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Ward Melville

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Kristen Fraas leaps over the hurdle for Ward Melville. Photo from Fraas

Athletes use different things for motivation. Some are fueled by a desire to be the best. Some are highly competitive. Some are driven by the fear of letting down their teammates. In a sport like track and field, where the main competitor is the clock as much as the opponent, it can be difficult to maintain a competitive edge. But Kirsten Fraas never had an issue with staying intrinsically motivated during her outstanding career with the Ward Melville track and field team.

“What got me out of my bed was the fear of disappointing my coaches,” Fraas said. “I always wanted to do my best because what’s the point of me going to practice if I wasn’t going to put my whole heart into it? I also wanted to be there for my team. I didn’t want to let any of them down, either. I got myself out of bed to be the best I could be and to be consistent for my team.”

Fraas’ former and future coaches said the track and field competitor has a relentless work ethic.

“She has an amazing work ethic,” Ward Melville junior varsity head coach J.P. Dion said. “She came to practice every day ready to work and gave 100 percent every day.”

Fraas was a key member of a team that won back-to-back League 1 championships. She was highly decorated in her four-year varsity career, winning awards for being a scholar athlete and a tri-sport athlete, and she also won the Gold Key award, which is given to athletes who letter in at least eight of the nine seasons between grades 10 and 12.

“Kirsten is highly motivated and she’s a hard worker,” Stony Brook track and field assistant coach Howard Powell said of Fraas, shedding light on what made her an attractive recruit for their program. “I’m hoping that she can bring some of her strong work ethic to our team. I’m looking forward to working with her over the next couple of years.”

Fraas competed in multiple events during high school, including 100 and 400-meter hurdles, the 400 run, and the 4×4 relay. Fraas said the 4×4 was her favorite event. Powell mentioned plans to use Fraas in a variety of different events during her time at Stony Brook.

“I think that the thing I’ll miss most is my team,” Fraas said, reflecting on her time at Ward Melville. “We’re all very close knit and we’ve spent so much time together that we’ve become a family, so it’s [going to] be difficult leaving that part of my life behind.”

Dion reflected on the mark his now former runner left on the highly successful program.

She is a great kid,” he said. “Thanks to her leadership skills, she helped make our jobs as coaches easy. She is a very talented athlete and I wish her the best at Stony Brook.”

Fraas credited her family as being a strong support system.

“It means a lot to me that they’ve invested so much of their time into my success,” she said. “I honestly wouldn’t be where I am without them.”

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Young runners race around the track. Photo by Alex Petroski

The Ward Melville girls’ track and field team has found a way to raise money for its season while also providing families with young children from the district with a fun night to get out and exercise.

This is the third summer that the girls, lead by varsity coach Tom Youngs and junior varsity coach J.P. Deon, have organized races on six nights to host about 150 kids, though as many as 175 showed up on one night, from the community at the high school track.

“It [has] been really successful,” Youngs said of the three-year run of race nights, which took a hiatus last summer to allow for a new track to be put in at the high school. “We’ve gotten a lot of good feedback from the community.”

Nicole Murphy, a senior on the track team, also enjoys seeing the support the team gets during race nights.

“It’s nice to see everyone get together to participate in something,” Murphy said.

A little girl crosses the finish line in a 55-meter run. Photo by Alex Petroski
A little girl crosses the finish line in a 55-meter run. Photo by Alex Petroski

“It’s a great thing for the kids,” Tracy Seedorf, a community member and a parent of one of the runners, said. “My kid doesn’t play soccer. She’s not a ‘contact sport’ girl, so this is great. This makes it easier, especially when there’s a lot of kids here. It’s more fun for them.”

The race nights feature six events of various distances, with heats in each event for age group ranges.

“It’s a good opportunity for community members and their children, keeping them active and healthy throughout the summer months when they have that time to sit on the couch or just lay on the beach,” Youngs said. “It gives them something to look forward to every Thursday night.”

At the end of each race, members of the varsity track team wait at the finish line to write down the kid’s times on stickers that are stuck to runners shirts. The kids and their parents are encouraged to track their times in the various events to see their progress over the course of the summer.

“It’s nice to tie in the community,” Deon said. He added that a great deal of parents, and even grandparents’ involvement, is as a huge part of why the event has been successful. Ages of the runners span from 2 years old up to 12 or 13.

“I think they should start at an early age,” a parent, Marty Johnson, said of the importance of getting kids active, and also allowing them to socialize with their peers. Johnson said it was easy getting his kids enthusiastic about events like these. “My kids love being outside.”

Registration costs $5 a night per child, and three more race night events remain this year, including tonight. The registration period ends at 5:30 p.m. each Thursday, and races begin at 6 p.m. All of the funds raised go to the girls’ track team to be used for meets, invitationals, overnight trips and transportation.

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By Bill Landon

In the deciding game of the Suffolk County Class AA baseball championship, Ward Melville hit the road to take on Connetquot and was never able to mount a scoring threat, as the Thunderbirds ended the Patriots’ season with a 6-0 blanking, Thursday.

No. 2-seeded Ward Melville had forced a game three with a 4-3 win over No. 1 Connetquot on Wednesday, and senior third baseman Joseph Flynn continued to make a statement with his bat when he led off the first inning with a stand-up double. The Patriot bats were unable to bring him home, though, and with one out and two runners in scoring position in the bottom of the inning, Connetquot went to work, using a line drive to shallow right field to score both players for the first runs on the board.

Ward Melville threatened again in the top of the third when senior Daniel DeCastro laid down a bunt to advance the runner, junior Frank Merlino, over to second base. With one out, Ward Melville hit a high fly ball to right field and Merlino took off for home plate. The only problem was that Connetquot caught the ball just short of the fence and threw to second base for the double play to retire the side.

In the bottom of the third with runners in scoring position, Connetquot struck again on a Patriots miscue to edge ahead 3-0 on a passed ball to the plate. After a conference at the mound, Ward Melville’s senior Joseph Barbieri took over pitching duties for sophomore Ben Brown.

The damage wasn’t done though, as Connetquot plated two more runners to end the third inning with a five-run advantage.

Ward Melville struggled to challenge its opponent the rest of the way, and Connetquot scored once more in the bottom of the fifth inning on a long drive just inside the third baseline, for the 6-0 lead and the win.

Ward Melville head coach Lou Petrucci was proud of his team’s successful season.

“We’ve had a lot of great memories,” he said. “We had three walk-off wins during the playoffs and we finished the season 22-4. It was a great accomplishment by our seniors, as well as the freshman we brought up, so it’s just a great group of kids. But it’s the friendships this team has cherished the most, and that’s what high school baseball is all about.”

By Bill Landon & Desirée Keegan

Everything Brian Willetts has worked for led up to that moment.

With 1:53 left in double overtime in front of 3,000 fans at Wednesday evening’s Suffolk County Class A championship game, Smithtown East’s Willetts bounced in the game-winning goal to seal the deal for the Bulls for their second straight county title, with an 11-10 win over Ward Melville.

“When I’m training and working hard, I’m thinking about that final shot in the county championship,” the senior attack and co-captain said. “Once it went into overtime I’m immediately thinking ‘wow, this is my time,’ and I felt, as a leader, I had to take from ‘X’ and go get it.”

Willetts racked up a hat trick on the Stony Brook University field, while junior attack Dan Rooney added three goals and an assist to lead Smithtown East.

Both teams lit up the scoreboard consistently in the first quarter, with the action starting right from the opening faceoff.

The game was tied 1-1 after the first minute of play, with Willetts flicking one in and Ward Melville senior attack Billy McGinley responding with a goal of his own off an assist from senior attack Dan Bucaro.

Smithtown East dominated the faceoff ‘X,’ and senior faceoff specialist Gerard Arceri took the ball from midfield and headed straight to the cage, scoring unassisted to give his team a 2-1 advantage.

Smithtown East’s John Daniggelis, a midfielder and co-captain, found the net next off an assist from sophomore midfielder Bobby Burns, to give his team a 3-1 lead in a game that was still less than two minutes old.

Ward Melville senior midfielder Jake McCulloch’s shot found its mark to help his team pull within one, but Smithtown East quickly responded when sophomore attack Sean Barry found the back of the cage off an assist by junior attack Dan Rooney.

“I was thinking one faceoff was going to win the game, so it was a battle at the ‘X’ there at the end.” —Gerard Arceri, Smithtown East

Ward Melville’s Bucaro scored next, and Barry and Rooney connected for another Smithtown East goal, with Rooney scoring this time, and Willetts fired a shot off a pass from sophomore midfielder Bobby Burns, as the Bulls edged ahead, 6-3.

“I have to give a lot of credit to my defense,” Willetts said. “They made stop after stop against McCulloch and Bucaro, two of the best players in the county, so our defense was just unbelievable.”

Despite all the stops, McCulloch found a way to get to goal, and stretched the net twice more for a hat trick, to again pull his Patriots within one, 6-5, with 9:26 left in the second quarter.

Goals by Smithtown East’s Burns and fellow sophomore midfielder Connor Desimone gave the Bulls an 8-5 advantage with 6:58 left in the half.

Ward Melville junior midfielder John Burgdoerfer put a point on the scoreboard off a feed from McCulloch, to trim the deficit, but Rooney found the net for a second time to bring the score to 9-6 heading into the halftime break.

The Patriots opened the second half by rattling off three unanswered goals with two coming from Bucaro, and the third from senior midfielder James Kickel off an assist by McCulloch, to tie the game 9-9.

Daniggelis dished one off to Rooney, whose hat trick goal helped the Bulls pull out a 10-9 lead to begin the fourth quarter, and McCulloch scored the lone goal of the final 12 minutes, four minutes into the final quarter, to retie the score, 10-10, which held up until the end of regulation.

The game went into a four-minute overtime sudden-death period, but it yielded no goals.

“I lost the first [faceoff] in the first overtime period,” Arceri said. “I was thinking one faceoff was going to win the game, so it was a battle at the ‘X’ there at the end.”

Smithtown East senior goalkeeper Sean Turner stood strong between the pipes during the first overtime, even through a broken helmet switch, and made save after save — each punctuated by a gasp from the stadium crowd — to keep the Patriot high-octane offense at bay.

“Turner was unbelievable, especially in the fourth quarter,” Smithtown East head coach Jason Lambert said. “We weren’t scoring a lot after the third quarter, so he kept stepping up, making save after save and standing tall in the net. I can’t say enough good things about him, because that game could’ve gone either way.”

“It was a surreal feeling to be able to get that shot off for the game-winning goal for a team that I love so much.” —Brian Willetts, Smithtown East

At the 1:53 mark in the second overtime session, Smithtown East claimed its second straight Class A crown with Willetts’ goal.

“At our last timeout, [Willetts] said he wanted the ball in the huddle,” Lambert said. “He got it and he put it where it’s supposed to go.”

Willetts was overcome with emotion for what he was able to help his team achieve.

“I practiced that shot so many times,” he said. “It was a surreal feeling to be able to get that shot off for the game-winning goal for a team that I love so much.”

Lambert said that Ward Melville always sets the bar high, adding that as long as lacrosse has been played on Long Island, the Patriots have been at the top.

“I’m just so happy for these kids,” Lambert said. “We played a phenomenal opponent here tonight. They have great players; they have all the history there. My boys believed, they didn’t stop, they kept digging and they kept fighting.”

Smithtown East will face Syosset on Saturday for the Class A Long Island Championship title at Stony Brook University, with the opening faceoff scheduled for 3:30 p.m.

The boys are excited to get another shot at a Long Island title, as the team fell in a close 13-12 match to Massapequa last year.

“I’m so happy to get back to this point; to have another chance to win a Long Island Championship, it sure means a lot,” Turner said. “It means so much [to this team] and this time, we’re going to finish it.”

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Max Neilsen hurls a pitch from the mound in a Ward Melville baseball game earlier this season. File photo by Bill Landon
Max Neilsen hurls a pitch from the mound in a Ward Melville baseball game earlier this season. File photo by Bill Landon
Max Neilsen hurls a pitch from the mound in a Ward Melville baseball game earlier this season. File photo by Bill Landon

After completing the regular season with a 19-2 overall record and 16-2 mark in League I play, the No. 2 Ward Melville baseball team is hoping to power past East Islip, to take on the winner of the Connetquot/Smithtown East series in the Suffolk County Class AA finals.

After bypassing the qualifying round, the Patriots, with the help of starting pitcher Joe Barbieri, edged out and shut out No. 6 East Islip, 1-0, in the first of a three-game series.

The team traveled to its opponent on Wednesday. Should Ward Melville lose, the team will host East Islip on Thursday, at home at 4 p.m.

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Eddie Munoz celebrates a goal. Photo by Clayton Collier

By Clayton Collier

With 13 goals in the first half, the No. 4-seeded Ward Melville boys’ lacrosse team made quick work of No. 5 Half Hollow Hills East in a 17-1 routing Tuesday in the Suffolk County Class A quarterfinals.

Ward Melville head coach Jay Negus stressed to his team the need for a full 48 minutes of quality play to best their opponent.

“I’m very, very happy with the team’s effort today,” he said. “All year long I’ve been on them to play four quarters of Ward Melville lacrosse together, and today was it. … We put it all together today and at the perfect time. This is a very dangerous team when we can do that.”

Hills East head coach Gordie Hodgson said the Patriots were in control of the game the whole way through.

“I thought Ward Melville dominated in every aspect of the game,” he said. “They dominated on the faceoff and counter possession, and we weren’t able to generate offense because of it.”

Dan Bucaro maintains possession with Half Hollow Hills East players racing to stop him. Photo by Clayton Collier
Dan Bucaro maintains possession with Half Hollow Hills East players racing to stop him. Photo by Clayton Collier

In retrospect, all the Patriots needed was a 10-minute stretch to put the game out of reach for the Thunderbirds.

Ward Melville senior attack Dan Bucaro notched the first goal of the afternoon with just over five minutes remaining in the first quarter, muscling past a pair of Hills East defenders to sneak one past Thunderbirds goaltender Jordan Eichholz on the left side of the net. The goal was Bucaro’s first of four on the day.

“I came out fast and ready to go — the team really got me going,” he said. “Everyone came together today.”

The Georgetown University-bound senior said his work isn’t done with Ward Melville, and his goal opened the floodgates for the Patriots, as they tacked on an additional eight goals over the next 10 minutes of play.

Sophomore midfielder Eddie Munoz, who was responsible for two of those eight goals, said Negus told the team at halftime that the kind of offensive output the Patriots had has always been possible for the team.

“He said this was one of our first games this year that we played a full half,” Munoz said of Negus’ message to the team, while up 13-1. “We started off slow this season, so he said it was the first time that we started a first half well, and told us to just keep going.”

Senior attack Billy McGinley had a trio of goals, while classmates and midfielders Jake McCulloch, James Kickel and John Burgdoerfer each scored twice as well.

The lone Thunderbirds goal came on a deflection from Ward Melville junior goaltender D.J. Kellerman.

“He had a goal,” Bucaro said, with a laugh. “He played great, really. He’s just got to keep it up.”

Kellerman made eight saves on the day.

The Patriots will head to Northport Friday for the semifinals, taking on the No. 1-seeded Tigers at 4:15 p.m. at Veterans Park. Ward Melville will enter the game with a chip on their collective shoulder. The last time the two teams matched up, Northport scored four goals in the final quarter to edge out the Patriots, 7-6. Bucaro said his team is hungry to get the win the second time around.

“I’m expecting a really tough game,” he said. “They’re a very good team. We’ve got to get payback; we’ve got to get angry and be ready to play.”

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Holly Regan bounces the ball in for a Patriots goal. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

After a slow start, the Ward Melville girls’ lacrosse team kicked it into high gear to top Sachem North, 14-6, on the Patriots’ home turf Tuesday in their final game of the regular season.

After a senior day celebration for the 13 girls graduating on the roster, Ward Melville went to work.

Kayla Purdy fires at the cage for Ward Melville. Photo by Bill Landon
Kayla Purdy fires at the cage for Ward Melville. Photo by Bill Landon

Senior attack Samantha Nemirov dished one off to fellow classmate Alex Vignona, an attack and co-captain, who drove the ball home. Five minutes later, Ward Melville senior midfielder and co-captain Kayla Purdy found the back of the cage unassisted, to help her team pull out in front, 2-0.

Sachem North fired two straight shots to tie the game, but Ward Melville senior attack Katlyn Scarpinella, on a penalty play from the circle, faked a shot and flicked the ball over to Nemirov, who dumped it into the corner to help her team pull out in front, 3-2, to end the scoring in the first half.

“We came out strong early in the game. but they had a lot of good looks at the cage and they really ran our defense well,” Ward Melville head coach Kerri Kilkenny said. “We came out on fire in the second half, we sparked it on transition, we were more aggressive on the draw controls and we pushed forward.”

Ward Melville senior Catherine Smith, an attack and co-captain, got the ball rolling two minutes into the second half with a shot between the pipes, and Vignona and Nemirov connected on another play, this time, with Vignona assisting, as the team edged ahead 5-2. Nemirov returned the favor and dished one off to sophomore midfielder Kerry McKeever, whose shot found its mark with 19:30 left to play.

Ward Melville sophomore attack Kaitlin Thornton hit Nemirov, who was cutting across the front of the net, and whipped it in for her hat trick goal, and junior attack Holly Regan scored unassisted to give her team a commanding 8-2 lead.

“I think we started off a little slow early in the game,” Nemirov said, “But then we were able to put the pieces together and finish strong.”

Alex Vignona shoot for Ward Melville. Photo by Bill Landon
Alex Vignona shoot for Ward Melville. Photo by Bill Landon

With 13 minutes left Sachem North notched two unanswered goals, but Ward Melville’s Thornton and Nemirov scored next to bring the score to 10-4.

“We stepped it up in the second half,” Thornton said. “We won the draw and we pushed the ball to the cage.”

Sachem North’s defense picked off a pass near the crease and with three quick passes, the team advanced the ball the length of the field and found the net to trail by five.

Plagued by penalties, Ward Melville’s opponent was down two players, and Kilkenny said she was impressed with her team’s poise against Sachem North’s aggressive style of play.

“The girls held their composure through all of their yellow cards and aggressive play, and I was pleased with their discipline,” she said.

Another yellow card left Ward Melville up three players, and the Patriots looked to cash in on the opportunity.

Regan scored on a penalty shot, Nemirov tacked on another, and Purdy also scored off a penalty shot to bring the score to 13-5 with 1:32 left in the game.

“In the second half we just went to goal more — we were smarter with our passes,” Regan said. “We were making smart looks in the middle and our shooting percentage went up.”

Sachem North wouldn’t go quietly and stretched the net once more before Vignona tacked on the final goal of the game in the closing seconds, to put it away, 14-6.

“We were very excited at the start of the game because it was senior day,” Vignona said. “In the second half we picked it up, we were hitting our passes and we hit the back of the net, so it was just awesome for our senior day to win this one.”

With the win, the Patriots improve to 10-4 in Division I. As the No. 6 seed, the Patriots will play No. 11 Half Hollow Hills West on Saturday, May 16, in the first round of the playoffs. The opening draw is scheduled for noon.

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Corey Aviles, after forcing a turnover, races across the field and fires a shot across the net for a Patriots goal. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Being down 3-1 early against championship-caliber boys’ lacrosse program in Chaminade didn’t scare the Ward Melville Patriots.

The host team bounced back to tie the game in the second quarter and eventually edged ahead, holding onto a marginal lead to pull away with a 7-5 nonleague win.

“Chaminade is a great program,” Ward Melville head coach Jay Negus said. “It was a slugfest and our boys took a big step beating a powerhouse like Chaminade and I’m very proud of them. Even though it wasn’t as pretty as I would have liked in terms of execution — we had some breakdowns — we just wanted to put four quarters together and we did that today. We got the result we were looking for.”

Danny Bucaro maintains possession of the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Danny Bucaro maintains possession of the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Both teams came out on fire right off the opening faceoff, and Chaminade scored two quick goals before Ward Melville put its first point on the board to cut the deficit in half. The two teams traded possession with some passing miscues, and at the end of the first quarter the score remained 2-1.

The Flyers (now 8-2, 5-0 NSCHSAA AAA) scored again in the opening minutes of the second to edge ahead with a score of 3-1, but the Patriots (now 10-2, 6-2 League I) answered back with two quick goals. The first was a stick-side high left shot by junior midfielder Owen McAvoy to cut the lead to one. The second was a rocket from the right goal post by senior midfielder Corey Aviles after he forced a turnover in the Patriots zone, carrying it all the way down the field for the tying goal at 3-3.

“It’s great to get a big win against a school like Chaminade,” McAvoy said. “It’s the first game we really came out here and went balls to the wall — and put it to them.”

McAvoy added another goal off an offensive rebound that shocked the Chaminade goalkeeper, and Aviles tallied his second point with nine seconds left in the half to give his team a 5-3 advantage heading into halftime.

Negus addressed his team during the break and explained to his athletes that the game was all about seizing the opportunities when they were presented to them.

“You guys are taking that next step to be at that level with this team,” he said. “We got to give the defense a rest. Bury the ball and make this game out of reach.”

Still struggling to win possession at the faceoff, Chaminade capitalized early in the third to make it 5-4, but Ward Melville junior goalkeeper D.J. Kellerman came through with two big saves to preserve the one-goal advantage.

D.J. Kellerman attempts a save. Photo by Desirée Keegan
D.J. Kellerman attempts a save. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“I felt confident,” Kellerman said. “A little shaky in the beginning, but my defense really shut it down. I love them — they’re great.”

Ward Melville ripped another crossing shot to bring the advantage back to two, 6-4, and Kellerman caught another save to maintain the lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Senior midfielder Jake McCulloch rocketed a shot from nearly 20 yards early in the final stanza, and Chaminade scored once more a minute later. Kellerman made three big saves in the final minutes to keep the Flyers at bay and seal the Patriots’ 7-5 victory.

“It’s a big win for us as a program,” Kellerman said. “We had a tough loss against Northport [6-7, on April 22] but we bounced back. Coach did a great job getting us ready and we’re a hardworking team.”

What McAvoy said he thinks continues to lead the players to success is that ability to continue to fight, even when the team is down.

“We were fighting for ground balls and hustled all over the field,” he said. “We were fired up in the locker room and thought this could be a big statement make for us. We laid some bodies all over the field and really made them feel our presence.”

Aviles and McAvoy finished with two goals each, and McCulloch and senior attack Danny Bucaro tacked on a goal and an assist apiece, while Kellerman made 13 saves on the evening.

Ward Melville was scheduled to host Brentwood on Wednesday. The Patriots will travel to Patchogue-Medford on Friday, and the opening faceoff is scheduled for 4:30 p.m.

“We’ve been talking about fighting back against adversity and that shows the character of the team,” Negus said. “Today we showed that we can battle back against the best of them.”

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From left to right, Matt Lopiccolo, Jacob Arditti, Maki Stavropoulos, Jeff Towle and Mark Napoli signing their letters of intent. Photo from Chris Boltrek

By Clayton Collier

Five Ward Melville student athletes will continue their football careers after committing to play at the collegiate level — a rare occurrence for the lacrosse powerhouse that they hope will soon become a trend.

All-County quarterback Jeff Towle, center Maki Stavropoulos, guard Matt Lopiccolo, defensive end Jacob Arditti, and tackle Mark Napoli will all move on to play college football this fall.

Ward Melville head coach Chris Boltrek said having more of his athletes signing to play in college is essential in reviving the Patriots football program, largely because it makes the sport more appealing to other athletes at the school.

Jeff Towle reaches back to throw a pass in a previous contest. File photo by Bill Landon
Jeff Towle reaches back to throw a pass in a previous contest. File photo by Bill Landon

“To get the football program at Ward Melville to take off, the environment and the image had to change,” he said. “I thought there were plenty of good football athletes in the district that just didn’t realize the potential they had and didn’t realize that playing college football was a real possibility, and instead they gravitated toward lacrosse or baseball or other sports that they thought offered that for them.”

Boltrek, who played college football at St. Lawrence University after graduating from Ward Melville, said the program occasionally gets one player every few years who moves on to the collegiate level. Now having five in one year, he hopes it will bring new life into the program.

“To have five in one year is a pretty big deal for us,” the first-year varsity head coach said.

Towle, who will attend Division II Pace University this fall, also doubled as a talented catcher on the baseball team, but said football has long been his preference.

“I was always a quarterback at heart,” he said. “I just happened to be showing more talent in baseball at the time. Then I got my opportunity on the football field and play well. I’ve been a football guy my whole life.”

Towle was not even the starting quarterback until the final five games of the season. Serving as the reserve, Towle continued to train to ensure he would be ready should he get his chance.

“I worked as hard as I could, knowing maybe I’ll get a shot, maybe I won’t,” he said. “But if I did, I wanted to be ready.”

When Towle got his chance, he thrived, completing 13 touchdown passes and tossed for over 1,100 total yards of offense.

His mother, Jessica Spencer, said her son’s dedication led him to obtaining such an opportunity.

“He hung in there and he did everything they asked him to and it paid off,” she said. “I’m very proud of him and I’m very grateful to have him.”

Stavropoulos, a captain and three-time All-Division honoree, and Lopiccolo, who also achieved All-Division honors, will remain teammates as the pair heads to Division III Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Lopiccolo and Arditti, like Towle, had obstacles to overcome as both were cut from the junior varsity squad in ninth grade.

“I was sad because football is my sport — I’ve been playing since I was five,” Lopiccolo said. “But at the same time it gave me the drive to work harder and hit the gym.”

To ensure that they wouldn’t be cut again, the pair “lived in the gym,” as Boltrek described, working out for 90 minutes a day, five days a week under the coach’s guidance. Lopiccolo said he was thrilled when he and Arditti made the team the following year, crediting the effort they put in  aover the year to improve themselves physically.

“It’s crazy how the tiniest bit of effort can change something completely,” he said.

Napoli, the team’s final commit, was an All-Division tackle who will attend the Division III Stevenson University.

Towle said he, along with his four fellow teammates that committed to play college ball, owe their diligent work ethic and ultimate success to Boltrek for his ambition and guidance.

“To be honest, we probably worked harder than any team in the county throughout the week during the season, and that’s a credit to [Coach Boltrek],” he said. “We wouldn’t be where we are without him; any of us.”

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Ward Melville’s freshmen ice hockey team poses for a group photo after winning its second consecutive Suffolk County title. Photo from Billy Williams

The Ward Melville freshman ice hockey team capped off an undefeated season by winning the Suffolk County  Hockey League championship on March 3- with a win over Sachem.

The team finished the season with a record of 31-0, and has not lost a game in two years, with a record of 62-0.

This is back-to-back titles for the freshman team that had a dominant lineup led by Matthew Crasa, who was named the most valuable player of the playoffs, and sniper Jason Ruszkowski.

The team was led by head coach Mark Devlin, and assistant coaches Frank Catalina, Bobby Gazura and George Rainer.

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