the gas.

Molly Fernandes serves the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“We came into the second set a little bit more relaxed, and we made some unforced errors,” she said.

The teams stayed neck and neck throughout most of the set. Ward Melville held advantages early and jumped ahead by five points at 11-6, but Longwood closed the gap over the next few minutes to tie the set at 12-12 and again at 16-16. Fernandes called timeout to get his players on the same page, and despite jumping ahead again, Longwood tied the game at 20-20 before the Patriots closed the set scoring the final five points. Sophomore libero Molly Cronin finished with 10 digs, and senior libero Molly Fernandes and sophomore outside hitter Jamie Agostino each had eight digs.

“After the timeout at 16-16 in the second set we realized that we needed to step it up,” Persky said. “I felt that we played much better after that and took control of the court from that point forward. This year, we have been very strong offensively from both the net and the service line.”

The team had holes to fill in the lineup after most of the starters were lost to graduation before this year, but senior setter Courtney Heaney said her team has adjusted well.

“A lot of us have been playing together for a long time,” she said. “We all play club together, and I think we have really good energy on the court, and togetherness, which helps to fill in those gaps left from last year.”

Courtney Heaney sets the ball up for an Anna Brun kill. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Fernandes said the return of two now senior outside hitters in Ashley Fuchs and Ryen Cinski has also put the team in the position it’s in.

“No one knows about them because they both sat out last year with ACL injuries,” he said. “On the court and off the court we have a tight-knit group and that always matters. I think something good is happening here.”

Heaney also gave a glowing review of her two teammates returning from injuries.

“They’re better than ever,” she said of the two outside hitters. “They’ve been doing really well — [they provide] big energy out there. Our biggest players are our outsides. We’re doing really great things this year and I’m really excited about it. We’re on a really great path.”

Persky said the team is working on maintaining its aggressiveness no matter who is on the other side of the court or what the scoreboard says, and Fernandes said he expects that killer instinct to come in time.

“We’re going to work on our defense,” he said, laughing. “It’s mid-September, so the coaches and I joke that there’s certain things we haven’t even worked on with the team yet in practice, and we’re already this good. For the first time in a long time we have a bench that I go to without blinking. We’re a good, strong volleyball team. Heck, this is a tremendous volleyball team, and I think we’re going to be in it at the end.”

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