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Ward Melville

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Eddie Munoz holds the team back before celebrating the Long Island championship win. File photo by Desirée Keegan

Two of Ward Melville’s multisport athletes are taking their lacrosse talents to the national stage.

Junior Eddie Munoz and freshman Dylan Pallonetti made the Under Armour All-America Long Island highlight and command teams, respectively, and are the only two Patriots to represent the school this week in the underclass tournament from June 30 to July 3 in Baltimore.

“It’s a big honor to be representing my school and my team,” Munoz said. “It’s going to be awesome. These are the kids we’re going to be playing in college. We’re all committed to these very good Division I schools, so it’s nice to be able to play them now and then again when we get to the collegiate level.”

Munoz, who committed to Stony Brook University, originally started out playing baseball. His father Eddie Munoz Jr. said his son started to progress athletically at a young age.

Eddie Munoz maintains possession of the ball as he makes his way downfield. File photo by Desirée Keegan
Eddie Munoz maintains possession of the ball as he makes his way downfield. File photo by Desirée Keegan

“He started walking at 10 months old,” said Munoz Jr., who played baseball and wrestled at Newfield, and was a two-time All-County football player. “By 3 years old, I was throwing a football from 10 yards away and he was catching it with his hands. By the time he was 5 years old, he was switch-hitting at a batting cage and hitting 65 miles-per-hour fastballs. I’d bring him up to the field and would hit fly balls into the outfield and he would naturally be able to catch them.”

But Munoz’s mother’s cousin, who played lacrosse at Salisbury University, told the athlete, who was is an All-League, All-County and All-Long Island football player, that he needed to try lacrosse. Once he did, the rest was history.

“We put a stick in his hand in third grade and he never put it down,” Munoz Jr. said.

Munoz, who also wrestled as a freshman and won the New York State wrestling championship for youth in fifth grade, said he tried a few clinics and didn’t like them, but also said that once he got older and started playing in games, he fell in love with the sport.

“I love the chemistry of the game,” he said. “The way everyone is with each other, the respect factor and the competitiveness, physicality — it never gets boring, there’s no sitting around — it’s constant in-and-out subbing. It’s up-tempo and that’s my kind of game.”

Although already committed, the national exposure will help but will work more in the favor of those like Pallonetti.

Dylan Pallonetti cuts to the outside in a previous Ward Melville boys' lacrosse game. File photo by Bill Landon
Dylan Pallonetti cuts to the outside in a previous Ward Melville boys’ lacrosse game. File photo by Bill Landon

“This is good for him for the future,” Dylan’s mother Michele Pallonetti said. “We’re thrilled and I feel he’s very lucky. He’s worked hard for it, he deserves it, he loves the sport and he’s really passionate about it. He’ll really represent New York.”

Dylan Pallonetti also grew up playing a sport other than lacrosse. Since he was a child, his uncle had him on roller skates in the driveway, and it got him really competitive. He plays ice hockey for Ward Melville’s junior varsity team, and also played basketball. He was the fifth leading scorer in his hockey league this season.

“He’s been playing with his brother and uncle in the driveway for years, the neighbors make a joke about it,” Michele Pallonetti said.

Her son began playing lacrosse in fourth grade on the town team, and by seventh grade, he moved to the Long Island Express club team. This past season, Pallonetti made the varsity team, and earned Rookie of the Year for Suffolk County, which all came as a surprise being that it was his first year on the team.

“We’re super proud of him and most proud that he’s a freshman out there and handles himself confidently and he’s very calm,” his mother said. “He fits in with the older boys. He’s a very low-key, he doesn’t get hyped up over anything, which I think helps him deal with those types of situations, and we love watching him play. It’s very exciting.”

Dylan Pallonetti said that he’s learned a lot and believes he’s excelled at a faster rate in the sport because of all he’s learned from the older players. Although Ward Melville is nationally known, being that the team has consistently ranked high in New York standings, and was just goals shy of another New York State title this past season, he’s also excited to represent the school and more importantly, show what he’s made of.

“The competition is going to be good, a lot of coaches are going to be there and I’m going to try to just play like I always play,” he said. “I just can’t wait to play the game.”

Soon-to-be graduate proudly displays high school diploma at Ward Melville High School’s commencement on June 26, 2016. Photo by Andrea Moore Paldy

They came with cameras, air horns and even a graduate’s photo held high on sticks. These were the proud families and friends who came to celebrate the 618 students who graduated from Ward Melville High School on Sunday.

Before receiving their diplomas, graduating seniors listened to final pieces of advice from their peers, their principal Dr. Alan Baum and school board president William Connors.

Class salutatorian Ariel Long urged her classmates to take their experiences at Ward Melville and “look on new beginnings with excitement and not fear.” Jeffrey Michel, the class valedictorian, reminded them to not limit themselves to one talent or interest.

“Change starts with you,” said Dr. Baum, who quoted a number of artists, including Shakira, to remind students that failure is a part of life and a way to learn. He told the graduates to “challenge obstacles,” try again and move forward.

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Owen McAvoy gets checked while trying to create an open lane during Ward Melville's semifinal win over Lakeland-Panas. Photo by Bill Landon

Ward Melville is used to playing defense — it’s the name of the Patriots’ game.

But the boys’ lacrosse team became fatigued as Victor High School’s faceoff specialist T.D. Ierlan won 13 of 16 draws to give the undefeated Blue Devils a huge advantage in time of possession, and ultimately lead them to a comeback win in the New York State Class A final, 7-5, Saturday afternoon at Middletown High School.

Dylan Pallonetti drives to the crease during Ward Melville's semifinal win over Lakeland-Panas. Photo by Bill Landon
Dylan Pallonetti drives to the crease during Ward Melville’s semifinal win over Lakeland-Panas. Photo by Bill Landon

“It sucks when you know you’re in the good old days yet it still flies by,” senior midfielder and attack Owen McAvoy lamented on Twitter following the loss. “I’ll never forget this team.”

With 5:35 left in the first quarter, Ward Melville freshman attack Dylan Pallonetti put his team on the board, followed by junior attack Dominic Pryor, who found the back of the net from the left side of the cage, to give the Patriots a 2-0 lead after 12 minutes.

Senior attack and midfielder Connor Grippe bounced in a good goal before Victor scored unassisted with its first goal of the game for a 3-1 halftime advantage over a team that averaged 16 goals per game up to that point.

Victor proved why it is undefeated though, and scored three unanswered goals before Grippe moved the ball to the middle and stretched the netting unassisted, to knot the game at four goals apiece with 5:08 left in the third.

The teams remained in a stalemate until the fourth, when junior attack Eddie Munoz rocketed a shot between the pipes from up top to give the Patriots a 5-4 advantage, but again, the Blue Devils proved what they are really made of.

The Patriots went over eight minutes without an offensive touch, and tried four different guys at faceoff, but couldn’t get the ball. The Blue Devils rallied back with three more unanswered scores for the win.

“And just like that, my high school sports days are over,” senior defender John Day posted on Twitter. “It’s been real, Melville.”

Chirs Grillo fires at the cage for the score in Ward Melville's semifinal win over Lakeland-Panas. Photo by Bill Landon
Chirs Grillo fires at the cage for the score in Ward Melville’s semifinal win over Lakeland-Panas. Photo by Bill Landon

Victor, which was the Class B state champion last year with a win over Manhasset, proved that moving up a class could not bring the team down, as the Blue Devils are currently riding a 44-game winning steak into next season.

Maryann Holsberg took to Twitter to voice her opinion of Ward Melville this season.

“[Ward Melville lacrosse], [Connor Grippe], you played with heart and made the Patriots family proud,” she wrote.

Senior defender Sean Thornton also lamented about the fact that the Patriots’ defensive unit will be split up next year.

“I don’t wanna believe that I just had my last high school lacrosse game today,” he wrote. “Love you boys.”

Despite the loss, and the many losses Ward Melville may realize next year without its 16 seniors it will have to replace following graduation this June, some of those current seniors are confident in the team’s ability to get back to the state finals next season.

“Thank you for the memories,” senior attack Chris Grillo wrote. “I wouldn’t have wanted to do it with any other group of guys. Take it down next year boys.”

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After outscoring Section I's Lakeland-Panas 16-6, Patriots will take on Section V's Victor

By Bill Landon

Looking at the Ward Melville boys’ lacrosse team now, you would never guess that it struggled early in the season.

On Wednesday at Hofstra University, the Patriots scored 16 goals against Section I challenger Lakeland-Panas in the New York State Class A semifinals, to earn them a spot in the championship round Saturday.

“We had our ups and downs this season, which started very quickly,” junior midfielder Dominic Pryor said following the win. “We knew we weren’t doing what we needed to do to play up to our potential, so we had a meeting and we said we have to start playing Ward Melville lacrosse. And that’s what we did tonight.”

Once again, it was junior attack Eddie Munoz who stole the show, scoring five goals in the 16-6 victory. But he too said things started off a little shaky for the Patriots.

“At the beginning of the year, we had trouble finishing,” he said. “That first game against Smithtown West we took 31 shots and scored just one goal, so there’s no excuse for that.”

This time, the team had no problem lighting up the scoreboard.

The Rebels may have hit the the board first, four minutes into the contest, but the Patriots countered with four unanswered goals with less than four minutes left in the opening quarter to take the 4-1 advantage. Pryor, who led the team with six points off a hat trick and three assists, scored twice during that run, while senior attack Chris Grillo found the net off an assist from senior midfielder Owen McAvoy, and senior defender Sean Thornton stretched the net off a feed from Pryor.

“At the beginning of the season you always have the mindset that you’re going to [make it to] states, but early on we weren’t playing at the level,” Grillo said. “As the season progressed we played better and that hope of making it to states became more of a reality.”

Lakeland-Panas countered with two quick goals in the closing minute to cut the deficit to trail by one, and sophomore midfielder Zach Hobbes opened the scoring in the second quarter with a solo shot before a penalty put the Patriots down a player. Lakeland-Panas cashed in on the man advantage to trail 5-4, but Munoz’s stick spoke next when he split the pipes to take a two-goal lead.

“Eddie Munoz comes out and snipes one left, and he’s worked hard at it, and he’s elevated his game,” Negus said.

From there, the Patriots never looked back.

“Our offense works — especially when you’re dodging, you’re banging around the outside because it gets everyone energized and we spread the scoring around,” Munoz said. “Earlier in the season it was tough to find the back of the net, but this game was the best we’ve played all year.”

A loose ball caused a scrum in front of the Rebels’ goalkeeper, and freshman attack Dylan Pallonetti swatted in the ball for a three-goal lead.

Ward Melville outscored Lakeland-Panas 4-1 in the third quarter. Grillo notched two goals during that spurt for the hat trick, and Pryor added his second before assisting on junior attack Andrew Lockhart’s shot.

Munoz drilled home his hat trick goal early in the final quarter to help the Patriots break out to a 12-5 lead.

“It’s un believable what they’re capable of,” Ward Melville head coach Jay Negus said. “We’re trying new things and it’s working.”

Lakeland-Panas managed one more goal in the game, but the Patriots dominated the final period of play.

Pryor finished with his third goal of the game when he did a spin move just outside the crease and drilled his shot past the keeper, and junior Dylan Krieg scored his first goal of the season with the final goal of the game.

“At the beginning we were forcing some shots and I had to keep telling them ‘it’s not the first thing, it’s the best thing’ and that takes experience and maturity. I’m starting to see that,” Negus said. “They’re buying into the game plan and early in the season we didn’t know our team’s identity. But I’ve seen some flashes of brilliance throughout the playoffs.”

Ward Melville will face Section V’s Victor High School on June 11 at Middletown High School at 4 p.m.

D.J. Kellerman said the Syosset fans kept him entertained all night.

“I don’t even want to repeat it,” he said of what his opponent’s fans were shouting to him while between the pipes. “Everyone was frustrated with me and my defense, our offense and our faceoff guy — we just dominated.”

The Ward Melville boys’ lacrosse team held Syosset to its lowest amount of goals in two years, outscoring the team 9-5 for the Patriots’ 17th Class A Long Island championship title on June 4 at Hofstra University.

Kellerman made 11 saves and the defense was smothering, silencing fans quickly as Ward Melville jumped out to a 4-0 lead midway through the second quarter.

“I was dialed in,” Kellerman said. “We pride ourselves on our defense. We elevate our play from each other and that’s why this unit is successful.”

Both teams came out with intensity, but with Ward Melville’s leveled offense, four different players were able to score while Kellerman made three saves before Sysosset got on the board. Kellerman made his final save of the first half with 8.2 seconds left during a man-down situation.

“We wanted to jump out early on them,” said junior midfielder Eddie Munoz, who earned a hat trick. “We got the momentum going and then, when they made defensive stops, it got us a little juiced up and motivated to put some more goals in. Every time they get a little bit of life, you’ve got to take it right back and my teammates found me the open looks.”

Kellerman made another big-time save with seconds left in the third stanza, and Munoz followed it up with scoring seconds into the fourth, off an assist from senior attack and midfielder Connor Grippe.

“This is the greatest day of my life right now — I said that on Wednesday when we won counties, but this is 10 times better,” said Grippe, who finished with two goals and two assists. “Each game I come in with an open mind, not thinking about it being my last game, but thinking ‘on to the next one.’”

He too thought his team’s defense, with help from players like Kellerman, John Day, Andrew McKenna and Sean Thornton, were key in the game plan to take the title home.

“These guys lock out every single opponent,” he said, also noting the correlation between the defense and offense’s success. “Once the defense makes the stops, it gets us going and it’s a recipe for success.”

What head coach Jay Negus said is the reason for his Patriots’ triumph, on top of the team’s defensive coach and the boys executing his game plan, is the Patriots’ progress.

“The effort, the heart and the accepting of all of the things we throw at them on a daily basis to rise them to the level they need to be at — to see their growth from the first day of practice to now — they really are peaking at the right time,” he said. “I told the guys we need to absorb [Syosset’s] energy because this is a game of momentum and we need to dig in and then counter attack, and we did a good job of doing that today.”

But as Negus said, and the boys know, it’s back to work until the team takes on Lakeland-Panas in the state semifinals at 8 p.m. on June 8 at Hofstra University.

But Munoz just wanted to bask in the moment a little longer.

“Last year a lot of people said we had a better team, but I feel like this year it’s been more of a team effort, and it feels really good to come back here,” Munoz said. “This is where we belong, and we’re going to be here for a while.”

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Patriots have now won 24 county titles in 38 appearances

By Bill Landon

The bitter taste of last year’s devastating loss in the Suffolk County championship game to Smithtown West was replaced with the sweet taste of victory Wednesday night, after the Ward Melville boys’ lacrosse team lit up the scoreboard early and often on the way to a 13-5 win over Connetquot for the Class A crown.

Senior attack Chris Grillo scored his hat trick goal less than a minute into the second quarter, to put his team out front 5-0. Senior midfielder Connor Grippe and junior midfielder Dominic Pryor each tallied a goal. Grippe followed up Grillo with an unassisted goal for a 6-0 advantage, before Connetquot put its first point on the board with 7:16 remaining in the first half.

“After that devastating loss last year, we worked our tails off during the off season because we knew we didn’t have the super star talent that we had in years past,” Grippe said. “We don’t have one go-to guy, we have six, and Chris Grillo had an outstanding game. Five goals — that’s what we needed.”

With just over two minutes left before the break, Grillo struck again, and junior attack Andrew Lockhart split the pipes to take an 8-1 advantage into the third.

“We lost to them earlier in the season in overtime,” Grillo said. “We came out flat on offense in that game, defensively we played okay, but we beat ourselves [that day]. We had a lot of injuries and [we battled] the flu in that game, so to come back at full strength was just huge.”

Ward Melville’s defensive unit controlled the Connetquot attackers as they struggled to find an open lane, and had few shots on goal.

Four minutes in, Connetquot scores its second goal of the game, but a minute later the Patriots rattled off three unanswered goals, capped off by Grillo’s fifth goal of the game, to stretch the lead to 11-2.

Connetquot found the net once more, but Ward Melville junior Eddie Munoz stretched the net to edge ahead 12-3 to begin the final 12 minutes of play. The midfielder said he was confident in his team’s ability to take it home this year, despite the Patriots’ season getting off to a rocky start.

“I knew our team had championship potential and I knew we had it in us,” he said. Emphasizing the total team potential to go far. “Today everyone played well, not just one guy. Our defense held together to the end and our offense was shooting to the back of the net making [Connetquot’s] goalie earn every save, which weren’t too many.”

The Patriots let up two late goals in the game, like the team did against Walt Whitman in the semifinals, but Ward Melville was still able to take home its 24th county title in 38 appearances.

“We lost a lot in the beginning of the season — we didn’t have an identity — but now we’re starting to peak and our identity is starting to poke through,” Ward Melville head coach Jay Negus said. “I have to take my hat off to both my assistant coaches, they did a great job preparing defensively — that’s been our strength all year, and our offense came to play today. And I’ll tell you, we can be really dangerous when that happens.”

Above, the Stony Brook Village Center in the 1940s. Photo from the WMHO

By Ellen Barcel

It’s been 75 years since the Ward Melville Heritage Organization (originally the Stony Brook Community Fund), under the direction of philanthropist Ward Melville, constructed the Stony Brook Village Center. It was planned as a “living Williamsburg” recognizing the historic importance of the village “where culture would blend with natural beauty as a part of everyday life — the first planned business center in the U.S.”

Ward Melville in front of the Stony Brook Post Office in the 1970s. Photo from WMHO
Ward Melville in front of the Stony Brook Post Office in the 1970s. Photo from WMHO

Interestingly, the selection of Stony Brook as the site for this center came about by accident. The Melville family was on its way to the South Fork when, taking the wrong train, they found themselves in Stony Brook. “[Frank and Jenny] fell in love with the area,” noted Stephanie Ruales, special events coordinator at the WMHO. They vacationed in the area and finally, son Ward Melville planned the Stony Brook Village Center.

The WMHO has mounted a special exhibit, “It Takes A Team To Build A Village,” which will run now through Sept. 7, to display the memorabilia associated with the history of the center.  “We started to look for a couple of pictures and found so much,” said Gloria Rocchio, president of the WMHO and exhibit curator.

“What’s very interesting to me, what I didn’t know, was that Jenny Melville [Ward Melville’s mother] was Canadian and that she bought up property here in the early 1930s, the Depression. When she died, Ward Melville picked up the gauntlet. She was the one who started the garden club — the tea house (later becoming the Three Village Inn) at the old homestead,” said Rocchio.

Co-curated by Ruales and Rocchio with help from Karen Kennedy, the exhibit consists of dozens of enlargements of historic photos, showing the village before, during and after the construction as well as the original blueprints for the village center and letters documenting the purchase of the land. In addition, there’s the original model of the proposed village center used by Melville to present the proposal to the village back in 1940. The exhibit also includes some items from the 1940s, representative of the time.

Just a year later, July of 1941, the new village center was completed. Over the years, various businesses have come and gone, including a four-lane bowling alley in the basement of one of the buildings. In the early 1940s, the automatic pin setting machine didn’t exist, so pinsetters, usually young men, stayed down by the pins, ready to reset them after each bowler’s turn.

The old Hallock Homestead which is now the Three Village Inn. Photo from WMHO
The old Hallock Homestead which is now the Three Village Inn. Photo from WMHO

When searching out the historic photos and documents, Ruales noted that they found an eight-millimeter film of the grand opening of the center, “something we didn’t know that we had. We had it converted” to a DVD and it is running on a loop at the exhibit.

One of the unique features of the village center is the mechanical eagle on top of the Stony Brook Post Office, which flaps its wings every hour on the hour from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Noted Marie Gilberti, communications manager at WMHO, Ward Melville himself, “planned and instituted,” the eagle.

But, the eagle was installed for a few years, with its wings flapping up and down, when Melville decided he didn’t like the way it looked. The eagle was taken down and reconfigured, so that the wings flap back and forth now.

Melville also had the Dogwood Hollow Amphitheater constructed opposite the bank in Stony Brook. Concerts were held there through the 1950s and 60s. “Big name” entertainers performed at the concert, noted Rocchio. They included Liberace, Ferrante and Teicher, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Buddy Rich, Louis Armstrong, Pete Seeger, Victor Borge, the Clancy Brothers and Lionel Hampton. “Mr. Melville paid for it himself,” Gilberti added. But, unfortunately, the concerts outgrew the venue and were stopped in 1970.

The mechanical eagle on the Stony Brook Post Office still flaps its wings every hour on the hour from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Photo by Ellen Barcel
The mechanical eagle on the Stony Brook Post Office still flaps its wings every hour on the hour from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Photo by Ellen Barcel

Today, live concerts are still held, but in front of the post office, sponsored by the WMHO. “We’re going to have a concert from each decade this summer,” said Rocchio. She noted that a history of Dogwood Hollow will be on display at the Jazz Loft, 275 Christian Ave., in a building (originally the fire house) owned by the WMHO.

The Jazz Loft will be a center for music education. It is open through Saturday, May 28, from noon to 5 p.m. Beginning June 2, it will be open Thursday through Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. For details, events and performers, go to www.thejazzloft.org. Beginning in September, Swing Dance Long Island is schedule to hold its dances there.

According to Ruales, the whole idea for the exhibit came from Rocchio. “She was in charge of the exhibit.” It was her idea “to celebrate [the anniversary] and … for people to come and see the history,” of the area.

The name for the exhibit, “It Takes A Team To Build A Village,” came about because “we are honoring a lot of people who were involved in constructing the center. It’s a huge village center,” added Gilberti.

Ward Melville, left, with Governor W. Averell Harriman and his wife enjoy a Dogwood Hollow concert. Photo from the WMHO
Ward Melville, left, with Governor W. Averell Harriman and his wife enjoy a Dogwood Hollow concert. Photo from the WMHO

Future events connected with the 75th anniversary include a ceremony on July 9 recreating the 25th anniversary celebration. “We’re going to have antique cars from each decade in the village,” said Rocchio. A talk by her is also planned for the future. “There are so many things I’ve been taught by Mrs. Melville [Dorothy Melville, Ward’s wife] that no one knows. I worked for her for 10 years. She was the president” of the WMHO. “I was the Administrator at that time.” Rocchio added that putting together the exhibit and various events connected with it “has been a labor of love.”

The exhibit is currently on display at WMHO’s Educational and Cultural Center, 97P Main Street, Stony Brook through June 19 (Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) and June 20 through Sept. 7 (daily, 10 a.m. through 5 p.m.) — closed Memorial Day and July 4. There is no admission charge, but donations are suggested. For further information, call 631-689-5888 or visit www.wmho.org.

A photo captures construction underway at the Stony Brook Village Center in 1940. Photo from the WMHO
A photo captures construction underway at the Stony Brook Village Center in 1940. Photo from the WMHO

Patriots defeat Walt Whitman in semifinals, 9-3, to make it back to final round

The game may not have started off the way they wanted, but it sure did end like it.

The No. 4 Ward Melville boys’ lacrosse team turned a no-score first-quarter Wednesday into a 4-1 halftime lead, and held No. 8 Walt Whitman scoreless until the final seconds of the game, earning a trip back to the Suffolk County Class AA finals with a 9-3 win.

“We’re really excited,” junior midfielder Dominic Pryor said. “We worked so hard for this all season and we can’t wait for counties.”

After the first, senior attack and midfielder Connor Grippe said his team knew it needed to figure out a way to turn things around.

“The first quarter we didn’t play Ward Melville lacrosse,” he said. “Our coaches keep preaching to us to play a full four quarters and we really came back and put it all together. We were hitting our shots, we were moving the ball, our defense played outstanding, our goalie D.J. Kellerman played a hell of a game and we won the faceoffs.”

Grippe said the coaches made some adjustments to the Patriots’ pre-existing zone plays, which helped them get some open shots and inside looks.

Ward Melville head coach Jay Negus credits his assistant coaches Chris Murphy and Chris Muscarella for the turnaround.

“The defense has been outstanding, the faceoffs have been outstanding — and it’s because of them and the kids buying into what they’re talking about,” he said. “Our offense did a nice job once they started clicking to relieve some of that pressure, but I’m so appreciative of the two assistant coaches I have because they really, on the defensive end of the field, do an outstanding job.”

Junior goalkeeper Kellerman made two saves in the first, and tipped another shot upward to open the second. At the 8:18 mark the Patriots’ opponent finally found the back of the cage for a 1-0 lead.

The Patriots’ intensity was there in the first, but it didn’t match that of the Wildcats. On top of that, dropped passes in the offensive zone and turnovers all over the field deflated the team. But that all changed in the second quarter.

The Patriots pride themselves on their defense, and the boys held it down on that end of the field following the first goal.

At the 4:35 mark, the offense repaid the defense for its hard work, when Grippe fired a shot from 10 yards out to tie the game. He then assisted freshman attack Dylan Pallonetti on his shot from the same position, but on the opposite side of the cage.

“Once we got one, we rallied from there,” Pallonetti said. “I feel like we did a great job riding and clearing. Our defense did great. They stripped the ball a lot, got the ball in the offensive zone and then we did our job.”

At the 1:51 mark, Pryor snagged a rebound off a save in mid-air and buried the ball for a 3-1 lead.

“As soon as we figured out their defense, we started putting in goals and that’s really when we started rolling and knew what we needed to do the rest of the game,” he said.

Junior attack Andrew Lockhart forced a turnover and, on a fast break, fed the ball to Pallonetti in front of the net for what proved to be the game-winner to end the scoring for the first half.

Grippe added two more assists on the night, Pryor scored his second goal and Lockart, Eddie Munoz, Chris Grillo and Zach Hobbes each added a goal. With 33 seconds left, Walt Whitman managed to score back-to-back goals but ran out of time to make a comeback.

“Last year we unfortunately lost in the counties in double overtime, so anything for us to get back to that position is great, and hopefully we’ll come out on top,” Grippe said.

Ward Melville is back in a familiar position, but this time faces a new opponent. Smithtown East topped the Patriots last season, but since the Bulls fell to Connetquot in overtime in the their semifinal game on Wednesday, Ward Melville will instead be facing that team, to whom they lost twice in overtime the last two seasons.

“I definitely think we will have to adjust,” Grippe said. “It’s a revenge game for us. We’re always fired up to play them, they’re a big rival and it should be a good game.”

He said their faceoff player is arguably one of the best in the county, so his team will need to game plan to stop him and limit transitions.

Negus said his team will be prepared for its June 1 matchup at Stony Brook University at 8 p.m. against what will be an athletic, strong opponent.

“We can’t take them lightly, and we’ll be ready,” he said. “They don’t have a lot of depth, but we’re watching them on film and we’ll continue to look for their tendencies. We have some tricks up our sleeve. As a No. 4 seed a lot of people were looking past us and when we execute on both sides of the ball we can be a very dangerous team.”

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The Patriots will face undefeated Half Hollo hills East in the semifinals Tuesday

By Bill Landon

The strength of the Ward Melville boys’ tennis team is in the power of its singles play. The Patriots swept all four singles matches in the Suffolk County quarterfinals match, defeating Bay Shore 5-2 on their home court Thursday.

Junior Dan Meinster, a co-captain, led the way winning his best of three singles match, downing his opponent 6-1, 6-4. Classmate Matt Roberts followed with a 6-2, 6-3 singles win. Both athletes earned All-County honors this season.

“I won, but there was definitely room for improvement,” Meinster said. “I won the first set 6-1, and felt I played pretty well, but I dropped my game a little in that second set.”

All-Division player Nick Decker, a junior, downed his challenger 6-4, 6-3, and junior co-captain Jonathan Gruberg made short work of his foe, 6-1, 6-1, for a clean sweep in singles.

“I was consistent,” Gruberg said. “I had good volleys and I was able to stay with it, hit the ball back and score points. It was a good win for the team and I’m happy with my performance.”

Leading the way for the Patriots in doubles action were junior Dylan Ratner and sophomore Deven Wackett. The two got off to a rocky start, dropping their first set 2-6, but both players showed why they were named All-County, and battled back to win the next two 7-5, 7-5 to snatch the victory.

Cameron Dean, the lone senior on the team, had his hands full in first doubles, dropping the first set, but won the second. Dean said he was up against a tough opponent. The turning point came in the final set.

“They broke serve in the third set to put us down 0-2 and that took a little wind out of our sails,” he said. “We fought back at the end, but it just wasn’t enough to get the job done today.”

Ward Melville head coach Erick Sussin was particularly pleased with the strength of his teams’ singles play.

“They’re a tough opponent but our strength is in singles,” he said. “In doubles, we knew it was going to be challenging, and we did well.”

Meinster, Roberts and Decker are a strong one, two three, according to Sussin.

“And Jon Gruberg at four has been solid,” the head coach added. “Our doubles lineup is strong with Deven Wackett and Dylan Ratner who’s been solid all season and has come on strong in the last two matches.”

With a 10-0 League V record, 15-3 overall, No. 4 Ward Melville advances to the semifinal round to face top-seeded Half Hollow Hills East, 16-0 overall, on the road Tuesday at 4 p.m.

Sussin said his team knows the magnitude of the semifinal matchup, knowing that it will be the toughest opponent his Patriots will face all season. Half Hollow Hills East outscored Ward Melville 6-1 in the regular season.

“They’re the best team in the county, but we went three sets in four of those matches [when we lost to them],” he said. “They’ll definitely have the advantage, and we are complete underdogs here, but that’s when we play our best. We’ve had some good losses and sometimes good losses are better than bad wins.”

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Logan Doran brings home Dominic Lamonica just before the tag to give the Patriots an opening-round playoff win

By Bill Landon

With both teams tied at four runs apiece, it wasn’t until the bottom of the ninth inning when Ward Melville’s Logan Doran smacked an infield grounder that sent teammate Dominic Lamonica racing and diving for home plate just ahead of the tag, to win the opening round of the Class AA playoffs, 5-4, against Half Hollow Hills West Monday afternoon.

“This is a great bunch of kids they play hard all the time and that’s a great baseball team over there — Hills West, they’re well-coached by a Hall of Fame coach, but our kids did a great job,” said Ward Melville head coach Lou Petrucci. “We battled back and we didn’t panic when we were down 3-1, and the kids got some clutch hits.”

Ward Melville’s Lamonica also struck first for his team, when he hit the ball to right field, driving in Brandon Lee for a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third inning.

After starting pitcher Ben Brown let up just one hit in the first three innings, Hills West made him pay in the top of the fourth.

With a runner on first, Hills West drove the ball deep to center field that bounced over the fence, triggering a ground-rule double that put both runners in scoring position. A single to right field plated both runners, to give the Colts a 2-1 lead, but Lee followed with a pick-off at second for the second out to stop the bleeding. It didn’t last for long though, as the Colts smacked a shot to deep right field for a sliding triple, and the next batter drove the runner home.

“We’ve had games like this one all year long — fighting right to the end — so when we come into big moments like this we’re more prepared than other teams,” Lamonica said. “[Hills West is] a great team. Their pitching was phenomenal — they have one of the best pitchers in Suffolk County. We were able to barrel a few balls off of him, get a few runs and they were able to do the same against Ben [Brown].”

The Patriots went back to work in the bottom of the fourth, and Troy Davern started it off when he ripped an infield heater, and after a defensive bobble, beat the throw to first. Tom Hudzik stepped into the batters’ box next and drilled a long ball to right center field that bounced over the fence for the second ground-rule double of the game — moving Davern over to third. Nick Rizzi’s bat spoke next, and he hit an infield grounder that seemed to be a sure out, but Hills West made a throwing error to first, which plated Davern and Hudzik to tie the game 3-3. Rizzi stole second base, but was left stranded when the Colts retired the side.

With a runner on first, Hills West hit a stand-up double that put the runners in scoring position. The Colts finished the job with a rip to shallow left field that knocked in the opponent on third, to give the team a 4-3 edge in the top of the fifth.

The Patriots missed the opportunity to take the lead, and went down swinging with two runners on base. But Ward Melville was able to plate one more in the bottom of the sixth inning to make it a new game, and Tom Hudzik’s twin brother Matt took over the mound looking for the win.

“I’ve been in this situation multiple times this season, and every time I go [out there] I just have to throw strikes,” Matt Hudzik said. “I’ve got seven guys behind me that I know will make plays for me.”

Ward Melville missed another opportunity when the Patriots drew a walk to load the bases in the top of the eighth, and went down swinging.

After Matt Hudzik pitched three scoreless innings, the game came down to the bottom of the ninth.

“Matt Hudzik has been stalwart — he’s got five wins [now] out of the bullpen,” Petrucci said. “It was a great [showing by] Matt Hudzik and Ben Brown, who kept us in the game.”

Lamonica led off the inning with a routine pop-up that nobody called for, and the wind blew the ball as it dropped down for a charity single. Davern followed by drawing a walk, and after a strikeout, both runners advanced on a wild pitch. With runners on second and third now, Doran stepped into the batters’ box with two outs.

“I was in the same situation in the last game I played, and I didn’t get it done,” Doran said. “But I knew I’d get it done today in a big game.”

Lamonica, with a healthy lead, waited as Doran battled in the box, fouling several pitches before the count was full. Then, Doran drilled a ground ball up the middle to the shortstop, who fielded it cleanly and threw to home plate. But Lamonica had the lead, and beat the throw home for the game-winning run as the players rush to the diamond to pile up in celebration.

“You really don’t know the magnitude of the situation you’re in until you’re out of it,” Matt Hudzik said. “And it’s a great feeling once you’re out of it.”

No. 6 Ward Melville advances to take on No. 3 Smithtown East on the road May 17, at 4:15 p.m.

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