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Warriors

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By Bill Landon

Comsewogue senior Hannah Dorney recalled the first time her field hockey team played Bay Shore, losing a close 2-1 game back on Sept. 13.

“We went into the game today thinking about last time, and just how devastating that loss was,” Dorney said. “It was a long bus ride home, and [the whole time] you’re thinking, ‘What could we have done better?’”

This time, the No. 9-seeded Warriors had the offense to support a solid defense, to pull away with a 3-2 win over No. 8 Bay Shore in the first round of the Class A playoffs Oct. 17.

Sophomore Kayleigh Mimnaugh had two goals in the win, scoring first on a flick pass from junior Sophia Azzara and the game-winner on a player-down opportunity and a feed from senior Gabriella Ventura.

With the teams tied 1-1 heading into halftime after her first tally, she said a pep talk from head coach Jacqueline Wilkom got her juices flowing.

“Our halftime speech from the coach really pumped us up, and I think that we just worked harder overall in that second half,” Mimnaugh said. “We played well defensively.”

Dorney took working harder to heart, and opened the second half with a takeaway, outrunning defenders behind her as she carried the ball from the 35-yard line to the front of the cage for a solo shot and a 2-1 advantage.

Comsewogue had trouble capitalizing on its opportunities though, as Bay Shore committed six fouls in the striking circle, leading to six consecutive penalty corner shots from which the Warriors came away empty.

Being a player down for a majority of the second half — 20 minutes — defense was the name of the game for Comsewogue, but Bay Shore finally broke through, retying the game with 15:38 left to play.

Azzara said she was somewhat surprised with how her team weathered the storm in the second half.

“Honestly, I didn’t think we’d come out here and do this well against them,” she said. “But I knew we had it in us — we work really well together and we’re very close, so I think that helped us.”

Comsewogue, on a five-game winning streak, improves to 12-3 and advances to face No. 1 undefeated Ward Melville on the road Friday, Oct. 20 at 2:30 p.m.

“We have a talented group of girls — they’re fantastic athletes, and it’s just a matter of them coming out and giving it all that they have,” Wilkom said. “And so long as we play our game, I don’t think that there’s any team we can’t beat.”

For the Warriors, this bus ride home will be different.

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Mairead Micheline moves the ball into the circle amid a pack of defenders. Photo by Desirée Keegan

By Desirée Keegan

For Paloma Blatter, confirmation counts.

Paloma Blatter dribbles the ball up the field. Photo by Desirée Keegan

With seven minutes remaining in a 0-0 game against Patchogue-Medford, the Comsewogue field hockey sophomore scored on a scrum in front of the cage to win it, in an away game for the Warriors Sept. 26.

“It felt great personally to know you won it for your team, but getting the pats on the back from your teammates is the best approval you could ever get,” the midfielder said. “There’s nothing more important than putting it all on the line for your team.”

Comsewogue had some chances in the first half, but the team came up empty on several corner attempts. Sophomore defender Olivia Fantigrossi said the team is working on that aspect of its game but is still struggling with communication and obstruction calls. She said she was impressed though with her team’s grit.

“Going into the circle we have hard hits and good accuracy,” she said. “I think we were also successful blocking hits and sending them off the sideline to prevent the other team from getting a goal.”

Comsewogue head coach Jacqueline Wilkom said Fantigrossi flies all over the field when needed.

“She was out on every ball,” she said.

Her captain, senior midfielder Hannah Dorney, also wowed the coach.

Hannah Dorney battles for the ball at midfield. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“Hannah Dorney is a great athlete and really helped with leading the field,” Wilkom said. “She led the pep talk at halftime and they came out with a lot more intensity and they wanted to play.”

After losing nine seniors and the entire defensive unit to graduation after last season, Dorney said she too likes what she’s seeing from the young squad.

“We passed a lot better than we usually do,” she said. “We tend to get caught dribbling from one end of the field to the other, but today we worked the ball around more and from one side of the field to the other. We talked more in the second half, looked up, saw the options and we had the opportunities, we just weren’t finishing. We can’t let the ball slip past us as much.”

Wilkom said the team works hard and puts in the effort to improve. She said the girls are frequently seen dancing around the locker room before games, but she just hopes that energy can carry onto the field.

Olivia Fantigrossi gets in front to steal a Patchogue-Medford pass. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“They pump each other up and they want to play,” she said. “And I think that’s important. They want to be a team to be reckoned with and our motto ‘surrender the me for the we’ will help us do that. We need all 11 players working together as a unit to get that win.”

Blatter said she agreed that motivation needs to be there from whistle to whistle.

“We always find a way to come together as a team, even in our losses,” she said. “We’re always together and lifting each other up, especially this season, but we need to work on stepping onto the field and putting everything in it from the minute the timer starts to the minute it ends. If we can come out like we know we can in the beginning we’ll be a tough team to beat this year.”

Wilkom said the rise in the standings has added extra incentive — especially after going from a 3-11 team last year, to now currently boasting a 7-2 Division I record.

“We went from being in the 20s to fifth in the standings,” she said. “That’s a big deal for us — to be a team that people want to come out and beat.”

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Port Jefferson's Devin Rotunno volleys in her first singles set against Comsewogue. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Precision protected Port Jefferson girls tennis’ undefeated League VI streak.

Junior Devin Rotunno’s accuracy was a much different style than that of her junior opponent, Comsewogue’s Nikita Katukota, whose hard-hitting forehand forced Rotunno to cover every inch of the court. One point between the two players spanned 40 hits in the volley, and in the end, Rotunno prevailed, winning 7-6, 7-5 to lead the Royals to a 6-1 outscoring of host Comsewogue Sept. 18.

Comsewgoue’s Nikita Katukota slams the ball back over the net against Port Jefferson’s Devin Rotunno. Photo by Bill Landon

“I haven’t [seen] her before, but my coach told me she’s good, she hits hard, so I came in knowing it was going to be a tough battle,” Rotunno said. “I felt that I had consistency and I really think that gave me an advantage today.”

Katukota said she looked forward to facing the Port Jefferson lineup because she wanted to test herself against a formidable opponent.

“She’s a really good player — she hits the ball really hard, which I really like because I want to challenge myself against players who hit the ball with pace,” she said of Rotunno. “She has a lot of top spin, she moves her feet around the court so I just had a great time playing her.”

In second singles, Jillian Lawler also won her match in two sets, topping Comsewogue’s Kaitlyn Musmachev 6-2, 6-4, but the third singles matchup took three sets to decide.

Port Jefferson seventh-grader Nicolina Giannola battled Comsewogue’s Ankita Katukota, Nikita’s twin sister, and hung on after dropping the second set to win the decisive third, for a 6-1, 4-6, 6-2 edging.

The bright spot for the Warriors came in fourth singles play. Trisha Sandhala recovered from a 1-6 loss to take the next two sets 6-4, 6-4 snatching Comsewogue’s lone singles victory.

“I think they’re better than I thought they’d be,” Comsewogue head coach Michael Taheny said of Port Jefferson. “I liked our fight. My singles players are good, but [Port Jefferson is] hands down better than every other team we’ve played so far. It was a little shock to our system in that ‘wow, these [Port Jefferson] girls are really good.’”

Port Jefferson’s Jillian Lawler reaches for the ball in her second singles match. Photo by Bill Landon

The Royals also dominated doubles play, taking all three matches in two sets each. Although Taheny noted his team’s young new doubles squad is going through an adjustment period, Port Jefferson head coach Keith Houghtaling also noted an adjustment to be made in relying on depth, especially when the Royals next face Middle Country. With the win over Comsewogue, Port Jefferson’s fifth straight to put the team at 5-2 overall, it puts a target on the team’s back, but things could change the second time around against some of the teams.

“[Middle Country is] a tough team with a deep lineup — we beat them 5-2, but all three doubles went three sets, and one of the singles went three sets, so we could’ve just as easily lost that 4-3,” Houghtaling said of the Royals’ Sept. 8 win over the Mad Dogs. “We beat Mount Sinai 5-2 [Sept. 13], but one of their singles was out, so again that could be tough [when they’re back to full strength].”

Houghtaling said the pressure of being the No. 1 team in the league isn’t going to stop his Royals.

“We may have been able to sneak up on some teams earlier in the year based on last year’s record, but now that we are in first place, I fully expect each opponent will bring their very best lineup and effort against us,” he said. “I can assure you that our girls are fully aware of this, and they are up for the challenge.”

Receives innaugural USA Fencing National High School Coach of the Year honor

Fencing coach Jeff Salmon receives the first USA Fencing High School Coach of the Year award from former Penn State University head coach Emmanuil Kaidanov. Photo from Jennie Salmon

Jeff Salmon is an accomplished fencer in his own right, but he now he has proof that his prodigies are receiving coaching that is second to none in the United States.

The acclaimed fencer and head coach of the boys team at Ward Melville High School was named the inaugural winner of the USA Fencing High School Coach of the Year award.

“The word honor doesn’t even come close,” said Salmon, a Mount Sinai resident and owner of Mission Fencing Center in Rocky Point. “It’s a cool award, it’s an amazing honor and it makes you reflect on a lifetime of work.”

Jeff Salmon teaches his daughter Olivia out on the strip. Photo from Jennie Salmon

Eighteen individuals from high schools in six different states were nominated for the prestigious award.

Under Salmon’s leadership, Ward Melville’s teams have continued a winning tradition, including capturing the 2016-17 Long Island championship. The program has maintained a 158-match winning streak that ranks among the most impressive in interscholastic athletics nationwide.

“Jeff’s done so much for the kids here, but promoted the sport throughout Suffolk County, the state and the nation,” Ward Melville athletic director Peter Melore said. “Jeff’s a fantastic coach and he’s been honored in so many ways on local levels, it was time for him to be recognized at the national level.”

The Comsewogue High School graduate who originally competed in foil made the switch to sabre at Penn State University. Although he was a Suffolk County champion and Empire State Games gold medalist while he was a Warrior, the switch proved to work in Salmon’s favor.

“The Penn State team had strong foilers and could use a sabre fencer,” he said. “I was a little disappointed with my achievements in foil, so I was willing to accept the new challenge. It benefited me to switch and I adapted quite well.”

During his years as a Nittany Lion, he trained under Emmanuil Kaidanov, a five-time U.S. national team coach and Wes Glon, an Olympic and World Championship coach. Salmon placed in the top 12 as an individual in the NCAA championships and was one of two sabre fencers chosen for NCAA training at the German Olympic Center in 1987. He was an assistant coach for the Penn State fencing team during two national championship seasons before he brought his expertise to Ward Melville by starting a fencing club in 1995. In 1999, by popular demand, the club became a varsity team.

His athletes are consistently among the top on Long Island, and his team has won 13 league, county and Long Island titles. Salmon has won Suffolk County Coach of the Year honors seven times and USA Fencing Long Island High School Coach of the Year three times, but this is his first national achievement, one that many said they thought was long overdue.

“I wasn’t surprised because I know never to be surprised by what he does. His vast pool of knowledge and understanding of the sport and his nature of innovation is everything you need in a coach.”

— Danny Solomon

“I know he is one of the best coaches in the country, so it is a no-brainer to choose him,” rising Ward Melville senior Danny Solomon said. “I wasn’t surprised because I know never to be surprised by what he does. His vast pool of knowledge and understanding of the sport and his nature of innovation is everything you need in a coach.”

Solomon, who is a county champion, has also won four national championships, including at this year’s Junior Olympics, one international competition and many national and international medals. He is a two-time USA Fencing cadet team member and has gone to the cadet world championships twice.

He credits all of his success to his, at times, intimidating coach.

“I was terrified of him,” he joked. “Imagine being a seventh-grader seeing this huge, scary, bald guy flailing swords around. It would scare anyone.”

But the sabre competitor said things drastically changed over time.

“He is the reason I am the fencer I am today,” Solomon said. “He has definitely pushed me everyday. He can be both serious and friendly, but is always trying to get the best out of you.”

Soon-to-be University of Notre Dame freshman Jack Rohan agreed.

“He always tries his best to relate to his fencers to the point where he is not a coach but a friend,” he said. “He has been a huge contributor to my improvement in fencing and definitely deserves such an award.”

The sabre fencer, who joined the Patriots in eighth grade, was named All-Long Island last year after finishing with the best record in the county (35-3). He also won gold in sabre at the Jeff Wolfe Holiday Tournament.

His older sister Alexa played for Salmon, so Rohan was familiar with his longtime coach, and said he decided to give up focusing on his primary sport, lacrosse, to fence.

“On the Ward Melville team we commonly refer to him as ‘the magic’ since talented fencers may graduate, but he is always able to put together a championship-caliber team,” Jack Rohan said of the decorated coach.

Jeff Salmon with acclaimed protégé Danny Solomon after he won the Konin Cadet World Cup in Poland last year. File photo from Ward Melville school district

Melore, who stepped in as athletic director a couple of years ago, is proud to have Salmon as part of the program.

“He’s poised, professional, smart, passionate about the sport and really good with the kids,” he said. “He’s a great teacher of the sport. A lot is done in preparation, before and during matches, and he knows just when to give support and strategy to our athletes. It’s reassuring to have a veteran, and rapport is everything. We’re very proud he have this great program and tradition that Jeff built and I feel confident that our kids are getting taught the right way.”

Salmon said the joy he gets in seeing his students achieve their goals means more to him than any award or achievement.

“As the years went on, I found that I had a lot more satisfaction just changing the kids lives and building the confidence in them and having them grow as human beings,” he said. “Certainly the tool is fencing, but I find that that’s been the real joy in the journey.”

He reflected on similar ideas when he gave his acceptance speech, after receiving the award from his former coach Kaidanov.

“Not everyone is going to be an All-American, not everyone is going to be an Olympian, but what we do as high school coaches is take kids that have their hat over their head, their hands in their pockets, and we have them stand up straight and be confident in themselves,” he said. “This sport is hard — really, really hard. Parents really need to understand how hard this is mentally, physically. And that little success that they had makes them the men and women that they become. It gives them the confidence to go on in life — whether they achieve great things in fencing or just get that ‘E’ [lowest fencer rating] that they’ve been wanting so badly. It’s so important.”

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By Bill Landon

Despite leading by three goals entering the fourth quarter — giving the No. 2-seeded Eastport-South Manor boys’ lacrosse team a run for its money — No. 6 Comsewogue was outscored 6-1 in the final 12 minutes, to fall 10-8 in the Suffolk County Class B semifinals May 26.

It wasn’t an easy road for the Warriors, which made the postseason with a 6-8 record in league play, and got in because of power points earned against top-seeded teams, according to athletic director Matt DeVincenzo. But Comsewogue showed resiliency, and knocked off No. 3 Harborfields with a 6-5 win May 18, and continued to battle through the bracket Friday.

Sophomore Sean Kennedy got things going for the Warriors when he spotted Nick Donnelly jumping out front from behind the cage, and flicked the ball to the junior, who buried his shot. But the Sharks answered back quickly. Kennedy found senior Ryan Dorney on the cut minutes later, but again Eastport-South Manor had an answer.

Sophomore Tom Heller — making 11 saves on the day — had his hand full protecting the net, and prevented several shots from passing him by to keep the score tied heading into the second quarter.

Senior Will Snelders ripped a shot from 35 feet out to put his team out front, and junior Richie Lacalandra scored off a feed from Dorney to extend the lead. The Warriors kept attacking, and Snelders sent a pass to junior Sean Power, who was able to redirect the ball to the back of the cage off a flick pass for a 5-2 advantage with 7:51 left in the first half.

Twenty seconds later, the Sharks’ Brandon Stiles sent a shot just inside the pipes, but the Warriors stymied any attempt at a comeback, as Lacalandra and Snelders scored unassisted goals to put Comsewogue up 7-3 with two minutes left.

“Everybody doubted us all year,” Comsewogue head coach Pete Mitchell said. “We didn’t get a lot of accolades — we’re just a group of blue collar kids — and I’m proud of them.”

Eastport-South Manor’s Ryan Weiss scored with 31 seconds on the clock to cut the deficit to three goals by the break. And after discussing with their coaches, two different teams entered play in the third quarter, as the defenses battled to a stalemate.

Things changed drastically in the fourth, and Eastport-South Manor’s Tom Szalkowski ended the scoring drought in the opening minutes, and teammate James Sherwood split the pipes 20 seconds later to pull within one goal, 7-6.

Kennedy found Donnelly again on a cut across the cage for an insurance goal, but the Sharks wiped it away by tallying four unanswered goals off faceoff wins.

“The faceoff ‘X’ was bad in the fourth quarter — we made a couple of mistakes clearing the ball,” Mitchell said. The head coach put the blame on himself for the outcome.

“That’s on me,” he said. “As the coach, to not make an adjustment on the faceoff when I could have — I take that one because I need to put them in the best position to succeed.”

Mitchell, whose team finishes its season at 7-9 overall, continued to convey pride for a team that accomplished what it did, extending its postseason and battling to some close games this season, like 7-6, 9-8 and 11-10 losses to No. 4 Mount Sinai, No. 3 Miller Place and No. 1 Shoreham-Wading River, respectively.

“They’ve worked hard,” Mitchell said. “And they’re going to be successful in whatever they do in life because of how hard they worked and the lessons they’ve learned [playing] Comsewogue lacrosse.”

Harborfields' Grace Zagaja hugs coaches Mary Santonmauro and Kerri McGinty following the win. Photo by Desirée Keegan

By Desirée Keegan

For the first time in four years, the Tornadoes are touching down on semifinal turf.

With a 14-7 win over Comsewogue May 23, the No. 4 Harborfields girls’ lacrosse team advances to take on No. 1 Eastport-South Manor May 25 at 4 p.m.

Harborfields’ Falyn Dwyer shoots. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“The whole season we’ve had a team first mentality,” senior Falyn Dwyer said. “We win as a team, we lose as a team. We knew it was a do or die situation, so we really picked up the intensity.”

That passion showed. In the first 10 minutes, Harborfields was already up 4-0. At the 13:41 mark, Dwyer scored her hat trick goal. Senior Katherine Alnwick followed her up with back-to-back goals less than a minute apart, and soon the Tornadoes were ahead 7-0.

“Last time we faced them we had a lot of trouble scoring, so we worked on a lot of offenses to capitalize on finding the open girl,” Dwyer said. “A lot of the time [my teammates] clear out for me if I have the ball and they know I have a lane. They do a good job of letting me use my speed. We moved the ball a lot better than we have in the past and we put our plays in well.”

Comsewogue junior Hannah Dorney found the back of the net with 9:13 left in the first half to put the Warriors on the board, freshman Olivia Fantigrossi set up eighth-grader Ava Fernandes off a free position and Dorney scored again off an assist from senior Julia Tuohy to cut the lead to 8-3 at the end of the first half.

Comsewogue’s Hannah Dorney moves the ball across the field. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The successive goal scoring seemed to work well for the Tornadoes, and sophomore Hallie Simkins kept it going with back-to-back goals to open the second half.

“Coming off the draw strong really helps us get the momentum going, and getting a few goals boosted our confidence,” she said. “It’s great that we even got here, so the fact that I got to put a few goals in the back of the net just makes it an even more amazing feeling.”

Harborfields head coach Kerri McGinty also thought her team was resilient from start to finish.

“We had a mind-set when we stepped out on the field today and it carried through,” she said. “We took smart shots, we finished, we had some huge defensive stops that led to goals — so it was that culmination of everything happening together. All of the girls were playing for each other. That’s the best thing you can ask for a team.”

Harborfields’ Hallie Simkins crashes into Comsewogue’s Hannah Dorney as she carries the ball into the Warriors’ zone. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Senior Grace Zagaja’s turnover led to her second goal of the game, and junior goalkeeper Erin Tucker made half of her eight saves in the game’s final minutes to halt the Warriors’ threat. Zagaja and senior Kailey Broderick were also key to grabbing ground balls that gave the Tornadoes extra possessions, which led to even more goals in the final minutes.

Dwyer finished with four goals, Broderick had two goals and two assists and Alnwick added two goals and an assist.

“There was a lot of hustle and a lot of heart,” Dwyer said. “Now we have one day to prepare, so we have to put in a lot of work tomorrow.”

Simkins said if the team plays like it did against Comsewogue, they’ll be successful in the next round.

“It was a good team win — we put all the pieces together,” she said. “It’s nice when everyone shows up, and I’m confident in the way we play when that happens. Getting this first-round win is a major barrier we finally climbed over.”

Shoreham-Wading River's Sophia Triandafils pushes her way into Comsewogue's zone. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Don’t blink, or you might miss her.

Senior Sophia Triandafils won the opening two draws, and, off feeds from senior Sam Higgins, scored twice in the first 35 seconds, to propel Shoreham-Wading River to a 12-7 nonleague win over Comsewogue April 18 in a girls’ lacrosse tilt.

Shoreham-Wading River’s Sam Higgins passes the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“We’ve been playing together since we were really tiny,” Triandafils said. “We’re always looking for each other on the field.”

Her teammate agreed that their strong bond is an asset.

“Over time we’ve just picked up on each other’s tendencies and she somehow always finds a way to get open for me, and vice versa,” said Higgins, who had one goal and four assists in the game. “I try to keep my feet moving and give quick passes. I also try to draw defenders by driving and that usually opens people up.”

Triandafils and sophomore Isabella Meli took advantage of early opportunities, and junior goalkeeper Gabby Cacciola made four key saves while the Wildcats built a 7-0 lead.

“Our transitions were great today,” Triandafils said. “No one was hesitating. We were really pushing it.”

By the time Comsewogue senior Jamie Fischer scored the first of her two goals with 8:21 left in the first half, Triandafils and Meli already each had hat tricks.

“This team is super, super athletic, they’re fast, they’re quick, they anticipate the next play, so the speed and agility is definitely something that puts us up on other teams — getting a jump on the draw, ground balls, even anticipating the slides defensively — and it helps us play a lot better,” Shoreham-Wading River head coach Brittany Davis said. “Last year we played Comsewogue and they really gave us a run for it, so I told the team to not underestimate them.”

Comsewogue goalkeeper Brianna Blatter reaches to make a save. Photo by Desirée Keegan

By the end of the first half, the Wildcats (5-1) enjoyed a 10-2 advantage, with Meli scoring her fourth goal with a second left on the clock, but the Warriors (6-2) came out battling in the second.

“It takes a minute to wake up,” Comsewogue head coach Michelle Ceraso said. “But they only let up two goals in the second half. They’re picking it up.”

Comsewogue kept the host team on defense through most of the 25 minutes, scoring three unanswered goals while Shoreham-Wading River struggled to keep possession.

“I think we became a bit complacent on offense, but our defense stayed strong and our goalie saved us a few times,” Higgins said. “I think it really exemplifies the strength our entire team has. Our speed definitely gives us an advantage in transition and riding. I think it forces the other teams to work harder and make them more tired, which we try to take advantage of.”

Cacciola made four big saves, two on Fischer, to preserve a dwindling lead. She finished the game with 12 saves, one short of her season high, while Triandafils’ and Meli’s four goals were season highs.

Shoreham-Wading River’s Isabella Meli regains possession of the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“We played a lot of defense in the second half, and I didn’t love it, but I think we learned a lot to take with us,” Davis said.

Her team is also learning that it can contend. After what Davis considered the program’s first real winning season, with an 11-3 Division II record last year, the only thing that stood in the Wildcats’ way was a tough Mount Sinai team. The Mustangs handed Shoreham-Wading River two of its three losses, both by one goal in overtime — the second eliminated the team from county final contention.

This season, the Wildcats had to face the Mustangs early — in the first game of the season — where Shoreham-Wading River turned the tide to come away with the one-goal win.

“We’re finally starting to realize our potential and everyone’s filling into their roles,” Higgins said. “I think we have a real chance this year.”

Davis said she thinks success can get in her player’s heads, but it’s something they’re building upon. She said she thinks if the team, which returned all but two starters, can get over that and remain focused, they’ll be the team to beat.

“Winning is kind of new to them, so they hold back a little bit,” the head coach said. “Each one of them is a huge piece to the success we’ve had. This team is something special. Their character, their heart, their hustle is completely in this.”

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Erica Hickey gets a base hit. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Comsewogue’s softball team continued its winning ways when the Warriors jumped out to an early 4-0 lead and never looked back, outscoring Islip 10-4 April 3 to improve to 3-0 this in League VIII.

Emily Whitman throws an Islip runner out at first sitting on the mound. Photo by Bill Landon

The Warriors bats went to work from the opening pitch, and although Islip threatened in the bottom of the second, the team failed to capitalize with a runner on third. In the top of the third, Emily Whitman hit a homerun over the centerfield fence to put her team out front, 4-0.

“I thought they were stronger from last year even though they lost a lot of key players, but this year we came ready to win, and we did,” she said. “Our hitting — we were definitely all over that pitcher today.”

Islip broke the ice in the bottom of the third, scoring a run on a sacrifice fly, but couldn’t maintain the momentum, stranding two runners at the end of the inning.

Alyssa Bono’s bat cracked next, as she slammed her own first pitch past center field for a 5-1 lead.

“I thought we would have a good game against Islip — we lost twice to them last year when I was on JV so I knew this would be a hard game to win,” Bono said. “I thought we played well all around.”

Taylor Graves kept the inning alive when she ripped a double into deep right field, plating teammate Erica Hickey for a 6-1 advantage. Whitman kept the inning alive and smacked the ball through the gap in right center for a double that brought home Graves. Whitman took off to third base and narrowly beat the tag, looking to finish what she’d started. Julia Keller was up next, and patient at the plate. She found one she liked, and jumped on it, knocking a home run over center field for a 9-1 lead.

Alyssa Bono catches an infield popup. Photo by Bill Landon

“I thought they’d come out a lot stronger,” Keller said of Islip. “We came in as the underdog, and we won. We’ll keep on hitting, but it’s our team bonding that wins games.”

Whitman took over on the mound for starting pitcher Alexa Murray in the bottom of the fifth, and retired the side in order.

Comsewogue went back to work threatening in the top of the sixth inning with runners on first and second, and as Murray stepped into the box, Graves was caught stealing to end the inning.

With their backs against the wall, Islip loaded the bases in the bottom of the sixth following a pair of walks. Another walk sent home a run, a base hits scored two more to trail 9-4. With two outs, Islip drilled one right at Whitman, who was knocked down but able to stop the ball. Sitting on the ground from behind the mound, she made the throw to first in time for the out that ended the inning.

“Emily Whitman is unique — she’s one of the best players in the county and I’ll go to battle with her every time,” Comsewogue head coach Jason Surdi said. “When you have someone like Emily Whitman on your team, you have a chance to win every single game.”

Taylor Graves makes a play. Photo by Bill Landon

With Patricia Kelly on second, Donna Scarth got the job done as she laid down a sacrifice bunt that moved Kelly over to third, and Hickey finished it with a base hit that brought home another insurance one.

“This is a big win for this team — Islip is a perennial power, they’ve been in the county finals the past two years,” Surdi said. “I don’t know when the last time that Comsewogue has had a win against a county finalist — it could be 20-25 years so this is a big win for this program.”

With three outs left in the game, Islip would not answer as the Warriors handed the Buccaneers their first loss of the season.

“We’ve had a great start to the year,” Surdi said. “We have a lot of young players that have stepped up and right now we’re kicking on all cylinders.”

The team will play another powerhouse in Sayville April 5 at 4 p.m. Comsewogue will then travel to Rocky Point April 10 for a 10 a.m. matchup before hosting Miller Place at the same time April 12.

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Nora Gabel scores two points on a putback. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The Comsewogue girls’ basketball team dropped its second-to-last game of the season to Sayville Feb. 7, 51-44, on senior night, but it wasn’t for a lack of effort from the Warriors.

Sam Collins prepares to take a shot from beyond the arc. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“I think we came out really strong, got them a little nervous — on their heels a little bit,” senior Sam Collins said.

That’s because she was swishing shot after shot from beyond the arc. Collins scored all nine of her team’s first-quarter points on 3-pointers, and added another at the start of the second.

“I work so hard on it and when I get an open shot I’m happy to take it,” she said. “It helps my teammates and it’s hard to contest a shot like that.”

Her coach likes what he’s seen from his four-year starter as well. Collins has racked up 43 3-pointers this season.

“She makes a living out there,” Comsewogue head coach Joe Caltagirone said. “She can post up too, but with the 1-3-1 defense that [Sayville plays] it was suited for her to stay out on the wing and take the open shots when she had them.”

The game, which was Comsewogue’s first home loss of the season, was tight through most of the first half. Collins’ fourth trey countered a Sayville 3-pointer, and junior Nora Gabel scored a field goal that put her team out front 14-11, but Sayville always had an answer, or two, and by the end of the first half Sayville had a 24-18 advantage.

Sayville’s defense intercepted multiple passes and won its fair share of battles on the boards, but junior Hannah Dorney grabbed multiple rebounds for Comsewogue, and forced a few turnovers herself.

Hannah Dorney carries the ball into Sayville’s zone after forcing a turnover. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“We softened their defense, we broke it down pretty good and got some good looks, but our shots didn’t fall,” Caltagirone said. “Hannah has been a great addition off the lacrosse team. We had to play their style with the aggressiveness and working baseline to baseline, which she helped with. I was pleased with their effort.”

Heading into the halftime break, Collins said her team talked about ways to make sure the game didn’t slip away.

“We wanted to move the ball a lot more to make them move because they’re eventually going to get tired,” she said. “If we take the first available shot, it’s easy for them to play defense, but if we wait the whole shot clock and get the best shot possible, they can’t do anything about it.”

At first, it worked. Senior Megan Turner drew a foul and sank both of her free throws, Gabel added a 3-pointer and Dorney scored a field goal to regain the lead for Comsewogue, 25-24. Despite the team’s best efforts, Sayville always had a response. Gabel and junior Georgia Alexiou added four points each in the third, but the Warriors fell behind 45-41. and that was the closest they would get.

“As the game progressed we lost it a little bit, then we came back, but there wasn’t enough time on the clock,” Collins said. “We communicate well, we didn’t give them easy baskets, we made them work for it, and we moved the ball.”

Sofia Colocho drives to the basket. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Caltagirone honored Collins, Turner, Brittany DeLeva, Lauren Gray and Christiany Pizarro before the game as part of the senior night festivities.

“It’s bittersweet — I’ll miss them,” the head coach said. “Some are three- and four-year players I’ve been coaching for a while and they mean a lot to the program. I’m happy for them, but I’m sad to lose them.”

Collins was also emotional.

“I never thought this day would come,” she said. “I wish we could’ve gotten the win, but I know we played our best, and that’s enough for me.”

She said despite the loss the energy is high heading into the postseason, and Caltagirone said he believes in the squad’s ability, noting how this season compared to last. The Warriors are winning the close games and aren’t letting teams back into games, something he said is big for the team.

“They do the hard work,” he said. “I’m pretty confident that we can play with anybody. We’ve shown we can play with anybody.”

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Shot put throwers Andy Suarez and Billy Grosse finished second and third, respectively, at a meet at Suffolk County Community College’s Brentwood campus Jan. 29, both tossing over 50 feet. Photos by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Comsewogue has never had a thrower capable of hurling a shot put over 50 feet, that is, until this winter boys’ track and field season. In fact, there are two Warriors —Andy Suarez and Billy Grosse — who have been breaking the school record meet after meet this year, and Jan. 29 was no different.

Reno Molina finished third in the 55-meter dash with a time of 6.87 seconds. Photo by Bill Landon

The seniors placed second and third at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood. Grosse had set a new school record with his toss of 50 feet, 11 inches, but it was short lived. Suarez sent his first shot put 50 feet, 8 inches, but came up moments after Grosse, and set a new record with his second toss of 50 feet, 11.25 inches.

After the last meet before the Suffolk County finals, the two remain ranked in the Top 15 throwers in the state.. Both will have their work cut out for them come then, because Kings Park’s Dan Byrne ruled the day with a toss that measured 56 feet, 9 inches.

“If I’m not throwing as well as I know I can, I’ll go off to the side and practice my form,” Suarez said. “I listen to what my coach is saying because I can’t look at myself, but he watches very closely.”

Comsewogue head coach Brad Posnanski said he knew the duo had the potential to throw as well as they have been, and said all season long the two have only pushed each other to work harder.

“Last year Billy Grosse threw 48 feet, 10 inches, and Andy Suarez had thrown 47 feet,” he recalled. “Earlier this season they both got better and better. Andy was the first to throw 50 feet, and then Billy threw 50 feet and we’ve never had that. They’re both great friends so to have two throwers over 50 feet is something pretty special.”

Travis Colon finished the 55-meter hurdles in 8.55 seconds for sixth place. Photo by Bill Landon

The meet, titled “Last Chance,” was an opportunity for the athletes to better their performance to gain a higher seed before the county championship, and other Warriors also made their presence known.

Coming back from a minor injury, sophomore Reno Molina clocked in a 6.87 seconds in the 55-meter dash to finish third behind Miller Place senior Bick Niemcyzk (6.85) and East Islip senior Andrew Moschetto (6.83). Sophomore Travis Colon took advantage of that opportunity, placing sixth overall in the 55 hurdles with a time of 8.55. He’s already an All-League competitor after placing sixth in the League IV championship last year.

“Reno Molina is a pleasant surprise,” Posnanski said. “Where he is in the county speed-wise, and he has the best chance to make a statement in the counties next week. My hurdler [Travis Colon] has made tremendous improvements with his technique with hard work and just sticking with it.”

Posnanski said he has been impressed with his younger runners on the team, who’ve bettered their times all season long.

“I have such a young team, so I didn’t have any expectations,” the coach said.

But Matt Krieg, who placed ninth in the 1,000 in 2:56.55, caught his eye.

Matt Krieg finished ninth in the 1,000-meter in 2:56.55. Photo by Bill Landon

“He’s tough when he runs and he’s a competitor,” the head coach said of his Warrior. “He won the freshman championship meet this year.”

Sophomore Brandon Bailey clocked in at 1:39.96 in the 600, for 22nd overall.

The county championships are will be Feb. 4 at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood at 10 a.m.

Grosse said he and his teammate will be ready.

“It’s all about repetition — we’ll get as many throws in as possible, lift some weights and then rest a day or two before the counties,” he said. “Andy was running and only began throwing this season, and having him around has been more important than anything, because without him, I wouldn’t be pushing myself the way I am.”

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