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Victory

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By Bill Landon

It shouldn’t surprise anyone when the Mount Sinai Mustangs girls softball team, who made it to the final four last season in the Class A state championship round, trounced visiting John Glenn, 14-1, halting play after just five innings.

Mount Sinai senior Holly McNair, a standout in the Mustangs’ Long Island championship basketball team, went three for four and drove in three runs. Senior Ilexa Skulnick plated two runners and senior pitcher Julia Golino went the distance allowing one run along with 12 strikeouts. The Mustangs have allowed only two runs through three games in this early season letting their bats do the talking by putting up 56 runs.

The Mustangs retake the field when they travel to take on crosstown rival Miller Place April 4. 1st pitch is set for 4 p.m.

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The Mount Sinai cheerleading team screams in exultation as they learn they won nationals. Photo from Megan McWain

Even when a Mount Sinai cheerleader falls, whether it’s in a competition or on the mat, they have the will to dust themselves off and work even harder.

That has been the theme for this cheerleading season, Mustangs coach Megan McWain said, who along with fellow coach Christina Lotito has seen the team through a season full of ups and downs, culminating with a Division II large-school victory at the 2019 UCA National High School Cheerleading Championship in Orlando, Florida, Feb. 10. 

The Mount Sinai cheerleading team perform a routine in Orlando, Florida. Photo from Megan McWain

When the team members learned they had won, McWain said the girls could not contain their excitement.

“They were so ecstatic — some of them were jumping up and down, some were sitting on the floor crying,” she said. “It’s just a big ball of emotions. We worked since May in open gyms getting ready for this moment, and this was the pinnacle of what they wanted to achieve. To learn that you did it is just so amazing.” 

The team arrived in Orlando Feb. 7 and went down to the local football fields for one final run of routines surrounded by thousands of other cheerleaders from all 50 states. The jaw-dropping sight of seeing so many teams compete didn’t do anything to dampen their spirits. 

The squad had suffered a number of setbacks early in the season, including a few illnesses and injuries that led to a number of missed chances and defeats. Eighth-grader Emily Kandell suffered an injury in January and was only cleared to get back on the mat a week before the team went down to Florida.

During the competition, McWain said their performance wasn’t at peak the first day of the tournament. The team was in third going into the last day of the competition. During their final performance the team had a misstep, and one girl took a fall. The only way they could win despite the fumble was if they pushed themselves to their limits, and McWain said, they accomplished that.

“It’s hard to win with a fall — a lot of teams when they fall, they kind of deflate after that,” she said. “But we didn’t. We performed a thousand times harder just to fill out the rest of that score from that fall.”

The Mount Sinai cheerleading team perform a routine in Orlando, Florida. Photo from Megan McWain

While this is not the first time the team has taken home the first place trophy at nationals, having won in 2014 and 2016, McWain said it is the ultimate goal that the cheerleaders work all year round for. She hopes the team can continue the streak as nine members of the squad are expected to graduate this year.

There are three large-school cheerleading teams that compete in Suffolk County, but Mount Sinai is the only Division II squad. The Lady Mustangs will represent the county in the state’s 2019 

Cheerleading Championships will be hosted in Rochester March 2. 

“We’re trying to hit a clean routine and were actually able to put all our kids on the mat including our alternates, so it will be really good to have all of them on the mat and working together as a team to get another championship,” McWain said. 

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Miller Place wrestling team after its win Feb. 2. Photo from Matt Kaszubski

The Miller Place Panthers wrestling team were at it again, cinching a League VI dual meet tournament Feb. 2 at Sayville High School for their third league win in four years.

Junior Alex Constantis. Photo from Matt Kaszubski

“We knew going into the league tournament the kids had a strong game,” head coach Matt Kaszubski said. “Even though our team was very young, we had been working for 12 months, and everyone put in effort.”

During the 2018-19 wrestling season Miller Place has gone 5-1 in league, only being beat by Rocky Point in a Dec. 12 matchup. The Eagles are currently at six wins and no losses in their league standings. Going into the tournament, the Miller Place wrestling coach knew Rocky Point would be a tough nut to crack. 

The Panthers got their revenge over the weekend as they scored a total of 253.5 points by the end of the tournament, barely edging out the Eagles at 241. Both teams scored 70 points or more than Islip, which placed third at a total of 171 points.

“It was amazing to watch, as Rocky Point is one of the best in the county,” Kaszubski said.

Miller Place suffered a few injuries on their road to the league tournament, including senior James Rado, who had knee surgery in December and was only cleared to wrestle a week before the tournament. 

The tournament brought forward eight Miller Place finalists and two champions. Juniors Alex Constantis and Kyle Klein Jr. both took home the league champion title. 

Junior Kyle Klein Jr. Photo from Matt Kaszubski

Klein, in particular, celebrated his 100th career victory in January. The junior also showed his skill during the league tournament when he scored a reversal in the final seconds in his match against Sayville which he won 6-5. 

With this victory, Miller Place is qualified to send 15 wrestlers to the Suffolk D1 Championships at Suffolk Community College Brentwood Feb. 9-10. Kaszubski said those young men on the team are already at peak performance, and all they have to do now is mentally prepare.

“There’s not much training left to do — their cardio is great, and they are just a strong, technical team,” the wrestling coach said. “If everybody wrestles to their best, we could have some top wrestlers in the county.” 

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Senior Dylan Winwood competes in final football game

By Desirée Keegan

Dylan Winwood couldn’t ask for a better way to end his football career.

Kings Park’s senior tailback/slot receiver hybrid and safety battled on the gridiron one last time Sept. 23, before getting season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum. Winwood’s injury occurred in a scrimmage Sept. 1, and he asked his doctor to clear him to play in one final game. Upon getting approval, he decided his last performance would be at homecoming.

“Any win is sweet for our coaches and our team, but having a great crowd to play in front of for homecoming made the atmosphere electric,” he said. “I can’t thank our fan base enough, truly one of the best groups on the Island.”

Although the team could credit running back Vince D’Alto for its 7-2 win over Hauppauge (0-2), Winwood also credited the Kingsmen’s fans and new surroundings for helping the team seal the deal.

“I felt great out on the field and the lights were fantastic,” he said of the stadium’s new ambiance. “I felt like homecoming made it that much sweeter — with the crowd and the team going crazy after every play.”

The junior running back scored the only touchdown of the day — on a 32-yard run in the first quarter. D’Alto said he was looking to ride a routine push play, but happened to stumble across a hole in the defensive line and carried the ball into the end zone. Senior Mike Trupiano’s point-after attempt was good to put the Kingsmen (2-2) up 7-0.

“I was just trying to get some yards to get out of our own end zone, but there was a hole and I took it,” said D’Alto, who finished with 155 yards on 15 carries. “It was a great team effort and there were a lot of ups and downs, but a win is a win.”

Despite the offense not playing up to its preferred tempo, the Kingsmen’s defensive unit was willing and able to pick up the slack, especially co-captain Winwood.

“I feel as if [the win] was due to our stout defensive effort,” he said. “The whole team rallied around a stellar defensive performance.”

The senior said he thought D’Alto was strong on both sides of the ball to help propel the team to victory.

“He was running extremely aggressive and was making plays on the defensive end that helped seal the game for us,” Winwood said. “This year’s team is definitely one of the fastest teams in our division. We have a bunch of athletes just waiting to make plays, and I’m looking forward to the Kingsmen capturing more wins in the future.”

D’Alto said he was inspired by Winwood’s willingness to put his career on the line to play football one last time, especially since he already has a lacrosse scholarship to Florida Southern College.

“Dylan had a lot of courage playing in his last game with a lacrosse scholarship on the line,” he said. “Dylan always plays great — one of the best athletes I’ve ever seen, and he played his heart out for his last game. It was great seeing him on that field risking it all for just one more game, telling us as a team how much this really means to him.”

The senior reflected on his final high school game.

“I felt awesome on the field; all I wanted was to finish my career on a win and it happened,” Winwood said. “I couldn’t ask for a better end note.”

Cougars celebrate a three run standup double to tie the game at four

Athletic success was contagious on the North Shore this spring.

We boasted 13 boys lacrosse, 11 baseball, eight boys tennis, 13 girls lacrosse and 11 softball squads in the playoffs this season. Local teams like Comsewogue boys lacrosse, Ward Melville baseball, Ward Melville boys tennis, Smithtown East girls lacrosse and Walt Whitman softball reached the semifinals. Seven of those 56 postseason qualifiers went on to be crowned Suffolk County champions, including the Commack baseball team, which grabbed the program’s first title in 20 years, and Mount Sinai’s softball team, which won its third straight county final.

Ward Melville boys lacrosse and the girls lacrosse teams from Mount Sinai and Middle Country all nabbed Long Island championship titles, and all three won their state semifinal games. The Patriots and Mustangs won state titles. And after the Middle Country Mad Dogs won the program’s first county, Long Island and state semifinal games, the girls narrowly lost in overtime, after the nation’s No. 1 lacrosse recruit and New York’s new all-time leading scorer Jamie Ortega netted the equalizer with just 1:37 left in regulation.

Districts like Mount Sinai, Shoreham-Wading River and Ward Melville have been dominating team and individual sports, creating powerhouse programs. Besides posting playoff teams in nearly every sport, Shoreham-Wading River junior Katherine Lee won a myriad of titles across the track and field season. She became a part of history when she and three other teammates swept the top three spots in the 3,000-meter state qualifier run, and placed second in the state with a new personal best.

Port Jefferson sophomore Shane DeVincenzo placed sixth overall and fifth in the Federation at the state golf tournament. Northport track and field’s 4×800 relay team placed first in the state and Federation finals, and Huntington’s Lawrence Leake placed third in the state track and field finals in the 400 high hurdles. His teammate Kyree Johnson won a state title in the 400 dash and third in the long jump, and led the Blue Devils to win the Federation team title, toppling every public, private and parochial high school in New York.

A load of other talented track and field standouts across our schools placed in the county finals and state qualifier meets. We’ve seen more and more talent across every team and individual sport with each season, and our schools continue to sneak into national rankings, perhaps creating budding dynasties for years to come.

With the end of another successful season, we want to recognize all the hard work and dedication put in by our student-athletes, many of whom excel to a similar level inside the classroom, and their coaches who help lead the way. Every student needs some guidance, and it’s clear guidance from coaches this season helped bring these athletes great success.

To overcome any kind of competition, students spend years learning their chosen sport or sports, practicing skills and developing their physical fitness. It takes a lot of patience and positive thinking to not give up at one loss or the next, and trust that the years of sacrifice will pay off. We’re proud to have covered those wrapping up their high school careers who have represented our six paper’s various coverage areas with class and pride, and we look forward to seeing what the returners can do next year. Congratulations, and keep up the good work.

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The Port Jefferson Royals celebrate winning the New York State Class C soccer championship for the first time in program history. Photo by Andrew Wakefield

By Desirée Keegan

“Strong alone. Unstoppable together.” — that was the Port Jefferson girls’ soccer team’s motto this season and with unfinished business, the Royals rode a perfect season in League VII to their second consecutive Suffolk County and Long Island titles, and brought home the state crown for the first time in program history.

“Our goal was to get back up there,” Port Jefferson head coach Allyson Wolff said of taking another shot at New York, after the Royals fell in the state finals last year. “They just showed how when they play like a team, the goals they can accomplish — they did that this year. They were unstoppable.”

The Royals were looking to avoid another devastating defeat on the state stage when their journey started on Saturday in the semifinals, where Port Jefferson topped Caledonia-Mumford, 4-1.

Junior forward Clare O’Connor and sophomore forward Grace Swords each tallied a goal and junior forward Jillian Colucci added an assist, but most impressive was the team’s new member, junior forward Brittany Fazin, who scored twice.

“She was definitely a great addition,” Wolff said. “The connection she made with the girls was nice to see; the chemistry was there.”

Sophomore goalkeeper Brianna Scarda made 10 saves in the win against Caledonia-Mumford.

After coming close to a goal several times against Elmira’s Notre Dame High School in the finals the next day, Colucci assisted the first score of the game when she crossed the ball to O’Connor, who knocked it in from the front left corner of the net to give her team the early advantage.

The two have been playing together since first grade, and the connection showed.

“Because we’ve been playing together for so long, we know where each other is on the field, and we find each other a lot and set each other up the whole season,” O’Connor said. “It’s a bond you can’t find anywhere else.”

Fazin scored next with a shot to the top right corner, and Colucci and O’Connor connected for the final goal of the season, when Colucci headed in O’Connor’s corner kick.

“The atmosphere was a little different because, with our first time up there, we didn’t know what to expect,” O’Connor said. “This year, our fans really brought the energy.”

Notre Dame’s only goal came off a penalty kick after the Royals’ second goal, and Scarda finished with four saves.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” Wolff said. “I’m still in awe. You could see the girls’ confidence rise even more from last year to this year.”

This soccer season was a stellar one for the Port Jefferson girls, as they went undefeated in their league for the third time in four years. On the road to the finals, the girls had tasted only victory since early September — when they lost two nonleague matches — and they were not about to let that change.

Most of their victories in the regular season were shutouts, and they scored five or more goals in the majority of those wins. In the three league games in which they allowed their opponents to score, they still won by at least three goals — they were on fire and earned the top seed heading into the postseason.

The Royals had given up only nine goals in the regular season, and kept that number steady in the regional finals, where they earned a 3-0 shutout against Cold Spring’s Haldane High School.

The action in the state soccer semifinals and finals over the weekend brought the number of goals scored against them to 11 — as compared to the 78 goals they scored this season from start to finish.

O’Connor said it was a result of improvements on both sides of the field.

“It started with the defense — we had our friend Katie [Connolly] go to the back, and she kept our team together for a lot of the season and she stopped a lot of goals from going in,” she said. “We also had a new addition to our team, Brittany [Fazin], and she helped us score a lot of goals too, so it was a little of both.”

As was the case for the team all year, the girls were slow to start in both state games, but once they got the ball rolling, it didn’t stop.

“That seemed to be the running theme this year — it created a domino effect that sparked the offense,” Wolff said. “Brianna [Scarda] also had a great season in goal — the way she communicated with the girls and the way they respected her.”

Using its motto, the team showed how strong they were not only alone, but together, and that togetherness helped them get all the way to the top.

“It’s kind of cool to see each season how much a girl has progressed and how it shapes the team,” O’Connor said. “Our motto came from the U.S. women’s soccer team after its run to the World Cup this summer. We thought it was fitting for us, because we wanted this to be our winning season, and it was.”

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