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Wolverines

By Bill Landon

Smithtown West had a score to settle, as the girls volleyball team opened the season on the road at Newfield, the team that knocked them out of the postseason last year. For the Bulls, redemption was sweet as the girls swept the Wolverines in three straight sets Sept. 5, 25-10, 25-22, 25-23.

“We know they’re a tough team, they’re scrappy defensively and they’re not going to give up,” said Smithtown West head coach Deron Brown. “We came out really strong in the first set — we put a big number on the board to start.”

“I was happy with how we picked ourselves up in the second game. We got aggressive and had good communication out on the court.”

— Christy Innes

Anchoring the outside hitting game for Smithtown West were senior Peri Allen from the right side and freshman Sally Tietjen from the left.

“Last year — they crushed us in three,” said Allen, who notched 16 digs and eight kills. “So to win today in three proved that we [are capable] of beating them, so it was a big win for us.”

For Tietjen, the scoring was almost reversed, recording 15 kills and eight digs for the formidable scoring duo up front.

The Bulls barreled through the Newfield  in the first set, and despite being ahead 13-6 in the second set, Newfield slowly chipped away at the deficit. As the momentum shifted the Wolverines’ way, with the help of some Smithtown West miscues, Newfield rallied to close the gap to 22-19, forcing Smithtown West to call timeout. Out of the break, the Wolverines scored two unanswered points to trail by one before the Bulls closed the door, 25-22.

Newfield head coach Christy Innes said she anticipated a tough match and said her team had to shake off the first set and focus on playing mistake free the rest of the way.

“[Smithtown West] did very well today — they played a very aggressive game, but we expected that,” the coach said. “I was happy with how we picked ourselves up in the second game. We got aggressive and had good communication out on the court.”

“In that third set I just wanted to make sure we kept pushing through. We fell behind a little bit and this happened to us last year, so we had to really fight through that game, and we pushed hard.

Sally Tietjen

The Wolverines once again got off to a slow start to open the third set, falling behind 5-0 before they could answer. Madison Wenzel set to her outside hitters — senior Naomi Ruffalo-Roman and junior Olivia Bond — as the three battled at the net to claw their way back, tying the set 14-14. It was a see-saw battle the rest of the way with Newfield taking its first lead of the day, edging ahead 15-14, but the Bulls rallied back too, to make it a new game at 18-18.

“In that third set I just wanted to make sure we kept pushing through,” Tietjen said. “We fell behind a little bit and this happened to us last year, so we had to really fight through that game, and we pushed hard. We were so determined to beat them after last year, so we didn’t let up.”

The Wolverines scored, but the Bulls answered. An out-of-bounds serve gave the lead back to Newfield for 20-19 advantage, and both teams traded points before Smithtown West scored the final two to win.

Newfield is back on the court Sept. 7 when the team travels to Riverhead for a 4 p.m. match.

“They pulled together,” Innes said. “They got aggressive, had good communication and they played well in the last two games. We’ll be back at practice tomorrow and work on the individual skills stuff for each girl and we’ll focus on cleaning up the technique.”

Smithtown West will host crosstown foe Smithtown East Sept. 7 at 5:45 p.m.

“Our lineup is not really set yet — we’re still trying different kids in different spots — but everybody responded well,” Brown said. “They went out on the court with energy and they stayed positive, even when the match got tight.”

Smithtown East's Michael Ruggiero hurls a pitch. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Smithtown East’s Matt Laurelli races back to the base while Newfield’s Tom DeSena waits for the ball. Photo by Bill Landon

Smithtown East’s baseball bats were cracking May 2 during a 15-0 shutout of Newfield to maintain the No. 2 spot in League III. With the win, the Bulls are three games behind Half Hollow Hills East.

Smithtown East senior starting pitcher Michael Ruggiero was as big a threat at the plate as he was from the mound. He belted the ball through  the gap to drive home sophomore Nick Harvey for the early lead in the top of the third, and senior Andrew Canino followed with a shot to right field, plating Ruggiero and junior Matt Laurelli for a 3-0 lead.

Newfield head coach Eric Joyner met with starting pitcher Ryan Wappaus on the mound, but the talk didn’t help, as Newfield loaded the bases with two outs. Junior Marc Barbiglia was up to bat next and smashed a base-clearing double to double the advantage to 6-0.

Newfield’s Mike Manzolillo makes contact. Photo by Bill Landon

“They’re a great team — they came out here and they fought hard, but we put the bat on the ball,” Barbiglia said. “We threw strikes, let them hit the ball, put the ball in play [and] we had good fielding. But our bats were on fire today.”

In the top of the fourth inning, Newfield found itself in another tough spot with a runner on base and Ruggiero up to bat. He blasted the ball over the right fielder’s head and speedily made his way around the bases for an in-the-park home run.

“He put it on the outside half [of the plate], it was a 3-1 count, so I knew a fastball was coming,” Ruggiero said. “I jumped right on it and hit it the other way. They did get me earlier in the game, but I fell back and adjusted. [Newfield is] scrappy — a good baseball team — but we were able to shut them down today.”

Newfield made its second change at the mound, but the Bulls didn’t miss a beat. Ruggiero singled to shallow right to put runners on the corner in the top of the sixth, a walk loaded the bases, and Canino drew another walk to bring home Harvey for a nine-run lead.

Smithtown East’s Marc Barbiglia makes his way to home plate. Photo by Bill Landon

“We had base runners on in the first three innings, but we just didn’t get the big hit to get some runs on the board to keep us close,” Joyner said. “They took the advantage moving base runners over and had timely hitting, and we just didn’t do that today.”

Justin Harvey, Nick’s twin brother, found the gap scoring Laurelli, and the runs piled on from there. Sophomore Will Kennedy drove in two with a stand-up double, Barbiglia smacked another RBI-single and sophomore Matt Tempone drilled a two-run double for the final runs.

“They have very good pitching, very good players,” Smithtown East head coach Ken Klee said of Newfield. “Michael Ruggiero, he’s our leader — we’ve been waiting all year to start him and he did exactly what we expected of him. It was probably our best offensive game all year, but they were on the wrong side of it today. We know they’re good, so we’ve got to be ready to play [them again] tomorrow.”

Newfield traveled to Smithtown East May 3, but results were not available by press time. Newfield will host Smithtown East May 4 at 4:30 p.m. to complete the three-game series.

Ward Melville’s Ben Rojak and Newfield’s Evan Sidorowicz reach out to get a touch on one another. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Newfield was searching for its first win of the season, but the Wolverines had their hands full Dec. 19 with a matchup against Ward Melville on the fencing strip. The Patriots dynasty handily outscored its opponent 19-8 to extend their undefeated season to 4-0. Sabreist Jack Rohan defeated his third opponent on the night to give his team the 14th victory out of 27 possible, which put the meet away.

Ward Melville head coach Jeff Salmon flushed his bench to get his nonstarters some experience on the strip, and even those Patriots excelled.

Ward Melville’s Regan St. Clair and Newfield’s Jake Hempe connect. Photo by Bill Landon

“This year we have a lot of seniors and then there’s a big empty spot, so I’m trying to prepare for the future,” Salmon said. “But I feel pretty comfortable this season. It’s next season that I’m trying to get ready for.”

Sophomore foilist Jake Hempe broke the ice for Newfield in the fifth bout of the evening, defeating Ward Melville’s Regan St. Clair 5-1.

Hempe is undefeated after four meets, and with his victories over Ward Melville, improved to 15-0 on the season.

“Ward Melville is exactly what I was expecting,” Hempe said. “ I fence with these guys at club, but as far as our performance, we just have to be more aggressive. We have the right actions, but sometimes we’re too slow. We need to come off the blade faster and we have to finish.”

Ward Melville senior epéeist Michael Jaklitsch blanked his opponent 5-0 in the seventh bout to stretch his team’s lead to 6-1.

“We’re a strong team — we fenced really well — so it’s nice when we face a team that may not be as strong, where we can get our new fencers out on the strip,” Jaklitsch said. “The big thing is to get them ready in case we have an injury or someone gets sick.”

Jaklitsch said his squad is shallow in epée, so his focus has been training the new fencers.

Newfield sabreist Patrick Hyneman said, despite being shutout by his opponent, the defeat makes him a better fencer.

Ward Melville’s Nick Ramos gets a touch on Newfield’s Vincent Reyes. Photo by Bill Landon

“I had fenced them during a tournament, and when I go up against them, I learn so much from these guys,” Hyneman said. “Sure, it’s sad to lose, but to fence these guys — I take what I’ve learned into my next match.”

Newfield head coach Kyle Schirmer said his team is young, with just two seniors and one junior, and said it’s a sophomore that stands out on his team.

“Hempe is my captain — he’s been on the team since the seventh grade, he’s a good team leader, he’s patient and he helps the other kids,” said the coach.

Ward Melville foilist Matthew Chiarelli won his first bout 5-2, but lost his second in a close contest, falling 5-4 to Hempe.

“We got a lot of the new fencers in today, which is always nice,” Chiarelli said. “That’s great to get them out on the strip because they are the future of our team, so it’s good to bring them in early to see what it’s like out there.”

With the loss, Newfield drops to 0-5 and will host another winless team in Brentwood, Dec. 22 at 5 p.m.

“My team is very young, so we’re going to work on the basics right now,” Schirmer said. “We face Brentwood next, and it’ll go a lot better than it went today.”

Newfield's Paul Vonvoight drives to the hoop. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Newfield eighth-grader Ziggy Hoe’s first points were game-winning, literally.

The guard, making his debut at the varsity level, swished a three-pointer with less than a minute left to give his team a 58-56 advantage, and ultimately the win, for the Wolverines. Newfield edged out Comsewogue, 59-56, in the physical and foul-riddled nonleague game Dec. 13.

“They were very aggressive; they can make plays,” Newfield head coach Anthony Agostino said of Comsewogue. “I have two freshman and an eighth-grader. I’m real proud of my guys because they played so hard.”

It was a slow start, as neither team scored in the first three minutes of play. Comsewogue junior David Heller broke the ice when he hit a three-pointer, and after three unanswered field goals by Newfield, Heller tacked on another three-pointer to tie the game.

Newfield's justin Ottenwalder scores a layup. Photo by Bill Landon
Newfield’s Justin Ottenwalder scores a layup. Photo by Bill Landon

The Warriors’ defense put on an aerial show, blocking several shots, which forced the Wolverines to shoot from outside the paint. As a result, Comsewogue went on a run that helped it edge ahead 14-8 two minutes into the second quarter.

The teams traded points, and Comsewogue junior guard Tyler Petruzzi hit a long distance three-pointer with just under three minutes left until halftime that put his Warriors out front 21-12. Newfield rallied with a pair of defensive steals, and made it a four-point game by the break, 23-19.

Newfield’s Paul Vonvoight had the hot hand in the third, as the junior guard banked three field goals to put his team out front for the first time, 24-23, with 6:40 left in the quarter. The Warriors countered to retake the lead, 25-24, but Vonvoight drained a three-pointer to make it a three-point game, 33-30, with less than three minutes left in the third.

“We knew they’re a great team — we had to come out and fight for every point,” Vonvoight said. “We had to keep our cool, be humble and focus on every possession.”

Comsewogue went on a 8-1 run, and junior Dylan Morris Gray took to the floor after the Warriors’ starting point guard fouled out.

“We caught a break when [Joey] Carillo fouled out,” Agostino said.

But the team didn’t miss a beat. Morris Gray drove the lane and fought his way to the rim for two points and was fouled in the process. He completed the three-point play from the charity stripe to give his team a 40-34 lead, and both teams added a field goal to end the third with Comsewogue up 42-36.

The teams opened the final stanza trading points again, but this time, at the charity stripe. Then, Newfield senior forward Justin Ottenwalder hit a long distance trey to trail by three with just under five minutes left. Next, Ottenwalder stole the ball and drove the baseline, where he was fouled. He went to the line shooting once, and scored to tie the game 52-52 with 2:17 left in regulation.

“The first game was going to be hard because you’re not used to the speed of the game,” Ottenwalder said. “Effort and energy won the game for us today.”

Comsewogue's Alan Smith shoots over a defender. Photo by Bill Landon
Comsewogue’s Alan Smith shoots over a defender. Photo by Bill Landon

Comsewogue junior guard Alan Smith spoke next with a shot from three-point land, only to have Ottenwalder counter, tying the game at 55-55.

After Comsewogue junior guard Tom McGuire split his chances at the free-throw line, Hoe dropped his three-pointer with 41 seconds on the clock, for the 58-56 lead.

“We were taking quick shots when we had the lead — we could’ve taken our time, taken all 35 seconds off the shot clock,” Heller said. “But we didn’t do that, and it cost us the game.”

Newfield’s defense made a stand and denied Comsewogue with a turnover, and drew a foul on a play with 5.4 seconds left. Vonvoight, shooting for two points, hit the front end but missed the back, for the point that gave the game its final score.

“The turnovers were a big thing — but I thought our rebounding was a lot better than our last game,” Comsewogue junior forward and center Patrick Billings said. “We can’t have the kind of mistakes we had today. We’ve just got to play better next game.”

Ottenwalder finished with 17 points for Newfield, and Vonvoight added 15.

Heller led Comsewogue with 18 points.

Comsewogue head coach Joel Sutherland told his team that the loss will serve as a wake-up call.

“I thought we came out strong, but we have to get better taking care of the ball,” Sutherland said. “This game will make us better, and it’ll make us stronger.”

Newfield hits the road to open league play Dec. 20 at Copiague, with tipoff scheduled for 4 p.m. Comsewogue will host Harborfields the same day at 5:45 p.m.

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Isaiah Israel evades a tackle as he plow his way up the middle. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Newfield’s No. 6 football team made it a one-point game twice in its qualifying matchup against Half Hollow Hills West Nov. 5, but couldn’t overtake the No. 3 seed, falling 35-26.

“I’m so proud of our players — they left it out on the field,” Newfield head coach Joe Piccininni said. “They played Newfield football, and we can’t be more proud of them because their effort out there on the field is a championship [in itself].”

Justin Ottenwalder drags a tackler as moved the ball up the field. Photo by Bill Landon
Justin Ottenwalder drags a tackler as moved the ball up the field. Photo by Bill Landon

Hills West struck first three minutes in with a 3-yard plunge into the end zone. The Colts found touchdown land again four minutes later to break out to a 14-0 lead.

Newfield senior Tom Long, who shared quarterback duties with freshman Max Martin all afternoon, helped his team to the Colts’ 22-yard line, and handed the ball off to senior running back Isaiah Israel, who slipped passed two tacklers and went the distance to break the ice for the Wolverines. Senior wide receiver and linebacker Christopher Lopez split the uprights to make it a one-score game.

With just over two minutes left in the first half on a 4th down from the 8-yard line, Long was flushed out of the pocket and scrambled looking for an open receiver. On the run, he found senior Justin Ottenwalder cutting to the corner of the end zone and threw a touchdown strike to close the gap, but when the point-after attempt failed, Newfield was left down, 14-13.

The Wolverines’ defense struggled with the Colts’ running game, which gobbled up yardage through the middle of the field, and finished a sustained drive on a short-yardage play to edge ahead 21-13 with just over a minute left in the first half.

Newfield’s’ running game stammered, and struggled to gain ground against Hills West’s defense, which caused the Wolverines to move to the air. After two consecutive pass plays, and with time running out in the second stanza, Long used his hurry-up offense to throw a deep pass to his favorite receiver, Ottenwalder, who was flying down the right sideline. He caught a 48-yard pass in stride, and Lopez’s foot made it a one-point game, 21-20, to close out the half.

Tom Long throws the ball deep into Half Hollow Hills West territory. Photo by Bill Landon
Tom Long throws the ball deep into Half Hollow Hills West territory. Photo by Bill Landon

At the 7:54 mark of the third quarter, Hills West’s Alexander Filacouris broke from the line and found the end zone for his third touchdown of the afternoon to put the Colts out front 28-20.

Newfield lined up in punt formation on a 4th and 7 on the 42-yard line on its next drive, and Long, who is also the punter, took the long snap and threw to Israel running over the middle, and he took the ball to the 8-yard line. Israel finished what he started, and plowed up the middle for the touchdown to trail by two points.

Newfield knew what it needed to do, and lined up for the 2-point conversion attempt to tie the game. Long rolled to his right and threw to an open Ottenwalder, but the Colts’ defense knocked the pass down.

The one-score game was short lived, and Hills West struck again with just over two minutes left in the third, and with the point-after attempt successful, stretched the lead to 35-26.

“They’re an extremely talented team, they’re big and they’re physical,” Piccininni said of the Colts. “We were down 10 points, so the only way to move the ball downfield in that amount of time was to put the ball in the air and to utilize the clock.”

With time running out, the Wolverines threw over the middle only to have a pass picked off at the 1-yard line. Hills West ran the ball up the middle to buy some time, and took two knees to seal the deal.

“I’m fortunate to have had the opportunity to coach a great group of seniors, and watch the leadership they’ve shown,” Piccininni said. “I’m proud of our players — they left it all out in the field.”

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Rafael Celanti gets a shot on goal off a corner kick. Photo by Desirée Keegan

By Desirée Keegan

Rafael Celanti started off this season as a center midfielder, and after the decision to move him to center forward, the sophomore’s coaches — and the rest of the Newfield boys’ soccer team — are reaping the benefits.

Nick Gomez heads the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Nick Gomez heads the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Celanti repeatedly came through for his team after the change, and helped the Wolverines make history. He scored early for his second game-winning goal of the postseason in a 2-0 victory over previously undefeated Hauppauge (15-1-3) Oct. 31, which sent his team to the Suffolk County finals for the first time in school history.

“He’s been a superstar,” Newfield’s 12-year head coach Jamie Santiago said of Celanti. “He’s doing everything a center forward does — he holds the plays up, he scores goals, he’s so elusive there. We wouldn’t be where we are today if it wasn’t for him.”

Celanti scored in the eighth minute of the contest when he blasted a shot into the bottom left corner.

“I saw the center back coming inside, and he backed away and thought the goalie was going to pick it up, so I ran and got to it first,” the sophomore said. “I’m speechless. Newfield never made it this far and I’m happy to be part of it.”

The Wolverines battled through its 16-1-1 season tallying nine shutouts with a handful of come-from-behind wins. Senior center back John Alves knew what it would take to get the Wolverines further than any Newfield team had been before.

“I told the boys it’s going to be a battle, but it’s just going to be another game of soccer,” he said. “I told them we need to settle down and play our game, and we scored early, which helped our emotions.”

Anthony Mauri screams in celebration following the semifinal win. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Anthony Mauri screams in celebration following the semifinal win. Photo by Desirée Keegan

After several pushes made by Hauppauge to even the score, sophomore center attack and midfielder Nick Gomez put the game out of reach when he headed in a free kick by senior Mike DiDominico.

“It’s an indescribable feeling,” he said of the team making history, adding he was also thankful that his coach didn’t listen to him when he asked for a substitute to get him off the field right before the free kick. “It felt great to make it in and extend the lead for my team.”

Santiago said he was proud of his team’s achievements this season, which so far include nabbing the League III title and making it to the Class AA finals after not making the semis in 17 years.

“These guys have been through so much all season long,” he said. “There’s been peaks and valleys of emotions and to be the first team to make the finals is historic, and I couldn’t be more proud of everyone and their effort. It’s a joyous occasion for all of us.”

Santiago also credited Alves, the team’s leader on the back line. Sophomore goalkeeper Loui Chen made several diving, quick-reaction saves to maintain the clean sheet. He finished with eight saves.

No. 3 Newfield will face No. 4 Brentwood in the finals at Diamond in the Pines in Coram Nov. 4 at 7 p.m.

While Santiago said Brentwood is a program the Wolverines aspire to be like, Alves said his team has the right mindset to continue to make history.

“This season’s been a war, and we’ve battled the entire time to come out on top,” he said. “The emotions are crazy right now. I’m happy to finally do something for the school — put ourselves on the map. I tell my teammates to fight for the person next to you and play as hard as you can, and I’m confident we can continue to battle to reach new heights. We’re here to play.”

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The Newfield girls' soccer team walks off the field winners. Photo by Desirée Keegan

By Desirée Keegan

The Newfield girls’ soccer team faced an uphill climb late in its first-round playoff matchup with Bay Shore, but three clutch goals helped the Wolverines survive and advance.

Emily Diaz sends the ball into play. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Emily Diaz sends the ball into play. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Freshman Sierra Rosario headed in the final goal that gave her team a 4-3 lead with 3:41 left to play. It was the third scored in six minutes by the No. 7 Wolverines, as they battled back to top No. 10 Bay Shore in the first round of the Suffolk County Class AA playoffs Oct. 24.

“That was the scariest moment of my life,” Rosario, a midfielder, said of the final goal. “Vaneeya [Volino] put a good ball in, I flicked it and it went into the bottom right corner. Our heads could’ve gone down, but we kept lifting each other up. Everyone put in 100 percent of the effort from the first whistle to the last. No one really got down on each other, even going down two goals, we kept motivating one another and it shows we have so much heart.”

Newfield put on the pressure to start the game, keeping the ball in Bay Shore’s zone for most of the first half, but the two teams went into the break in a 0-0 draw.

“I need relentless off-the-ball movement,” Newfield head coach Domenik Veraldi said he told his team at halftime. “We need to keep up the intensity and the pressure.”

The Wolverines did just that in the second half. Senior defender Volino’s corner-kick goal just over a minute in off a send in from senior midfielder Kristen Prevosto gave Newfield the lead.

Kristen Prevosto celebrates her team's come-from-behind win. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Kristen Prevosto celebrates her team’s comeback win. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Junior goalkeeper Alexis Saladino made a diving save on Bay Shore’s first shot on goal of the game almost 10 minutes later. A direct free kick at the 20:20 mark went just over Saladino’s head, as she jumped straight up but couldn’t get her fingers on the ball. Six minutes later, she rushed out of the box to make a block, but missed on Bay Shore’s breakaway, as the ball rolled into the net to give the Marauders a 3-1 edge.

Prevosto pulled her team within one when she sent a shot from 20 yards out straight into the net off another free kick from Volino, and junior defender Taylor Regensburger tied the score off a breakaway pass from Volino with 6:38 left in regulation.

“I saw the ball and I thought the girl in front of me was going to head it, but I saw it go over and I know how to bring it down, relax and find the low corners, and I got it,” Prevosto said. “We came in, we were hungry, and obviously, we ate.”

Regensburger said her strategy was to also keep the ball low.

“It was me and the goalie and I knew I had to play to the corners because she’s very tall,” she said. “It feels great to come this far because we’ve never done it before.”

Taylor Regensburger heads the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Taylor Regensburger heads the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The Wolverines were part of a developmental league in 2012, designed for weaker teams to play competitive games without the possibility of postseason play, and tallied 15 wins over the following three seasons. Many girls on this Newfield team were on a two-win team in 2013.

“This is my favorite season so far,” said Veraldi, who was an assistant coach in 2012. “They just made a memory they’ll have their entire life. When they play with that kind of heart and that commitment — they never give up and you can see it there with three goals in under 10 minutes — they don’t cease to shock me. This is what we expect. I was composed when we were down 3-1 because I expected them to, as a team, pull it together and come through. And they did.”

Newfield travels to No. 2 Smithtown West Oct. 27 for a 2:30 p.m. matchup.

“Newfield came from a developmentally challenged team four years ago, to being here in the playoffs, and we’re not done,” Prevosto said. “It feels great to make it this far but we’re not finished. We’re going to go into the game on Thursday ready to win.”

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Bryan Yanes grabs a pass downfield. Photo by Desirée Keegan

By Desirée Keegan

With a 2-1 win over West Islip Oct. 7, the 8-1-1 Newfield boys’ soccer team is one step closer to being named League III champions.

Rafael Celanti moves the ball through midfield. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Rafael Celanti moves the ball through midfield. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The route to that ultimate goal will continue to challenge the Wolverines, with teams like West Islip fighting for postseason life, and others, like No.1 Smithtown West (10-1), challenging them for the top spot.

“We told them that against a lot of teams that are fighting for their playoff lives, it’s going to get chippy,” Newfield head coach Jamie Santiago said. “But they need to maintain composure, because a lot of teams are going to get them off their game and push them out of their element.”

West Islip did just that in the first half. After scoring the first goal of the game, tempers flared and pushing and shoving resulted in multiple yellow cards for both teams.

Heading into halftime still down a goal, the referees pulled aside captains from both teams to talk about the physicality.

“It happens — they talk — it’s a game, and I told the team to just relax,” senior center back John Alves said. “We’re trying to win the league here, so I told my guys to keep their hands down, get the ball, calm down and to just play our game.”

Mike DiDominico sends the ball into play. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Mike DiDominico sends the ball into play. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The Wolverines opened up the second half very differently. They finally broke through midfield and into West Islip’s zone.

Almost 10 minutes into the second half, senior midfielder Anthony Mauri grabbed a pass, raced around his opponents through midfield, and sent the ball up top to Rafael Celanti. One-on-one with a defender as he made his way to the box, the sophomore midfielder and center forward won the battle, and stuffed the ball into the left corner past a diving goalkeeper to even the score.

“I thought the defender was going to come in at me, so I took a touch forward and got past him,” Celanti said. “Then, it was just me and the goalie and I tapped it into the corner and felt a rush of excitement. This was an important win.”

Celanti had plenty of other opportunities in the game, which impressed his coach.

“Raphael Celanti had a great game,” Santiago said. “He scored, and he missed a couple of headers, but he was just all over the field creating a lot of opportunities. I thought our center midfielders also played a great second half.”

Winning the 50/50 balls was a key to the team’s second-half success.

“When you go down you think you’re going to keep getting scored on, but our team, we get back up — our hearts are always in the game,” Alves said. “So we kept possession — winning the first and second ball — we’re not scared of going into tackles, we’re not scared of shooting the ball. It’s all about going hard and having heart.”

Adrian Izzaguire battles for the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Adrian Izzaguire battles for the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

With 14 minutes left, senior forward Michael DiDominico headed in the game-winner.

“We gave up a bad goal early — we got punished for being slow out of the gate — but as the game went on we built momentum and finally started playing the way we’re capable of, and we turned the tide our way,” Santiago said. “That’s what good teams do. They find a way to win even when they’re not playing their best game.”

He’s hoping his team can do the same thing against Smithtown West Oct. 14. Newfield faced off against the Bulls Sept. 17 and came out on top 2-0, handing the team its only loss of the season.

“It’s a really, really big game,” Santiago said. “Hopefully they can pull out a big win. We have good senior leadership with a great core of young kids — we start five sophomores out of the 11 — and it’s just a good mix. This is one of the best teams I’ve had in my 12 years being a coach. They’re going to fight to the end.”

Wolverines are on track to make the playoffs for the first time in over 10 years

Newfield's Emily Diaz gets her body on the ball as she sends it into the net. Photo by Desirée Keegan

All Emily Diaz had to do was put her body on it.

As senior center midfielder Kristen Prevosto sent in a corner kick for the Newfield girls’ soccer team, Diaz, a junior forward, was in the right place at the right time.

Newfield's Kristen Prevosto heads the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Newfield’s Kristen Prevosto heads the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“When I was standing in front of the net — I’m always on the goalie — I asked Emily [Caso] to go on the goalie so I could get the ball,” Diaz said of her game-winning goal. “I saw it, and thought, ‘this is me.’ So out of the air I had nowhere else to go with it then to push it with my stomach. It went in, and I was psyched.”

With a 2-1 victory over Smithtown East Sept. 26, the Wolverines are on track to make the postseason for the first time in over a decade. Although compiling two ties over a nine-game span, the Wolverines bested reigning state champion Port Jefferson, 3-2, in their season opener, proving they’re talented enough to hang with the best. They’re also learning from their mistakes.

Newfield tied Smithtown East, 1-1, the first time the two teams saw each other Sept. 7. This time around, the girls were hungry to continue their winning ways, with the team’s third straight win, and now have a record of 5-1-2 in League III.

“It’s one of the strongest starts we’ve gotten off to, ,” Newfield head coach Domenik Veraldi said. “But we just think about winning this game, winning the first half, winning the first 10 minutes and winning the ball. We compartmentalize into small, small goals and eventually when we accomplish those small goals it turns into what we want in the end.”

And Newfield did all of those things.

First, the team won the 50/50 balls, and despite Smithtown East senior midfielder Brianna Donato getting back-to-backs shots on goal, Newfield’s junior goalkeeper Alexis Saladino made save after save.

Smithtown East's Brianna Donato controls a pass. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Smithtown East’s Brianna Donato controls a pass. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“We try to keep the ball in the offensive third, and when we can do that, it takes the pressure off of our defense,” Veraldi said. “The only way to keep it up there is to win those air balls; work to every play. We train them to win — not the 50/50 balls — but our balls.”

Newfield junior defender Taylor Regensburger, who was soft but tactical with her foot skills, curled a corer kick into the goal to open the scoring for the Wolverines three minutes into the second half.

Three minutes later, Donato knocked the ball to the floor as she dribbled toward the box, and sent it into the left corner to tie the game for the Bulls.

The two teams traded possession throughout much of the game, but the Wolverines clawed their way up top, making strategic passes and remaining aggressive until, and even after Prevosto set up the game-winning shot.

“It’s awesome to see a team come together as well as we have,” Prevosto said. “I knew we needed to score, so I set the ball up, concentrated on where I was going to put it, and placed it.”

She said her team has improved tremendously from her eighth-grade year to now, and Diaz agreed.

“We have been playing together for a long time,” Diaz said. “We were a young team that continued to grow together. As the season progresses we build on that chemistry day after day, we’re working hard in practice, we’re all really good friends and it’s fun to be on the field, and that’s why we keep winning.”

Newfield's Taylor Regensburger leads the race to the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Newfield’s Taylor Regensburger leads the race to the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

What she liked about her team’s style, compared to Smithtown East’s, is that the Wolverines use more combinations, whereas the Bulls kicked and ran.

Chemistry plays a part in the team’s ability to transition the ball up and down the field. Veraldi said because of this, his group is one to be reckoned with.

“When they play with that much heart and that kind of work ethic, we’re a dangerous team,” he said.

And Diaz anticipates for her team to take it all the way.

“We have to keep our heads up and keep fighting back for the win,” she said. “I have high expectations for us and we’re achieving them every game. We take it game by game by game, and we’re on the road to playoffs.”

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