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Ward Melville

Dominic Pryor scores a goal for Ward Melville through a ton of Smithtown traffic. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Redemption was sweet for the Ward Melville boys’ lacrosse team.

Not only did the Patriots take down the boys of Smithtown East, who knocked them out of the playoffs in the Suffolk County Class A finals last season, but they also handed the Bulls their first loss of this season, 13-12.

Smithtown East was 7-0 coming into the contest, with one of the strongest faceoff kids in the county in senior Gerard Arceri, and two of the leading goal scorers in junior Connor Desimone and senior Dan Rooney. But that didn’t scare Ward Melville.

“We had that loss to West Islip [9-7 on April 8], which was one of our down games, but we knew we had to come back fired up,” Ward Melville goalkeeper D.J. Kellerman said.

“We knew that they were one of the top teams and we really wanted to take them down.”

The Patriots, 7-1, scored three goals in the first seven minutes of play before Rooney, an attack, found the back of the net with 3:09 left in the first quarter to put his team on the board.

“They’re a rival of ours — they’re right across town from us, so obviously intensity and competitiveness is at an all time maximum,” Smithtown East’s Desimone, an attack, said. “Coming out here and not showing up in the first half really killed us, but we’ll get them back.”

Ward Melville's Liam Davenport leads the chase for the ball at midfield. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Ward Melville’s Liam Davenport leads the chase for the ball at midfield. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Rooney followed his goal with his second score of the afternoon, off an assist from junior attack Michael Latini, and junior midfielder Luke Eschbach helped bring the score to 3-3 at the end of the first.

“Obviously Connor Desimone and Dan Rooney, they’re very dangerous, so we did a couple of game-planning strategies for them, but our goalie D.J. Kellerman played outstanding,” Ward Melville head coach Jay Negus said. “We’ve been waiting to play all four quarters all year, and this is the first game that I really feel we did. I don’t like taking my foot off the gas pedal, and that showed today, too. We played quick. I thought we did a good job of managing the game and really dictating the terms to them.”

Despite Arceri winning the opening faceoff of the second stanza, Kellerman still stopped a diving attempt by Desimone in the crease, and Ward Melville senior attack Chris Grillo faked out Smithtown East junior goalkeeper Thomas Harkin and dumped the ball in up top for a 4-3 edge. Kellerman followed with another stop, one of his 14 saves on the day, to keep his team on top.

The Bulls and Patriots traded scores, but Ward Melville senior midfielder Connor Grippe and junior midfielder Dominic Pryor added two goals in the final two minutes to put the Patriots up 7-4 heading into the halftime break.

“We lost to them in the counties last year, so obviously it’s a significant win for us,” Pryor said. “We moved the ball really well and we were very patient. Our defense stood strong with the amount of times they threw the ball in the crease.”

Ward Melville maintained an 11-9 advantage at the end of the third, but Smithtown East wasn’t going to go down that easily.

Latini opened the final quarter with a quick goal less than a minute in, and although Ward Melville countered, junior midfielder Connor Rowan added his second tally of the afternoon to keep it a one-goal game.

Smithtown's Luke Eschbach dives for the ball to beat out Ward Melville players. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Smithtown’s Luke Eschbach dives for the ball to beat out Ward Melville players. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The Bulls gained more time of possession as the game continued, but over the next seven minutes neither team could find the back of the net, as the goalkeepers battled and batted the ball away.

“We won most faceoffs, but couldn’t really take away they’re strong hands on defense, and couldn’t convert on offense,” Desimone said.

Harkin made a save for Smithtown off of Pryor’s initial attempt, but freshman attack Dylan Pallonetti grabbed the rebound in mid air and stuffed it past the keeper for the 13-11 lead. Although the Bulls found themselves down two goals again with minutes remaining, Desimone came through again for his team with another goal off a feed from Latini. Arceri won the final faceoff, but a turnover in the final seconds sealed the Bulls’ fate. The Patriots raced across the field, dropping their sticks and stripping themselves of their gear, and leapt into a pile of victory, smiling from ear to ear.

“We knew that they were going to score goals,” Kellerman said. “We had a feeling it was going to be high scoring, but we scored one more at the end and that’s all that matters. At the faceoff ‘X’ we did a great job neutralizing Gerard Arceri. We weren’t going to win them all, we knew that, but I was confident.”

Ward Melville hosted Riverhead on Wednesday, but results were not available by press time.

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Troy Davern hurls a pitch. Photo by Bill Landon
Troy Davern hurls a pitch. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Despite being the League I champion from last year, Ward Melville has some unfinished business on the baseball diamond as the Patriots look to avenge their Suffolk County title loss from last spring. Losing six seniors to graduation, the squad has some pretty big shoes to fill, but is confident that returning starters will be able to do just that.

Between the varsity and junior varsity team, the Patriots are 58 players strong, which is a testament to the baseball culture that permeates all who wear the green and gold — due in part to its famous 2009 graduate, Mets starting pitcher Steven Matz. The lefty pitching sensation doesn’t stray far from the Ward Melville campus, and has become a galvanizing force for the Patriot players.

“Our pitching staff is going to be one of our strong points again at Ward Melville, and that’s been a standard for the last seven years,” Ward Melville head coach Lou Petrucci said. “Steven Matz put baseball on the map here at Ward Melville. We’ve had tremendous success here. The kids look up to Steven. Steven comes back here and works with the pitchers; it’s exciting for the school, the community, Long Island and baseball fans in general.”

Tom Hudzik winds up to toss the ball across the gym. Photo by Bill Landon
Tom Hudzik winds up to toss the ball across the gym. Photo by Bill Landon

Ward Melville finished last year with an impressive 24-4 record, but fell in the County Championship to Connetquot, 1-5, 4-3, 0-6.

Senior first basemen Dominic Lamonica said despite losing seven seniors, his team has worked hard in the offseason to offset the loss.

“Losing Joe Flynn, one of the best players Suffolk County has seen in years, definitely hurts us, but we have a bunch of talented guys and we’ve been waiting for this to come,” Lamonica said. “We want revenge, because losing in the county [finals] was a horrible feeling.”

Petrucci said he likes the look of his pitching staff, adding that he expects big things from Ben Brown, a junior who went 7-1 last season.

“We lost those seniors who were very vocal in our dugout,” Brown said. “But I think we have the players here that can step in and fill that void.”

Petrucci said the team is going to rely heavily on Troy Davern, Alex Betz and Frank Merlino, and added that Max Neilsen, a ninth-grader, is challenging for a starting role.

Senior shortstop Nick Vitale agreed with Brown that last year’s seniors were the core of the offensive lineup, but is feeling optimistic about his team’s chances this season.

“We have pretty big shoes to fill, but most of last year’s starters are still here this season,” he said. “Losing those starters is big, but I think we’ll be fine.”

Joe Rosselli makes contact with the ball during an indoor practice. Photo by Bill Landon
Joe Rosselli makes contact with the ball during an indoor practice. Photo by Bill Landon

Lamonica said he thinks Commack has a lot of good arms, and sees Longwood and Sachem East as being possible League I threats, but said you never know what will happen.

The Patriots scrimmaged six times before their season opener against Commack on Tuesday, where Ward Melville shut out its opponent 4-0. Although Wednesday’s game results were unavailable by press time, the team travels to Commack today, at 4:15 p.m., for the final game of the series.

In the win, senior Pat Morelli made his first varsity start and drove in two runs to lead his team. He had an RBI single at the bottom of the third to make the score 3-0. Brandon Lee and Lamonica each went 2-for-2, and Davern tossed two scoreless innings to earn the save.

“We just have to stay within ourselves,” Lamonica said. “We’ve got a bunch of talented guys here and a bunch of returning starters, so if we all play within ourselves and play as clean as we can, I think we’ll be good to go this year.”

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Ward Melville’s Christian Araneo captured his second straight New York State championship title on Feb. 27 in Albany. Photo from Three Village Central School District
Ward Melville’s Christian Araneo captured his second straight New York State championship title on Feb. 27 in Albany. Photo from Three Village Central School District
Ward Melville’s Christian Araneo captured his second straight New York State championship title on Feb. 27 in Albany. Photo from Three Village Central School District

Ward Melville wrestler Christian Araneo captured his second straight win at the New York State wrestling championship on Feb. 27 in Albany.

Competing in the 195-pound weight class, the 6-foot-4-inch Araneo proved to be a tough competitor throughout the championship.

With his technical fall when he reached 16-0 at the 4:57 mark of his matchup against Arlington’s Tanner Nielsen, it was on to the quarterfinals.

Araneo’s takedown of Baldwinsville’s Alex Bowen just 15 seconds into their bout put him ahead 2-0, and the tone was set for him to win the match with a 7-1 decision.

He went on to edge Mike DiNardo of Mahopac, 3-1, to win the title and improve to a perfect 42-0 on the season.

Centereach senior Kevin Callahan drives the baseline around Ward Melville junior Dominic Pryor. Photo by Bill Landon
Ward Melville junior Dominic Pryor reaches for the ball on a rebound. Photo by Bill Landon
Ward Melville junior Dominic Pryor reaches for the ball on a rebound. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Centereach achieved something this season that hasn’t happened since 2010: they made it to the postseason. Not only did the boys’ basketball team make the playoffs, the No. 14 seed hosted No. 19 Ward Melville on its own home court. The Cougars were able to close within eight points midway through the final quarter, but that was the closest they would get, as the Patriots floored it in the final minutes to put the game away, 59-41.

Ward Melville stretched its legs early, and edged ahead 12-4 after eight minutes of play. The Patriots’ defense was swarming, blocking several shots.

While the Cougars struggled offensively, the Patriots found their 3-point range during the second quarter, with senior Mathew O’Hea netting one, and teammate Mathew Hudzik, a junior, swishing his second trey of the game, to put the team out front 22-13 at the halftime break.

Ward Melville opened the second half much like it did the first, with 3-pointers from O’Hea and Hudzik. Centereach countered when Kevin Callahan fouled from 3-point land. Despite thunderous calls from the visiting crowd, the senior swished all three attempts.

Centereach junior Jon Agostino drives the lane as he makes his way to the rim. Photo by Bill Landon
Centereach junior Jon Agostino drives the lane as he makes his way to the rim. Photo by Bill Landon

“We haven’t made it in a while — it’s a different mindset and it’s a big deal,” Callahan said. “It’s a big crowd and lot of people come out, so it’s a lot of pressure.”

Centereach senior Justin Eck also nailed a 3-point field goal, to make it a 10-point game with two minutes left in the third.

“We focused on this round just like we did with the in-season games,” Eck said. “We needed to focus on our game plan. … We focused on execution — we tried to stay loose and play our game.”

Centereach junior Jon Agostino hit his second 3-pointer to make it a nine point game, and both teams traded points before the Cougars, on a defensive steal, converted the opportunity to draw within eight points with 4:03 left in regulation.

“Tonight we fed off of our defensive energy,” Ward Melville head coach Alexander Piccirillo said. “We thrived on stops, or holding someone to just one shot or forcing a bad shot, and that translates to the offensive side of the ball.”

Hudzik executed his fifth trifecta of the evening to re-extend the Patriots’ lead, and with time running out, Centereach was forced to arrest the clock. The Cougars sent Hudzik to the line after a foul, and the junior went 6-for-6 from the charity stripe to put the game out of reach.

Centereach senior Justin Eck scores a layup while Ward Melville junior Mathew Hudzik reaches for the block. Photo by Bill Landon
Centereach senior Justin Eck scores a layup while Ward Melville junior Mathew Hudzik reaches for the block. Photo by Bill Landon

“We looked at the film from our loss to Commack [10 days ago] and we learned from that,” said Hudzik, who scored 21 points on the evening. “We did our best to do everything right that we did wrong in that game.”

According to Centereach head coach Ed Miller, having endured a long playoff drought, this season was a testament to the commitment of his Cougars senior leadership.

“They came out and shot the ball well, and you can’t take anything away from them,” he said of Ward Melville. “They made it very difficult to play against them. Alex does a great job over there and they’re in the right spots.”

Miller added that he was proud of his team, and admired their sense of urgency and the contribution each of them made this season.

“They’ve set the stage they laid the groundwork to get our program back to where we want to be,” he said. “I know the effort that they put into the off season, so it was my seniors that I was most impressed with.”

Ward Melville junior Noah Kepes said his team’s preparation for this game was the same as it was for the regular season, and will be for the rest of the postseason.

Ward Melville junior Mathew Hudzik scores one of his five 3-pointers. Photo by Bill Landon
Ward Melville junior Mathew Hudzik scores one of his five 3-pointers. Photo by Bill Landon

“We tried to not get all in our heads, because it’s a playoff game,” he said. “We’ve been working on defensive slides every day in practice. Just the same thing we’ve been doing — it’s like any other game.”

The Patriots hit the road tomorrow, Feb. 13, to take on No. 3-seeeded Half Hollow Hills West, with tipoff scheduled for noon.

“We’ll get a film from somebody in their league, we’ll get a scouting report, we’ll get a good practice in tomorrow and then we’re going to get on the bus and go over there,” Piccirillo said. “We’re going to defend like crazy; we’re going to be ready for them, and I hope they’re ready for us.”

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Heidi Scarth attempts to maintain possession of the ball between defenders while going up for the layup. Photo by Desirée Keegan

For the first time since 1988, the Ward Melville girls’ basketball team is No. 1.

The Patriots pushed past Brentwood Tuesday, 50-35, to earn a share of the League I title with Commack, which was undefeated until outscored by Ward Melville a week ago, 52-35, to put the Patriots in a position to claim a piece of the prize.

“It is total elation,” senior center Heidi Scarth said of the title. “We had a game plan and we went out there and executed it, and that’s why we won this game. Getting this league championship title was one of our big goals. We’re all so excited and ready for playoffs.”

Kiera Ramaliu passes the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Kiera Ramaliu passes the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Ward Melville jumped out in front 13-0 in the first quarter, with Scarth and sophomore guard Kiera Ramaliu netting four points apiece. The team almost kept their opponent off the scoreboard, but with 16 seconds left, Brentwood sank a field goal to go into the second stanza down 11 points.

Junior guard Taylor Tripptree started the next eight minutes like she did the first, scoring the first two points, but Ward Melville’s defense lost its rhythm, which led five straight Brentwood points. Ramaliu and Tripptree had big blocks to keep the Lions contained, but the team ran into some trouble on the offensive end. Still, the Patriots were up 21-14 heading into the halftime break.

“We were a bit shaky in the second quarter, but we pulled it together,” Tripptree said.

The team was able to outscore its opponent in the third, but by a slim margin, 16-14, increasing the lead to 37-28 heading into the game’s final quarter.

“While we had a couple of rough spots, I think in the end they did what they had to do to win,” Ward Melville head coach Bruce Haller said. “Letting up 35 points against a playoff team like Brentwood is good defense, so we’re pleased. Now our girls are ready to give their best effort on Friday.”

Taylor Tripptree dribbles around an opponent. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Taylor Tripptree dribbles around an opponent. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Tripptree, who finished with a game-high 15 points, said it was Haller’s halftime talk that motivated the team to push harder in the third and fourth quarter.

“Coach told us to pick it up, and we all came together as a team,” she said.

Scarth, who netted nine points, said she agreed that team is a force when the current group of girls she plays with unites, like they did when they outscored Brentwood 13-7 in the fourth quarter for the win.

“I think that making that extra pass, looking for your teammates and non-selfish playing is what really made us league champs,” she said. “I think we have a really strong group of girls that play as a team.”

Scarth said her team is ready and prepared for the postseason. The Patriots are the No. 1 seed, and will host the winner of the No. 16 West Babylon/No. 17 Centereach outbracket matchup on Feb. 12, at 6 p.m.

Tripptree said Ward Melville’s 17-1 overall record shows how her team is always working to achieve its goals, and there’s more to be met.

“Getting to this moment is what our first goal was this season,” she said, “Now we will keep going farther, because we’re not done yet.”

Noah Kepes drives the lane. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Tim Specht reaches for the rim from inside the paint. Photo by Bill Landon
Tim Specht reaches for the rim from inside the paint. Photo by Bill Landon

With two games left to play in the regular season, the Ward Melville boys’ basketball team, at 6-5 in League I, was playing for its postseason life when the team hit the road to take on Commack Tuesday.

The game was close through three quarters, but Commack, also at 6-5 at the start of the game, slowly edged ahead in a game largely decided at the free-throw line, to win 56-45.

The Patriots led by two points after the first eight minutes of play, and Commack enjoyed a one-point lead at the halftime break. Ward Melville senior Mathew O’Hea had the hot hand in the first half, netting four field goals in the first quarter and nine more in the second.

O’Hea said it’s a hostile environment whenever his team travels to Commack.

“It’s always tough to play here — they’ve got a really great fan base,” O’Hea said. “I thought we played hard — we gave it a great effort — but we just didn’t come out with a win tonight.”

With the game tied at 30-30, Ward Melville senior Tim Specht went to the line shooting two and swished both for the lead at the 6:53 mark of the third.

“Commack’s known for their crowd, and getting in our faces when we make mistakes,” Specht said. “So we knew that was coming, and we fell into that trap at the end.”

Noah Kepes drives the lane. Photo by Bill Landon
Noah Kepes drives the lane. Photo by Bill Landon

It was Specht with the hot hand in the second half though. With his Patriots team up by two points, he went to the charity stripe and nailed both opportunities to help his team edge ahead, 38-34, with 1:55 left to go in the third period.

Commack battled back and retook the lead 40-38 to begin the final quarter, and the Patriots would not see a lead the rest of the way. The game, infested with fouls, sent Ward Melville junior Noah Kepes to the line, where he netted both to retie the game at 40-40, but that’s as close as the team would come.

Commack slowly edged ahead, point by point, and outscored the Patriots 10-3 at the charity stripe in the final minutes to win the game.

O’Hea led all scorers with 19, while Specht was next in line for the Patriots with 13 points.

Ward Melville head coach Alexander Piccirillo said his team played without a let-up for all 32 minutes. “We just couldn’t get some shots to fall and we struggled to get stops down the stretch,” he said. “We hit all of our free throws today, we boxed out, we were able to rebound with them, but we turned it over in key spots and when we needed a big shot, we just couldn’t get it to fall.”

Matthew O’Hea shoots. Photo by Bill Landon
Matthew O’Hea shoots. Photo by Bill Landon

Ward Melville takes on William Floyd at home in a must-win game Friday, Feb. 5, at 6:15 p.m., before facing undefeated powerhouse Brentwood on Monday to wrap up the regular season.

To prepare for Friday’s game against Floyd, Piccirillo said his team will prepare like it would for any other game, adding that his players will have two good practices to be fully prepared for the last home game.

“We’ll just mentally prepare — we’ll watch film because its senior night and we need that win,” Specht said. “We will not leave the gym without that win.”

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The Ward Melville cheerleading team poses for a group photo after claiming the top spot at the Empire Regionals for the third consecutive year. Photo from Loren Quitoni

The Ward Melville cheerleading team is heading back to nationals next month.

After placing in the top three at three state competitions this season, the Patriots also finished first for the third year in a row at the Empire Regionals at Hofstra University in December, where the girls earned an automatic bid to attend the national competition in Walt Disney World on Feb. 6 and 7.

“We worked really hard to perform the way we did that day,” senior co-captain Kellyann Egan said of the team’s performance that earned them the right to perform on the big stage for the fourth year in a row. “There was more pressure there because we wanted to do really well at home, and we ended up placing first and taking the automatic bid home and a banner for our gym.”

This was the first season when cheerleading was recognized as a sport by Section XI, and although the state scoring is different than that of the Universal Cheerleaders Association guidelines that the teams are used to, Ward Melville head coach Loren Quitoni said she’s just glad her girls are getting the recognition she feels they should.

“Being declared a sport has been a great way to give all cheerleaders the long overdue respect that they earned and deserve,” she said. “As there is more and more exposure to the sport each year, there is more and more respect and support given. Cheerleaders practice all but two months. It is extremely demanding on the body and requires an endless amount of time spent on proper safety skills, body technique and correct execution, not to mention that they perform during football and basketball season, on top of their own competition season.”

Cheerleading being declared a sport has also helped Ward Melville take part in more competitions, Quitoni said.

“Being a super large team, there weren’t many competitions that were offered that would hold so many girls, so we were never really able to compete that much in the past,” she said. “With each competition they’ve been getting better and better.”

The Ward Melville cheerleading team performs on the sidelines of a football game. Photo from Loren Quitoni
The Ward Melville cheerleading team performs on the sidelines of a football game. Photo from Loren Quitoni

The girls are in Division I Super Large, and although it’s been challenging for Quitoni to get all 35 of her girls in sync, senior co-captain and three-year varsity competitor Melanie Adams said she’s been surprised by what the team has been able to accomplish.

“I was nervous when I heard that we had so many younger girls, but they’ve really impressed me with their maturity and skill level,” she said of the team’s 15 freshmen and sophomores. “Representing Ward Melville is one of my favorite things. It’s very different from any other sport because you can’t ever just rely on yourself, you have to rely on your teammates, too, and they never let me down.”

Besides all that they do cheering-on their fellow student-athletes and taking part in their own competitions, the Patriots also partake in a myriad of fundraisers and community events, like clinics, family fun night at Minnesauke Elementary School and Stony Brook’s breast cancer walk, while also serving as special helpers at a dinner hosted by the school in honor of a student who is battling cancer, and adopting a family for the holidays.

“I love helping out,” senior three-year varsity cheerleader and co-captain Katarina Ramos said. “It’s really nice to gather together as a team to support the community and support our friends and our classmates.”

The squad also added a new teammate in sophomore Kim Yuknis, who is in a wheelchair.

“The girls have adopted her as one of their own,” Quitoni said. “She comes to every practice.”

Yuknis said she’s had a lot of fun fulfilling her dream of being on the varsity team, and hopes the Patriots can excel at nationals.

“I want them to do their best and I’m always going to be supporting them because they’ve always done that for me,” she said. “Loren was my gym teacher and helped me achieve this goal of mine. She’s always been supportive and she’s always believed in me. I’m very grateful, and I hope to be able to give back to them what they’ve given to me.”

Now that the big day is fast approaching, senior co-captain Katrina Henry said her squad is focused on next weekend’s event.

“We’re just working hard on competing at nationals and trying to do the best that we can do,” she said.

The girls have one more competition on Saturday before nationals, and Adams said her team’s goal is to outdo last year’s feat, where the girls placed 11th, coming just one or two points shy of breaking the top 10.

“We practice so much and we’re just so good this year,” she said. “We struggled at times in previous years, but I only see good things in the future. The practices haven’t been all that hard, and I know the girls listen very well and they take direction. I want to do even better than Top 10. I want to make the Top 5 this year, and I really think my team can make it.”

Ward Melville's Peyton LaTourrette, on left, reaches for a touch during one of his bouts against a Huntington opponent, in the Patriots' 22-5 win over the Blue Devils on Jan. 15. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Ward Melville’s prowess as fencers has helped the boys continue their undefeated streak as the Patriots made short work of Huntington Friday night on their way to a 22-5 victory, to improve to 11-0 on the season.

Ward Melville rattled off five quick victories for an early lead before Huntington answered back when Josh Yanuck blanked his opponent to put the Blue Devils on the scoreboard. The interruption would be brief though, as the Patriots won the next seven out of eight bouts to jump out to a 12-2 lead.

Ward Melville's Daniel Deto, on left, reaches for a touch during one of his bouts against a Huntington opponent, in the Patriots' 22-5 win over the Blue Devils on Jan. 15. Photo by Bill Landon
Ward Melville’s Daniel Deto, on left, reaches for a touch during one of his bouts against a Huntington opponent, in the Patriots’ 22-5 win over the Blue Devils on Jan. 15. Photo by Bill Landon

Ward Melville sophomore sabreist Daniel Solomon won all three of his bouts without allowing a single touch. Fellow sabreist Daniel Deto, a junior, notched three victories of his own, as the national championship qualifier bested his challengers 5-3, 5-2 and 5-0.

Ward Melville head coach Jeff Salmon said he was pleased with Deto’s comeback performance on the strip, which helped him shake off a recent slump.

“Danny Deto had a couple of bad outings in a row, so it’s nice to see him where he was four or five meets ago,” he said.

Ward Melville senior Stephen Jackson led the way in foil, winning all three of his matches 5-1, 5-0 and 5-2.

“I did exceptionally well today — I was actually very surprised that I was able to win all three of my bouts they way I did,” said Jackson, an All-County player and junior Olympic qualifier. “At our last meet against Commack I was a little off balance, but today I was able to keep my focus the whole time.”

Ward Melville junior Michael Jaklitsch, another junior Olympic qualifier, also swept his bouts, as the épéeist defeated both of his challengers, 5-1.

Ward Melville senior Peyton LaTourrette took victories in both of his appearances as well, winning 5-4 and 5-1 in foil, as did junior sabreist Jack Rohan, who won both of his bouts 5-2.

“Today wasn’t my best, I had a couple of equipment malfunctions,” said LaTourrette, an All-Long Island player and national champion qualifier. “But that happens in fencing and you’ve just got to work through it.”

Ward Melville's Stephen Jackson competes during a bout against a Huntington opponent in the Patriots' 22-5 win over the Blue Devils on Jan. 15. Photo by Bill Landon
Ward Melville’s Stephen Jackson competes during a bout against a Huntington opponent in the Patriots’ 22-5 win over the Blue Devils on Jan. 15. Photo by Bill Landon

The senior foilsit said the team’s consistency and winning ways are directly attributed to the team’s coaches, and Jackson agreed.

“We have a really great coaching staff, they’re supportive and they dedicate a lot of their time,” Jackson said. “They help us learn how to be the best fencers we can be and I’m really thankful that I have their support.”

Yanuck a foilist, won both of his matches for Huntington, 5-0 and 5-3. Rounding out the scoring for Huntington was Jack O’Heir with a 5-4 victory in épée, and Dillon Collier and Dawson Wallace, who both contributed 5-1 wins in foil. With the loss, Huntington fell to 3-6 on the season.

With the win, Ward Melville has won 225 individual bouts on the season, while dropping just 72.

“We start from the bottom up and we maintain from the bottom up, so by the time they’re my seniors or upperclassman, they’re already prepared, so I don’t have to coach them much,” Salmon said. “I do all my preparation in the gym and I work more with the younger ones so I don’t have to work so hard at the end, so it’s a pyramid strategy.”

Ward Melville, which is now on a 135-match win streak, will host Half Hollow Hills on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m.

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Taylor Tripptree races ahead of the pack and drives the lane for the layup in the Patriots' 56-18 win over William Floyd on Jan. 12. Photo by Desirée Keegan

With 10 players contributing to the score and more than half the points coming from three-pointers alone, the Ward Melville girls’ basketball team had no problem cruising to a 56-18 win over William Floyd Tuesday.

“We worked well together,” junior guard Hannah Lorenzen said. “We really stepped up our defense, and we have a lot of shooting guards that can make threes; we did that pretty well today.”

Kira Sells nails one of her four three-pointers on the evening in the Patriots' 56-18 win over William Floyd on Jan. 12. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Kira Sells nails one of her four three-pointers on the evening in the Patriots’ 56-18 win over William Floyd on Jan. 12. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The Patriots started the game off by scoring eight straight points, with senior forward Heidi Scarth scoring half of them. The team was stealing passes and forcing William Floyd turnovers, but the Colonials bounced back to score five straight points.

Ward Melville re-extended its lead by the end of the first quarter, with senior guard Kira Sells and junior guard and forward Taylor Tripptree knocking down a three-pointer apiece to give their team a commanding 14-5 lead.

“It’s definitely one of our strongest points to our game,” Sells said of scoring three-pointers. “I know I could do better. So I’m just working on getting better every game.”

Sells did do one better, though.

After Shannon Berry banked three field goals to swing the tempo of the game, Sells swished two more treys to help her team further its lead to 30-10 by halftime.

Lorenzen said her teammates did a good job of passing outside if they couldn’t enter the paint.

“It does help a lot, because if we can’t penetrate through the paint, we can kick it and depend on our shooting guards to make the threes, which helps us get ahead,” she said.

But Ward Melville head coach Bruce Haller said a team that wants to go up against the best-of-the-best in Suffolk County, like Brentwood, Longwood, Sachem East and the county-best Commack, would need to play with a more balanced attack.

“It’s a double-edged sword,” he said. “The three is a great weapon, but if you fall too much in love with it and your three isn’t going in that particular game, now what? It’s all or nothing. That’s why we’re focusing on getting the ball inside a little more and getting some second shots. When those threes get missed, someone needs to be hitting the board from the weak side to get some putbacks.”

Hannah Lorenzen remains in control as she sets up a play in the Patriots' 56-18 win over William Floyd on Jan. 12. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Hannah Lorenzen remains in control as she sets up a play in the Patriots’ 56-18 win over William Floyd on Jan. 12. Photo by Desirée Keegan

What did work for the team, though, was getting enough ahead that more bench players were able to see minutes.

“The kids work really hard in practice all the time and it’s nice to get them out on the court, get them some playing time and have them make some shots,” he said. “We have a very talented, deep group.”

Six of the 10 players that scored on that deep roster banked trifectas, and 31 of the team’s total points came from the five bench players that scored.

Bre Cohn and Maggie Zanone came off the bench in the fourth to score six points and three points, respectively, while stealing passes and dishing assists to close out the scoring for the game.

“We’re all close on and off the court,” Lorenzen said. “We have classes together, eat lunch together — so we’re all friends.”

Haller said his team has come a long way, making the decision to come together and step up to replace the injured freshman leading scorer from last year’s team: Lauren Hansen.

“They could have felt sorry for themselves,” he said. “Instead, a number of players are stepping up and taking over responsibilities or a bit of a different role that we didn’t anticipate them having in the preseason, and they’ve done a good job of it. Instead, they decided that they’re going to make a run for this thing.”

Tom Rotanz poses for a photo with a gold medal and trophy after the U-19 team he was an assistant coach of won a world championship. Photo from Tom Rotanz

A familiar face is stepping onto the college lacrosse scene.

Tom Rotanz, a former head boys’ lacrosse coach for Shoreham-Wading River for 18 years, will helm St. Joseph’s College’s new men’s lacrosse program, which will begin its first season in spring 2017.

“It’s something I always wanted to do,” Rotanz said of joining the college ranks. “I think any competitive athlete and coach wants to show someone what good can come from having the right people around you and the good players that are willing to commit themselves, and I hope to have another successful tenure at St. Joseph’s.”

Tom Rotanz will be the first head coach for St. Joseph's College's men's lacrosse program. Photo from Tom Rotanz
Tom Rotanz will be the first head coach for St. Joseph’s College’s men’s lacrosse program. Photo from Tom Rotanz

Rotanz has a long history with lacrosse.

His elder brother was on the team that won Ward Melville’s first Long Island championship in 1974, and the younger Rotanz was part of the squad that won the second and third in 1976 and 1977. The lacrosse captain earned All-American honors as a senior in 1977, after his team also made it to the New York State championship game, the first one for lacrosse. The boys lost that game, 12-11.

From there, he was the captain of the Suffolk County Community College lacrosse team that won a national championship and earned All-American honors twice. He then repeated that feat at Adelphi University, where he was also named an All-American twice.

“Tom was a great player,” said his former high school coach, and a legend on the lacrosse scene, Joe Cuozzo. “He was a great competitor, had a great sense of humor about him, and I really enjoyed working with him.”

As a coach himself, with the Shoreham-Wading River Wildcats’ program only a year old, Rotanz took over a roster of 14 players, including six freshmen. The team went 1-15 his first season, scoring 38 goals on the year. But seven years later, the team was ranked fourth in the country, after winning a New York State championship and scoring close to 400 goals.

“It snowballed into something that was really neat to be a part of,” he said. “In the last 13 years I was there, we won 10 county championships, five Long Island and three New York State. People always wondered why or how we kept winning every year and being ranked one or two in the county. I say if you have bright kids that buy into the system, I think anything is possible.”

Tom Rotanz gets water dumped on his head by a former Shoreham-Wading River team after a win. Photo from Tom Rotanz
Tom Rotanz gets water dumped on his head by a former Shoreham-Wading River team after a win. Photo from Tom Rotanz

Rotanz earned his first of six Suffolk County Coach of the Year honors in 1999, two years before he led the program to its first county championship in 2001. In 2002, the program repeated as Suffolk champs en route to Long Island and New York State titles. The team also swept Suffolk, Long Island and New York State championship titles in 2007 and 2012.

In 2012, the coach added to his list of accolades, serving as an assistant for the 2012 USA Men’s U-19 lacrosse team that won a world championship.

Now, he hopes to be able to bring that same success to St. Joseph’s, and Shantey Hill, assistant vice president and senior director of athletics and recreation for the college, thinks Rotanz is the perfect fit.

“We were very lucky in that Coach Rotanz applied,” she said, referring to the school’s intensive, national search across all NCAA institutions. “He has a plethora of experience, and … he knows the landscape of Long Island, and he’s very well-connected with his peers to be able to do good recruiting for what we’re looking for.”

For Rotanz, being on the scene as long as he has and being a part of Long Island lacrosse, serving as an assistant coach at Smithtown West for the last two years, will be beneficial throughout the recruiting process for the Golden Eagles.

“I’m very close friends with a lot of the Suffolk and Nassau coaches, so they’re already contacting me with players that they think will be a great fit, kids that they think would really like to play for me; so that’s the neat thing.”

He added, laughing, “I think there will be a lot more kids that think about not leaving the Island now, hopefully.”

Tom Rotanz makes a save during a Ward Melville boys' lacrosse game. He helped the team to two Long Island championship titles and a New York State championship appearance. Photo from Tom Rotanz
Tom Rotanz makes a save during a Ward Melville boys’ lacrosse game. He helped the team to two Long Island championship titles and a New York State championship appearance. Photo from Tom Rotanz

According to Hill, the school decided the time was right for a lacrosse program after seeing that a number of Division III student-athletes in the college’s Skyline Conference that commit to play lacrosse come from Long Island and that there was interest with incoming and current students. The college also built a new outdoor athletic facility.

Hill said St. Joseph’s found the right coach in Rotanz.

“We think we hit a home run with coach Rotanz,” she said. “He’s not only a wonderful coach, but also a great man, and he will do great things. We’re looking forward to him not only being the face of the lacrosse program, but also being a mentor to our male student-athletes. His tenure speaks for itself. He’s very well-connected, and he has good relationships with lots of people, and that’s something you can’t put a price tag on.”

Cuozzo, who was inducted into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame, said he used to go to Shoreham-Wading River practices and games to watch his former athlete, and has been thrilled with his approach to the game.

“The way he treats kids, he’s a real student of the game, and I can’t say enough on how proud I am of his accomplishments,” he said. “He brings a winning attitude.”

Rotanz, who said he tries to emulate the ways and successes of his former coach, is competitive, according to Cuozzo.

“He hates to lose — I think he got that from me,” he said, laughing. “I wasn’t a very good loser.”

Luckily, neither one of them has had to do much of that.

Tom Rotanz coaches from the sidelines of a Shoreham-Wading River boys' lacrosse game. Photo from Tom Rotanz
Tom Rotanz coaches from the sidelines of a Shoreham-Wading River boys’ lacrosse game. Photo from Tom Rotanz

Cuozzo compiled a 699-73 record while at the helm of the Patriots’ program. In 2007, he became the head coach at Mount Sinai, where he brought his win total to 747 in his four years before retirement. During his tenure with the Wildcats, Rotanz amassed a 256-99 record.

Cuozzo also thinks Rotanz will be able to draw athletes to the school.

“A lot of kids like to leave Long Island when they are finished with high school — they don’t want to stay local — but knowing Tom, he’s very convincing,” Cuozzo said. “He’ll do his homework. He’ll go out and scout, he’ll go to high school games and he’ll talk, make phone calls. He’s very organized, he’s very knowledgeable about the game, and there’s no doubt in my mind that he’s going to be successful there.”

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