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Wildcats

Shoreham-Wading River’s Class of 2017 seniors celebrated graduation day June 25.

Students lined up across the Thomas Cutinella Memorial Field to receive their diplomas and toss their caps in celebration of the completion of high school.

Valedictorian Anthony Peraza and salutatorian Kyle Higgins addressed their peers, and other local officials and board of education members bid farewell. Special speaker Tim Sini, Suffolk County’s police commissioner, also shared some words of wisdom with the parting seniors.

Shoreham-Wading River's Brian Morrell was selected in the Major League Baseball draft by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 35th round. File photo by Bill Landon

By Desirée Keegan

It has been quite a month for Shoreham-Wading River senior Brian Morrell.

After the right-handed pitcher helped lead his team to a 24-2 record and Suffolk County title to close out May, he performed in the Blue Chip Grand Slam Challenge, leading Suffolk County to that win, too. Last week, he became the second player ever to receive the Yastrzemski Award twice in the distinction’s 50-year history. The honor is awarded to the top player in Suffolk County, which Morrell also became just the fourth junior to receive.

Shoreham-Wading River graduate Tyler Osik, who was recently playing for Chipola College in Florida, was selected by Pittsburgh Pirates in the 40th and final round of the Major League Baseball draft. File photo by Bill Landon

To top it off, now he’s also a Major League Baseball draftee.

The small-town star was taken by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 35th round, with the 1,043rd pick, just after 5 p.m. June 14.

“An absolute honor to be drafted by the Phillies today,” Morrell posted on Twitter. “Thank you to all of the people who have supported me over my baseball career.”

The feared slugger batted .500 with seven home runs and 39 RBIs while scoring 37 runs this season, and had a 10-1 pitching record with 93 strikeouts in 67 1/3 innings. His first loss didn’t come until the Long Island championship game against Wantagh. The senior set numerous school records, including hits in a season (44), career home runs (27) and career wins (29). Morrell threw six no-hitters in his varsity career, including three this season.

Shoreham-Wading River head coach Kevin Willi had his iPad close by at all times once the draft was underway. He cleaned out his coach’s office at the high school, did chores around the house, and finally, his young sensation’s name came across the screen. He gasped.

“This is awesome,” he shouted.

Willi was supposed to be having a birthday dinner with his family, after foregoing a birthday celebration the night before to attend the player awards dinner, but it had to be put off for at least another night. He immediately picked up the phone to call all the coaches he knew.

Shoreham-Wading River’s Brian Morrell is a 6-foot, 1-inch right-handed pitcher who is committed to Notre Dame University. File photo by Bill Landon

“It was a good birthday present,” Willi said of the back-to-back historic days for Shoreham-Wading River and for his 6-foot, 1-inch right-hander. “With each name that was posted I was keeping tabs. It’s exciting for him and it’s exciting for the program.”

Although Willi said it was expected, he added how interesting it was to see how the draft process works with a Notre Dame University-commit like Morrell, who has almost a full scholarship valued at nearly $300,000, according to Willi. Along with the Phillies, other teams that scouted Morrell closest included the Chicago Cubs and New York Mets.

After seeing about five scouts at each game, Willi was waiting with anticipation for that special moment for his senior, but he didn’t expect that to be the case for Morrell, since the hurler has always stayed cool under pressure.

“Brian works his tail off, and he does the right thing,” Willi said. “The first couple times the scouts were out, the guys were a little awestruck, but Brian has always been team-first.”

Morrell had one of his biggest showings in a no-hitter against Bayport-Blue Point April 27. At least five scouts were in the stands to see him nail down 15 strikeouts with three walks while tossing the seven scoreless frames. He topped out at 95 mph on the radar gun. A scout who came from Massachusetts and got caught in traffic, according to Willi, only caught the last inning, though he still got to see Morrell comfortably throwing each pitch at 92 mph late in the game.

“It was good for the scouts to be there and see some of his best stuff,” Willi said. “[Being drafted had] been on his mind all season, but he never let it reflect on his performance or how he treated anyone. He didn’t try to throw 100 mph and not care if he wins the game — he never had that attitude. He always did what he needed to do to win the game. He was never selfish. He never tried to impress. He just wanted to win.”

Scouts were also impressed with his body of work.

Mount Sinai’s Michael Donadio, a senior outfielder at St. John’s University, who was selected by the Miami Marlins in the 30th round. Photo from St. John’s University athletics

Jarred Carrier, New York’s scouting director for Prep Baseball Report, dubbed Morrell New York’s Baseball Player of the Year.

“The 2017 high school season yielded many stellar individual performances across all corners of New York, but one player stood above the rest,” he said. “He delivered a statistically dominant season.”

Despite Morrell’s success, the 10-year coach and three-year varsity leader in no way takes credit for what his player has become.

“One of my coaching philosophies is that a player should be coached by many coaches,” Willi said. “One guy doesn’t have all the answers. There’s different strokes for different folks. Everybody had different body types, different talents, different skills in the game, and I think they should be exposed to many coaches. There’s a couple of things I taught Brian that he can take to the next level, and that makes me proud as a coach.”

An hour after Morrell went, 2014 Shoreham-Wading River graduate Tyler Osik was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 40th and final round. Tyler’s father Keith played seven seasons for the Pirates from 1996 through 2002. Tyler Osik played infielder and catcher, most recently for Chipola College in Florida.

“It’s sweet,” Willi said immediately upon hearing the news. “It’s really cool. To have coached six years total of varsity including assistant and head coach, I’ve had three players during that time get drafted that I’ve had the pleasure of coaching.”

Shoreham-Wading River’s Brian Morrell shows excitement following his two-run home run during a WIldcats win. Photo by Bill Landon

This is the second time that two Shoreham-Wading River graduates have been selected in the same draft. The first time, coincidentally, was in 1990 when Osik’s father was drafted by the Pirates and Julio Vega by the San Francisco Giants.

“He was a leader on the field,” Willi said of Tyler Osik, who played third base for the Wildcats. “He switched to catcher, which is interesting, because he’s followed the run of his father. He’s one of the Shoreham die-hard baseball kids. He loves the game, puts tons of effort into being the best and he did a good job listening to his coaches. I’m really happy to see his success.”

Other Suffolk County players to be taken in this year’s draft included Mount Sinai’s Michael Donadio, a senior outfielder at St. John’s University, who was selected by the Miami Marlins in the 30th round, and Commack’s Jesse Berardi, a St. John’s junior, who was picked by the Cleveland Indians in the 10th round with the 312th overall pick.

St. John’s appeared in the NCAA regional this year. Donadio posted a .374/.473/.547 with 24 extra-base hits, including four home runs, and 38 RBIs starting in all 55 games this season.

Players drafted have until July 15 to sign a contact, but Morrell is already settling in as part of the Fighting Irish.

“To have that kind of recognition, us coaches are proud of any kind of professional looks that we get,” Willi said. “Brian got the opportunities that many kids dream of. It’s a big decision on what path you’re going to take, but I reassured him whatever path he takes, it’s going to be a fun one. If he keeps working hard he’s going to be successful.”

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Shoreham-Wading River’s boys’ lacrosse team finally met its match.

The Wildcats were tamed by a potent Cold Spring Harbor offense June 3, falling 16-7 in the Class C Long Island championship title game.

“It’s a hard pill to swallow,” Shoreham-Wading River head coach Mike Taylor said. “To go 16-3 and win the Suffolk County championship is tough enough. Unfortunately, we met a juggernaut in Cold Spring Harbor. They played excellent.”

Chris Gray shoots and scores. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Each time the Wildcats made a mistake, whether not winning the faceoff, falling victim to a forced turnover or having a pass bounce out of bounds, the Seahawks capitalized on the opportunity.

“Every time we made a mistake they made us pay, and they made us pay not only in possession, but turning those possessions into goals,” Taylor said. “They’re a good team; they’re some of the best.”

Taylor thought the two teams matched up similarly, and they did. Senior Chris Gray, who just recently edged out Smithtown East’s Connor DeSimone to become Suffolk County’s leading scorer with 90 goals and 25 assists, and Long Island’s top goal scorer, was a similar scoring threat that Cold Spring Harbor’s Taylor Strough was. Each team has lockdown defenders, and plenty of other offensive weapons.

“We’re both run-and-gun teams with so many guys that can score,” Taylor said. “The ball bounced their way a little more, and they made a lot less mistakes defensively. And our mistakes turned into big goals.”

Xavier Arline tries to push a Cold Spring Harbor defender out of the way to get a clear look at the cage. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Strough finished with four goals and two assists, while Gray led the Wildcats with three goals and two assists. Shoreham-Wading River, which edged out Garden City last year for the Class B Long Island title, also had contributions from senior Sean Haplin and freshman Xavier Arline, who added two goals each.

The Seahawks were up 4-0 before Gray scored unassisted on a dodge from behind the cage — the Wildcats’ only goal of the first quarter. He added another at the four-minute mark off a Joe Miller faceoff win, but Shoreham-Wading River was down 11-2 at the half.

After a 5-0 Cold Spring Harbor run that triggered a running clock with the team up 14-2, Arline scored twice, sandwiching a Haplin goal off a feed from Gray, to try and stop the bleeding. After a Seahawks tally, Gray completed his hat trick to help the Wildcats close within 10, 16-6. Haplin’s final goal came off another assist from Gray at 2:14, but neither team would score thereafter.

Kevin Cutinella makes his way to the cage. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“It’s been special,” Taylor said of taking his seniors on the Long Island championship-bound journey two seasons in a row. “I’ve had three years with some extremely talented kids, and I may never see that kind of talent again like I have in Kevin Cutinella, Danny Cassidy, Chris Gray. I have 16 fabulous seniors that are great lacrosse players and even better kids. It’s hard to spend so much time with them and see them move on, but I wish them nothing but the best.”

Cutinella said he’s felt privileged to be coached by Taylor and his assistants.

“[They have] spent so much time developing a team that can perform at a championship level year in and year out,” Cutinella said. “As a team, we didn’t perform well and to the level that Cold Spring Harbor played up to, and ultimately the score spoke for itself. But Shoreham-Wading River has shaped me into the person I am today. I’m grateful we made it this far, and even more grateful to play with all the other players on my team. My teammates, these coaches have done a lot for me, and I can’t thank them enough.”

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Wildcats' senior Kyle Baylous walks off the field after a sixth-inning rally stalls. Photo by Alex Petroski

An old baseball adage says to beat a dominant starting pitcher, you have to get to him early, and facing one of the most dominant hurlers in recent Long Island baseball history, the Wantagh Warriors executed the game plan to perfection. The first six batters to face Shoreham-Wading River standout senior starter Brian Morrell all reached base, and the first four eventually scored in a nightmare first inning for the Wildcats, who dropped the Class A Long Island championship game June 3 at SUNY Old Westbury, 4-2.

Brian Morrell fires a pitch. Photo by Alex Petroski

The Warriors sent nine men to the plate in the bottom of the first on four hits and two walks to jump out early, and eventually hand Shoreham-Wading River its first loss since April 5. The loss snapped a 20-game Wildcats win streak. Wantagh was crowned the Long Island Class A champion for the second consecutive season after knocking off Mount Sinai for the title in 2016.

“I think they had a good approach because Brian’s hard to hit, so they probably just started hacking away when they could and got a good piece of the ball and did what they had to do to win,” senior catcher and team captain Thomas Brady said of Wantagh’s big inning against Morrell.

The University of Notre Dame-bound starting pitcher finished his rockiest outing of the season allowing four earned runs on five hits, three walks and five strikeouts over six innings. He eventually settled in, and only one Warrior base runner reached second base after the first inning.

The Wantagh Warriors celebrate knocking off Shoreham-Wading River in the Long Island Class A championship game. Photo by Alex Petroski

“It was like a dream come true kind of,” Brady said of the scorching stretch of baseball Shoreham-Wading River put together to reach the final game. “We all worked as hard as we possibly could. I love these guys to death and now we’re all moving on to a new chapter. Hopefully the younger kids can bring it home next year.”

The Wildcats’ entire starting lineup was comprised of seniors Saturday. Head coach Kevin Willi reflected on the successes of the outgoing 16-man senior class following their last game in blue and gold.

“They were awesome — I mean really all 16 guys were diehard all year,” he said. “They worked their tails off the entire time. I wish we could have came home with a Long Island championship for them, but that’s the way it happens. A county championship is a pretty good accomplishment, especially with the best record in program history; those are good things to remember that these guys earned.”

Wantagh’s left-handed starting pitcher, junior Anthony Fontana, kept the Wildcats’ normally potent offense off balance for most of the game. He allowed just two earned runs on five singles and a walk over five innings of work. Saturday was the first time all season Shoreham-Wading River had been held to two runs or less.

Brian Morrell takes a cut as Shoreham-Wading River’s last chance in the seventh inning. Photo by Alex Petroski

“He’s curveball heavy, so a lot of our guys don’t want to swing at a first pitch curveball, but when the pitcher gets ahead with a curveball the batter is already at a disadvantage,” Willi said. “We hit him hard a bunch of times, and right at guys. He did a good job.”

Despite the slow day offensively, the Wildcats still had a chance in the bottom of the seventh inning trailing 4-2 with Morrell — who hit two grand slams in the previous three games — at the plate as the tying run. He grounded out to third on a high chopper to end the Wildcats’ hopes of heading upstate for a shot at a state championship. Despite the disappointing conclusion, Willi reiterated how proud he was of the achievements of his 2017 squad.

“It was awesome — we played really well through that stretch,” he said of winning 20 straight. “Even this game we played well. We ran into a good Wantagh team.”

 

In lacrosse, there’s a term “take it to ‘X,’” when a player brings the ball directly behind the goal crease. But Shoreham-Wading River was taking the ball to a different “X” Wednesday.

The X-Man, Xavier Arline, was the Wildcats’ superhero May 30, as the freshman used speed and skill to stymie an Islip surge — the Buccaneers scored four fast goals to pull within one and make it a close game — to lift Shoreham-Wading River to its second straight Suffolk County Class C title with a 13-7 win over Islip. The title marks the 12th in program history.

Arline had a highlight reel play at the 7:48 mark of the fourth quarter, after Islip opened with four goals in a two-minute span, he stole the ball from the opposing goalkeeper on a ride, and no-look passed behind his back to senior Chris Gray for an empty-netter.

“I was just trying to help my team win,” he said. “I wasn’t trying to do too much, I wasn’t trying to do too little. I was just making the plays to help my team win.”

He said during practice, head coach Mike Taylor lets the team be free and creative, which made the eye-popping play feel routine.

“When I saw Chris out of the corner of my eye, I picked it up and threw it like it was natural,” he said. “I didn’t even think twice.”

Gray said Arline’s play wasn’t surprising to him either.

“Xavier is a beast — he used his athleticism,” he said. “And he’s only a freshman, which is really scary.”

Arline had two goals and two assists before that score that extended Shoreham-Wading River’s lead to 9-7. Senior Kevin Cutinella followed with his hat trick goal on a man-up opportunity, and from there, it was Gray’s turn to step up.

Gray went coast to coast, scored off a pass from Arline after Cutinella carried the ball into Islip’s zone, and added another unassisted goal to cap off the five-goal Wildcats run. Gray finished with five goals and one assist.

“We used a lot of teamwork,” Gray said. “We told ourselves we wanted to jump out on them early, get a fast lead, then kind of take the air out of the ball and let our offense do its thing — because we have one of the best offenses on the Island, I have full confidence to say that. They make me a better player.”

He said the team’s defense doesn’t get a lot of credit, especially being that Gray is second in Suffolk County scoring behind Smithtown East’s Connor DeSimone, but it was hard to miss senior James Mirabell locking down a strong Islip offense, and racing to ground balls that led to crucial possession. The defense, also led by Dan Cassidy and Kyle Higgins, helped protect goalie Andrew DePalma, who made five saves.

“I think it’s the best defense we played all year,” Arline added. “We faced some adversity but we buckled down.”

During the lapse that saw Islip pour in four straight goals, Cutinella said his team fell flat.

“We were complacent,” he said. “And getting a penalty drained us.”

He credited Arline’s goal for sparking Shoreham-Wading River to get back on its game.

“You can’t teach that,” Cutinella said of the Arline to Gray play. “He’s making plays, getting everyone rowdy. It changed the game. That lights us up.”

Taylor said the Wildcats closing out the show the way they did was something he expects from his high-powered offense.

“They were resilient — Islip was battling back and I’m so proud of how they stood their ground,” he said. “We bent but we didn’t break.”

The head coach added that his team will celebrate, but just for a short time before getting back to work, because after last season’s state semifinal loss, the team feels it has some unfinished business. Arline said after being a part of the county and Long Island championship-winning team last year getting to that level almost becomes an addiction.

“It’s a feeling you want to get back every single year,” he said. “Our goal is to get a state championship and we’re one step closer.”

Shoreham-Wading River will play Cold Spring Harbor in the Long Island championship at Stony Brook University June 3 at 3 p.m.

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The Wildcats will play in the Long Island championship June 3

The Shoreham-Wading River baseball team dogpiles following its 8-1 win over Bayport-Blue Point, to complete a series sweep for the Class A Suffolk County crown. Photo by Alex Petroski

The Shoreham-Wading River baseball team utilized a familiar formula to extend its dominant season beyond the Suffolk County Class A final May 26 — equal doses of the long ball and the powerful right arm of senior ace Brian Morrell.

Brian Morrell hurls a pitch from the mound. Photo by Alex Petroski

Morrell put a cherry on top of his special senior season with a complete game, 11-strikeout performance to stymie the Bayport-Blue Point bats in an 8-1 victory. He also went 3-for-5 at the plate including a second-inning grand slam — his second in three games — finishing just a triple short of the cycle. The win was the 20th in a row for the Wildcats, which completed the sweep of Bayport-Blue Point to close out their Suffolk County schedule 24-1, with an eye on more pieces of hardware.

“His breaking ball was really dynamite — that’s a tough pitch to hit,” head coach Kevin Willi said of Morrell’s stuff on the mound Friday. “He’s throwing it in all counts — not afraid to throw it 3-2 to guys; and it was really effective.”

Willi reflected on coaching the dominant two-way player during his memorable career.

“It’s nice, it’s easy,” Willi said of coaching Morrell. “He’s a good kid too on top of that. He’s always team first.”

Shoreham-Wading River’s baseball team celebrates its Class A Suffolk County championship win. Photo by Alex Petroski

The ace, who has committed to play ball at the University of Notre Dame next season, said his whole arsenal was working in the victory.

“I just commanded my fastball, that’s really how I started off every batter,” he said. “Every pitch I really felt confident in. I knew if I threw strikes I was going to come out with the ‘W.’”

Morrell scattered three hits over the first two innings, then didn’t allow another over the final five frames. He set down 10 straight Phantoms at one point, before loading the bases with two walks and a hit by pitch to start the sixth. A fly out and two strikeouts ended the threat and maintained a seven-run lead.

“He was throwing really hard and painting corners,” senior catcher Thomas Brady said of his battery mate’s performance. Brady kicked off the scoring with a one-out, two-run homer in the top of the first. He and Morrell combined to drive in seven of the Wildcats’ eight runs. “Honestly, when me and him get in our rhythm, we’re the best duo,” Brady said. “It’s really hard to hit Brian obviously.”

Brian Morrell rounds the bases after hitting his second grand slam in the last three games. Photo by Alex Petroski

Despite Morrell’s consistency on the hill, Willi said the team was driven by its offense in 2017.

“All season we’ve had a really heavy senior class — a lot of guys working hard for very many years to get to this point,” he said. “We put together a lot of great pitching performances, we played great defense at times when we needed it, and really the story of the year was the bats. We scored a lot of runs.”

The Wildcats will face the winner of the Nassau County championship series between Wantagh and Garden City. The Long Island championship game will be played June 3 at SUNY Old Westbury at 12 p.m.

Brady said he’s not sure it matters who Shoreham-Wading River squares off against next.

“Whoever we play, they’re not going to stop us right now,” he said. “We’re hot, we’re playing hard. We became a team, and I’m proud of all of these guys.”

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Wildcats outscore Mount Sinai 16-4 to advance to Class A finals

 

By Bill Landon

Slamming home a win was exactly what Shoreham-Wading River’s baseball team did.

Wildcats ace Brian Morrell, and first baseman Dean Stalzer both hit grand slams in a 10-run second inning to lead Shoreham-Wading River past Mount Sinai, 16-4, in the Class A semifinals May 20. The team will face Bayport-Blue Point May 24 in the championship round.

Morrell’s bat got the game started in the first inning with a two-run home run over the left field fence. Senior Thomas Brady singled next, and classmates Vincent Uzzi and Jon Luppens hit RBI singles for a 4-0 Shoreham-Wading River advantage.

The Mustangs were unable to answer, and the Wildcats’ bats went back to work in bottom of the second.

“It was a fast ball inside and I knew it right away [that it was gone].”

—Dean Stalzer

Senior Kyle Baylous hit a ground-rule double, Morrell followed with a single that put runners at the corners and senior Nick Manesis drew a walk to load the bases. With the table set, Stalzer jumped out on a fastball, and sent it flying over the left field fence with room to spare for a grand slam that doubled the Wildcat’s lead.

“We came out hot like we planned to do,” he said. “It was a fast ball inside and I knew it right away [that it was gone].”

The inning was far from over. Uzzi and senior Alex Bettenhauser hit singles, and Luppens drove Uzzi home for a second time. Senior T.J. Sicoli smacked the ball through the gap to load the bases, and Baylous was hit by a pitch to walk home the Wildcats’ 10th run.

Enter Morrell. The University of Notre Dame-bound pitching ace also jumped on a fastball, and blasted it the opposite way for the second grand slam of the inning and a commanding 14-0 lead.

“That just doesn’t happen … two grand slams in one inning is amazing,” Morrell said. “They pithed me outside all day … it was a fastball away and I just wanted to beat them.”

Morrell, who has pitched three no hitters this season and six in his varsity career, was critical of his performance on the mound despite earning the win and going 2-for-4 with two home runs and six RBIs.

“My command was pretty bad today — I made my pitches and got outs, but they hit me a little bit,” he said. “Going to the county finals means a lot especially after last year where we fell short. We have a great team and I feel that we can do a lot.”

“The potential is always there to put together two good innings early, but that was pretty intense.”

—Kevin Willi

Senior Will Esposito lit up the scoreboard first for Mount Sinai, and Morrell walked the next batter to load the bases. Looking to spark a rally, junior Ryan Picarello nailed a two-run shot to right field, but the Mustangs couldn’t keep the inning going. In the bottom of the fifth, Mount Sinai tacked on its final run.

After a close game between the two teams in their last outing, Shoreham-Wading River head coach Kevin Willi said he was surprised by the margin of victory. He added he was impressed with the collective effort his squad showed and how everyone made a contribution. He said the Wildcats have scored 32 home runs in its 22-1 season.

“The potential is always there to put together two good innings early, but that was pretty intense,” he said. “It was good because we just came off our closest game of the season, the 3-2 win over Mount Sinai, where we had to come back down 2-1 in the bottom of the seventh. To come back — getting the bats going — that’s been the story all year.”

But the Wildcats didn’t need to worry about coming back this time around. Stalzer, who finished 2-for-5 with five RBIs, plated Morrell in the bottom of the sixth, and Uzzi drove home Stalzer to give the game its final score.

“We knew that Mount Sinai wasn’t going to lay down and let us have it,” Stalzer said. “So our mindset was to be really focused today. If we lost today it would’ve been our first loss [in the postseason], and we didn’t want to play them again.”

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Sean Haplin shoots past a diving West Babylon goalkeeper. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Jitters are to be expected when a freshman takes the field for the first time, but looking at Shoreham-Wading River’s Jake Naso, you wouldn’t know it.

Jake Naso carries the ball into West Babylon’s zone after gaining possession. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The freshman won 22 of 25 faceoffs to give the boys’ lacrosse team the possession it needed to come away with a 17-4 nonleague win over West Babylon May 2.

“I felt good,” Naso said of his first varsity start, smiling. “I’m getting used to it, and I hope to take more in the future.”

Naso was a piece of the total team puzzle, with the Wildcats outscoring the Eagles 7-2 in the first quarter.

“We got up on them early and that affected the whole outcome of the game,” Shoreham-Wading River head coach Mike Taylor said. “I thought that we were very crisp and we did the things we wanted to do right away. I’m very happy with the boys executing what we practiced to run against them.”

He also liked seeing 10 athletes sprinkling the score sheet with points throughout the afternoon.

Chris Gray scoops up the ground ball with a defender on his back. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“We’ve been trying to get to that level — creating a team concept offensively,” Taylor said. “And now we’re getting guys more game experience, and with Jake winning the faceoffs, that’s going to be huge for us depth-wise. We already have a good faceoff guy with Joe [Miller] so to have two guys, we’re almost spoiled.”

Highlighting the offense was senior Chris Gray, who contributed five goals and five assists. Most notable, was Gray’s score off a cross-field pass from James Mirabell. With West Babylon’s goalkeeper out of the net after carrying the ball to the opposite end of the field, Gray grabbed hold of the pass and dribbled it in mid-air until getting a good enough hold to whip a shot behind his back and into the back of the cage as goalkeeper Mark Esposito tried to get back between the pipes.

James Mirabell and Chris Sheehan defend against a West Babylon attack. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“We were relaxed on offense and then the defense got a big turnover,” Gray said. “The ball was bouncing in and out of my stick and I saw the goalie wasn’t in the net yet, and the best opportunity as he was making his way between the pipes was to shoot it behind my back, and luckily it went in.”

He also liked what he saw from his young teammate, Naso.

“He comes out to practice and works hard every day,” Gray said. “Winning the faceoffs and getting us all those extra possessions was big. This is a huge confidence-booster for him.”

But Taylor said there’s still room to grow. As the Wildcats learned last season, even with a near-flawless record, complacency can set in.

Gavin Gregorek looks to fire at the cage. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“There are a lot of great teams out there that will be good competition,” he said. “We learned last year that we made it far, but we didn’t win it all. To win it all you have to continue to get better, so every day we have to come ready to work.”

Gray said the team’s two early-season losses — to East Islip and Eastport-South Manor in April — shaped the team. Now, they’re looking to gauge where they’re at with the games ahead.

“They helped us figure out what we were lacking,” Gray said. “We’re definitely getting better, and we have two big games coming up against Miller Place and Garden City that will really test our team.”

Shoreham-Wading River travels to Miller Place May 4 for a 4:30 p.m. matchup, and will host Garden City May 6 at 2 p.m.

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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Wildcats' 44-33 win earns them share of League VI title

 

By Bill Landon

Shoreham-Wading River was hungry for revenge, and junior Erin Triandafils used it to feed a six-point scoring streak off the bench in the fourth quarter, which led to a 44-33 Wildcats win over previously undefeated Mount Sinai.

“Mount Sinai is a good rival in every sport, and we finally beat them,” Triandafils said. “It was definitely very exciting. We were hoping to play great defense, get some baskets and just play our game.”

Licking their wounds from their only League VI loss of the season, the Wildcats wanted to avenge the Jan. 17 defeat in front of their home crowd Feb. 11.

Shoreham-Wading River head coach Adam Lievre said he suspected the last game of the regular season would be a key matchup between both teams, and have it set the tone for the postseason.

“Going into the year, we both would’ve figured that there was a good chance this was how it was going to go down,” Lievre said. “We knew who they lost due to graduation, but we brought everybody back, so we expected to be fighting for the top spot.”

Mount Sinai was protecting a 17-0 season and 13-0 league record, but the Mustangs couldn’t overcome its rival as the lead began to slip away in the second half.

Shoreham-Wading River’s defense had held Mount Sinai senior Victoria Johnson scoreless until she found the rim three times in the third quarter. Classmate Veronica Venezia scored from the paint, sophomore Holly McNair banked two points and so did sophomore Gabriella Sartori, as the Mustangs edged ahead 27-22 with just over four minutes left.

Shoreham-Wading River tied the game at 29-29, and senior Lindsey McKenna hit a buzzer-beater that gave her team the edge heading into the final eight minutes of play.

Senior Maria Smith said her team had been practicing for weeks with the matchup against Mount Sinai in mind.

“We just wanted revenge, and we finally got it,” Smith said. “I knew that we had momentum and we went into the huddle [and said] we have to keep this [lead]. We can’t lose it.”

That’s when Triandafils scored three straight times.

“Erin [Triandafils], she’s been groomed to play behind Maria [Smith], because they’re very similar in what they’re capable of doing,” Lievre said. “We took a chance and gave her a couple of minutes, and it worked out really well.”

Junior Mikayla Dwyer led Shoreham-Wading River with 10 points, Smith scored eight and seniors Mackenzie Zajac and Sophie Triandafils, Erin’s older sister, each added seven points.

Venezia was atop the scoreboard for Mount Sinai with eight points, Johnson was right behind with seven and McNair, Sartori and sophomore Brooke Cergol rounded out the scoring with six points each..

With the loss, Mount Sinai shares the league title with Shoreham-Wading River.

“At certain times of the season you’re going to have adversity, and this is something we’ll be dealing with when it comes to the playoffs,” Mount Sinai head coach Michael Pappalardo said. “I thought this was a good game for us. I looked at this game as one with a playoff atmosphere. Adversity makes us better.”

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