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Class A

D.J. Kellerman said the Syosset fans kept him entertained all night.

“I don’t even want to repeat it,” he said of what his opponent’s fans were shouting to him while between the pipes. “Everyone was frustrated with me and my defense, our offense and our faceoff guy — we just dominated.”

The Ward Melville boys’ lacrosse team held Syosset to its lowest amount of goals in two years, outscoring the team 9-5 for the Patriots’ 17th Class A Long Island championship title on June 4 at Hofstra University.

Kellerman made 11 saves and the defense was smothering, silencing fans quickly as Ward Melville jumped out to a 4-0 lead midway through the second quarter.

“I was dialed in,” Kellerman said. “We pride ourselves on our defense. We elevate our play from each other and that’s why this unit is successful.”

Both teams came out with intensity, but with Ward Melville’s leveled offense, four different players were able to score while Kellerman made three saves before Sysosset got on the board. Kellerman made his final save of the first half with 8.2 seconds left during a man-down situation.

“We wanted to jump out early on them,” said junior midfielder Eddie Munoz, who earned a hat trick. “We got the momentum going and then, when they made defensive stops, it got us a little juiced up and motivated to put some more goals in. Every time they get a little bit of life, you’ve got to take it right back and my teammates found me the open looks.”

Kellerman made another big-time save with seconds left in the third stanza, and Munoz followed it up with scoring seconds into the fourth, off an assist from senior attack and midfielder Connor Grippe.

“This is the greatest day of my life right now — I said that on Wednesday when we won counties, but this is 10 times better,” said Grippe, who finished with two goals and two assists. “Each game I come in with an open mind, not thinking about it being my last game, but thinking ‘on to the next one.’”

He too thought his team’s defense, with help from players like Kellerman, John Day, Andrew McKenna and Sean Thornton, were key in the game plan to take the title home.

“These guys lock out every single opponent,” he said, also noting the correlation between the defense and offense’s success. “Once the defense makes the stops, it gets us going and it’s a recipe for success.”

What head coach Jay Negus said is the reason for his Patriots’ triumph, on top of the team’s defensive coach and the boys executing his game plan, is the Patriots’ progress.

“The effort, the heart and the accepting of all of the things we throw at them on a daily basis to rise them to the level they need to be at — to see their growth from the first day of practice to now — they really are peaking at the right time,” he said. “I told the guys we need to absorb [Syosset’s] energy because this is a game of momentum and we need to dig in and then counter attack, and we did a good job of doing that today.”

But as Negus said, and the boys know, it’s back to work until the team takes on Lakeland-Panas in the state semifinals at 8 p.m. on June 8 at Hofstra University.

But Munoz just wanted to bask in the moment a little longer.

“Last year a lot of people said we had a better team, but I feel like this year it’s been more of a team effort, and it feels really good to come back here,” Munoz said. “This is where we belong, and we’re going to be here for a while.”

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Mustangs drop game to Wantagh, 3-1, after winning program's first county title

The Mount Sinai baseball team huddle outside the dugout. The Mustangs fell to Wantagh, 3-1, in the Long Island championship game. Photo by Alex Petroski

Pitching and defense were the keys to the Long Island Class A baseball championship game Saturday. In the end, Wantagh had just enough of each, and Mount Sinai was left to wonder what might have been.

The Warriors defeated the Mustangs 3-1 behind a complete game, one hit, zero earned run pitching performance by senior Bobby Hegarty at the Police Athletic League Complex in Holtsville. Hegarty got the best of Mount Sinai senior Sam Kessler on the mound. Kessler also went seven innings; scattering five hits and one walk while striking out seven.

Mount Sinai senior starting pitcher Sam Kessler hurls the ball off the mound. Photo by Alex Petroski
Mount Sinai senior starting pitcher Sam Kessler hurls the ball off the mound. Photo by Alex Petroski

“He’s been tremendous all year long,” Mount Sinai head Coach Eric Reichenbach said of his pitcher after the loss Saturday. Kessler pitched the Mustangs to the championship game with seven innings of two-hit ball to close out a two-game sweep of Rocky Point in the Suffolk County Class A championship series on May 26.

“It’s another game where basically he dominated,” Reichenbach said. “He didn’t give up an earned run. We didn’t play stellar defense behind him, and that’s kind of been our bread and butter all year long — pitching and defense.”

The fact that the Mustangs’ “bread and butter” failed them will probably make Saturday’s result a little tougher to swallow. The Warriors scored the first run of the game in the third inning after an error and two singles loaded the bases with one out for senior designated hitter Will O’Brien.

O’Brien hit a shot to deep left field, which was run down by Mount Sinai outfielder Paul Gomes. The eighth-grader made an outstanding running catch, slamming into the fence for the second out. O’Brien was credited with a sacrifice fly. After a stolen base, sophomore Anthony Fontana singled to right field to put Wantagh up 2-0. Both runs were unearned.

“I thought I didn’t have my best breaking ball early in the game,” Kessler said after the game. “I think that’s where I got in trouble in that third inning a little bit. I made the adjustments, but it was just one of those days. Not much you can say — they played good and came out here and beat us today.”

Kessler settled down and retired 12 of the next 13 Warriors hitters. Mount Sinai answered the Wantagh rally in the bottom of the third, getting men on base via an error and a single. With one out and men on first and second, Wantagh failed to turn a double play and an errant throw by Wantagh second basemen Mike Derham allowed the Mustangs to cut the lead in half. Hegarty didn’t allow another base runner after the third. He retired the final 12 Mustangs he faced to secure the Long Island championship.

Mount Sinai’s Sam Kessler takes a strike from Wantagh’s Bobby Hegarty. Photo by Alex Petroski
Mount Sinai’s Sam Kessler takes a strike from Wantagh’s Bobby Hegarty. Photo by Alex Petroski

“Hats off to the other team, and to Hegarty,” Reichenbach said. “He threw a nice game. Sometimes you’ve got to tip your cap.”

Wantagh scored their third run on Mount Sinai’s third error of the game in the seventh inning.

The Mustangs captured their first-ever Suffolk County Class A championship title this season, though, so Saturday’s disappointing result didn’t stop Mount Sinai from reflecting on a special season.

“It’s hard now because the game just ended, but it’s still a tremendous accomplishment by the school and these kids,” the head coach said. “We’ve never won a Suffolk County championship before. We got one this year and it’s just unfortunate we won’t be going any further.”

Kessler will head to West Virginia University to pitch in the Big 12 Conference in the fall.

“It’s a great season all around,” Kessler said. “We took this team farther then we’ve ever been before. It’s a shame things ended the way it did. There’s a great group of guys here and they’ll be back next year.”

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After back-to-back Suffolk County titles, Mustangs fall to Clarke, 7-1, to end season

The Mount Sinai softball team fell to Clarke, 7-1, in the Long Island championship on June 3 at Hofstra University. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

One year ago, the Mount Sinai softball team reached a new milestone, achieving a level of success the likes of which the Mustangs had never seen.

“This is the best softball team Mount Sinai has ever had,” head coach Tom Tilton said. “They won the conference, they won the league and they won the county championship — something that has never been done before.”

Sabrina Burrus reaches out to grab the ball behind the plate. Photo by Bill Landon
Sabrina Burrus reaches out to grab the ball behind the plate. Photo by Bill Landon

Looking to repeat last year’s success, the Mount Sinai softball team went undefeated in its conference for a second year in a row, finishing atop League VI with a 12-0 record, which earned the team the top seed in the Class A bracket.

After a first-round bye, the Mustangs picked off No. 4 Hampton Bays and took down No. 3 Islip, the only team that had beaten them in a nonleague contest earlier in the season, sending them to the loser bracket, only to play the Buccaneers again in the semifinal round. In back-to-back games, Mount Sinai beat Islip for the school’s second consecutive county title.

A year ago, it had never been done before. And this season, they did it again.

Mount Sinai’s roadblock last year was the Long Island championship, and this year it would be no different. The Mustangs faced Clarke at Hofstra University Friday afternoon, and fell 7-1 to end a remarkable season.

Mount Sinai fell behind 2-0 after one inning of play, and the Mustangs struggled to find a rhythm, making a pitching change in just the bottom of the second inning. Eighth-grader Kelsey Carr took over on the mound after Clarke loaded the bases, with the Mustangs trailing by three runs. It was an error-riddled inning, and Clarke capitalized on each mistake, scoring four unearned runs to jump out to a 6-0 lead.

Hailey La Giudice throws from third. Photo by Bill Landon
Hailey La Giudice throws from third. Photo by Bill Landon

The Mount Sinai bats were quiet over the next two innings, but would get the goose egg off the scoreboard in the top of the fifth.

With runners at first and second, senior third baseman and catcher Sabrina Burrus smacked a sacrifice fly to advance the runner at second to third. Sophomore catcher and third baseman Hailey La Giudice stepped into the batter’s box and battled the pitcher as the count grew full, and ripped the ball through the gap to right field, plating Carr.

With runners on first and second, sophomore Emma Wimmer drew a walk to load the bases, but the opportunity was squandered as the Mustangs went down swinging to end the inning. From there, the Mustangs bats went silent. The team was unable to mount another rally from there.

“We prepared to hit the faster pitching because we know what she brings,” Tilton said of Clarke’s pitcher. “There’s no two ways about it, but I didn’t anticipate making six errors in the first two innings. Today we were very nervous and we haven’t shown that all year. Today that killed us. You can’t give up five unearned runs to a pitcher like that and expect to win.”

Losing only two seniors to graduation, Tilton said he is optimistic about next season.

“We’re a very young team,” he said. “We’ll be back next year.”

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Patriots have now won 24 county titles in 38 appearances

By Bill Landon

The bitter taste of last year’s devastating loss in the Suffolk County championship game to Smithtown West was replaced with the sweet taste of victory Wednesday night, after the Ward Melville boys’ lacrosse team lit up the scoreboard early and often on the way to a 13-5 win over Connetquot for the Class A crown.

Senior attack Chris Grillo scored his hat trick goal less than a minute into the second quarter, to put his team out front 5-0. Senior midfielder Connor Grippe and junior midfielder Dominic Pryor each tallied a goal. Grippe followed up Grillo with an unassisted goal for a 6-0 advantage, before Connetquot put its first point on the board with 7:16 remaining in the first half.

“After that devastating loss last year, we worked our tails off during the off season because we knew we didn’t have the super star talent that we had in years past,” Grippe said. “We don’t have one go-to guy, we have six, and Chris Grillo had an outstanding game. Five goals — that’s what we needed.”

With just over two minutes left before the break, Grillo struck again, and junior attack Andrew Lockhart split the pipes to take an 8-1 advantage into the third.

“We lost to them earlier in the season in overtime,” Grillo said. “We came out flat on offense in that game, defensively we played okay, but we beat ourselves [that day]. We had a lot of injuries and [we battled] the flu in that game, so to come back at full strength was just huge.”

Ward Melville’s defensive unit controlled the Connetquot attackers as they struggled to find an open lane, and had few shots on goal.

Four minutes in, Connetquot scores its second goal of the game, but a minute later the Patriots rattled off three unanswered goals, capped off by Grillo’s fifth goal of the game, to stretch the lead to 11-2.

Connetquot found the net once more, but Ward Melville junior Eddie Munoz stretched the net to edge ahead 12-3 to begin the final 12 minutes of play. The midfielder said he was confident in his team’s ability to take it home this year, despite the Patriots’ season getting off to a rocky start.

“I knew our team had championship potential and I knew we had it in us,” he said. Emphasizing the total team potential to go far. “Today everyone played well, not just one guy. Our defense held together to the end and our offense was shooting to the back of the net making [Connetquot’s] goalie earn every save, which weren’t too many.”

The Patriots let up two late goals in the game, like the team did against Walt Whitman in the semifinals, but Ward Melville was still able to take home its 24th county title in 38 appearances.

“We lost a lot in the beginning of the season — we didn’t have an identity — but now we’re starting to peak and our identity is starting to poke through,” Ward Melville head coach Jay Negus said. “I have to take my hat off to both my assistant coaches, they did a great job preparing defensively — that’s been our strength all year, and our offense came to play today. And I’ll tell you, we can be really dangerous when that happens.”

Mount Sinai junior Victoria Johnson scores her 1,000th career point in loss

Mount Sinai's Victoria Johnson scored her 1,000th point in the Mustangs' first-round Class A playoff loss to Harborfields on Feb. 13. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Harborfields enjoyed a 22-point lead midway through the third quarter, and despite Mount Sinai rallying to close within seven points with just over two minutes left in the game, the Tornadoes’ girls’ basketball team closed with a late surge of its own, to claim a 58-47 victory in the opening round of the Class A playoffs Saturday morning.

Mount Sinai led 13-12 after eight minutes, but managed just four points to Harborfields’ 19 in the second.

Harborfields' Christiana de Borja gets fouled by Mount Sinai's Olivia Williams during the Tornadoes' 58-47 win over the Mustangs in the opening round of the Class A playoffs on Feb. 13. Photo by Bill Landon
Harborfields’ Christiana de Borja gets fouled by Mount Sinai’s Olivia Williams. Photo by Bill Landon

Harborfields point guard Christiana de Borja had the hot hand through the first half, as she drove the lane and muscled her way to the rim, drawing fouls along the way. The five-foot, two-inch junior tallied 13 points over the two quarters.

As Mount Sinai double-teamed de Borja, the Mustangs left the lane opened for Harborfields sophomore guard Erin Tucker, who netted four field goals and a free-throw to add nine more points to the Tornadoes’ 31-17 halftime advantage.

“We always play Mount Sinai in other sports, so we know not to underestimate them, and they came out very strong in the first quarter,” Tucker said. “It’s what we expected. They had a tough second quarter, but we knew they’d come back.”

Three-pointers were flying to open the third quarter, as de Borja banked a pair and Mount Sinai junior guard Victoria Johnson swished her second and third of the game, but still, the Tornadoes edged ahead 43-28 to begin the final quarter.

Harborfields' Falyn Dwyer attempts a jumper. Photo by Bill Landon
Harborfields’ Falyn Dwyer attempts a jumper. Photo by Bill Landon

The Mustangs opened the last eight minutes with two fast breaks that paid dividends for Johnson, who was fouled while shooting, and calmly swished both. The back end marked her 1,000th point of her varsity career.

“They’re really tough on defense,” Johnson said of Harborfields. “We ran on them because they’re a very fast team and they were going to try to stop us in the middle. We had one rough quarter, but we gave it our best. We’re a young team so we’ll make a run next year.”

She’s the first basketball player to score 1,000 points as a Mustang.

“That is truly an amazing accomplishment,” Mount Sinai head coach Michael Pappalardo said. “We are so proud of her.”

Tucker netted two more points at the free-throw line for the Tornadoes, to again make it an 11-point game.

Mount Sinai inbounded the ball, throwing it the length of the court, where freshman guard Margaret Kopcienski gained possession and, with a spin move, found the rim to trim the deficit back to nine points.

Mount Sinai junior center Veronica Venezia made here presence known down low as the she muscled her way to the rim on a put-back to help her team trail by seven with 1:41 left in the game, but the Mustangs would not come any closer.

“The second quarter is where we got hurt, but we’re graduating two seniors and we’re returning 12 — including all five starters — so we’re looking forward to the off-season,” Pappalardo said. “[Harborfields has] great players, and to be with them in the final minutes makes me proud of our team.”

Mount Sinai's Gabby Sartori drives the lane. Photo by Bill Landon
Mount Sinai’s Gabby Sartori drives the lane. Photo by Bill Landon

In a foul-riddled final minute, both teams traded points at the charity stripe. Mount Sinai’s Gabby Sartori went to the line shooting three, and the ninth-grade guard swished all of her opportunities.

“They were very good, and we knew they were going to come up strong on defense,” Sartori said. “I was getting face-guarded the whole time, but my team knew what to do. We gave it all we had; we rose the challenge — last year we came here and lost by 30.”

With six seconds left, de Borja, who led her team in scoring with 23 points, put the final points on the scoreboard off of free throws. Tucker finished the game with 12 points.

Atop the leaderboard for Mount Sinai was Johnson with 16 points, followed by Sartori, who sank 13.

“They spotted us 22 points, and we knew they would come back because they have a lot of talented players, but I thought our kids had the resolve to make the big plays to stop those runs,” Harborfields head coach Glenn Lavey said. “Any time we see trouble we get the ball to Christiana de Borja, and having her on the floor is like a security blanket. As much as they were cutting into our lead, I knew we had Chris de Borja on the court.”

Mount Sinai's Veronica Venezia shoots from the top of the key. Photo by Bill Landon
Mount Sinai’s Veronica Venezia shoots from the top of the key. Photo by Bill Landon

With the win, Harborfields advances to the next round, where the Tornadoes take on Elwood-John Glenn on the road Tuesday. Tipoff scheduled for 2 p.m.

The girls from Elwood-John Glenn were in the stands throughout most of the game, sitting quietly together as they scouted their next opponent. The squad left midway through the fourth to get ready for their 2 p.m. game.

“It was really a motivator for us having them watching, because we wanted to show them that we’re a force to be reckoned with,” de Borja said. “We’re excited about playing John Glenn. They’ve always been a rival, so we’re excited about that game.”

The Ward Melville field hockey team celebrates it's 2-1 victory over Newfield that earned the Patriots the Suffolk County Class A championship title at Dowling College on Nov. 2. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Despite a scoreless battle after 30 minutes of field hockey action, it was Ward Melville sophomore midfielder Kate Mulham’s goal scored with 8:31 left in regulation that was the game-winner for the No. 1-seeded Patriots over No. 2 Newfield, for the Suffolk County Class A title Monday evening at Dowling College’s Athletic Complex.

Ward Melville's Kate Mulham moves the ball in the Patriots' 2-1 win over Newfield for the Suffolk County Class A championship title on Nov. 2 at Dowling College. Photo by Bill Landon
Ward Melville’s Kate Mulham moves the ball in the Patriots’ 2-1 win over Newfield for the Suffolk County Class A championship title on Nov. 2 at Dowling College. Photo by Bill Landon

The first goal of the game came nine minutes into the second half, when Ward Melville sophomore Kerri Thornton crossed the ball to freshman Lexi Reinhardt, who smacked it in for the 1-0 lead.

“Kerri [Thornton] brought it up field” Reinhardt said. “I was just there to hit it in.”

Neither team faced each other during the regular season, so Patriots (13-1) were seeing the Wolverines (12-2) for the first time.

Although the time of possession favored Ward Melville, Newfield pressed for all 60 minutes, forcing the Patriots to earn every move.

Ward Melville junior Kiera Alventosa said she knew her team would have their hands full with their opponent.

“We couldn’t let up at all against them — they came at us hard,” she said. “On offense, we passed well, we were looking at our lanes. We were strong defensively; they weren’t getting through us.”

With 17:40 left to play, Newfield made it a new game when senior forward Maggie Finley rocked the box with an assist from her younger sister, Abby, a freshman midfielder.

Ward Melville's Kiera Alventosa drives past Newfield's Michelle Loken in the Patriots' 2-1 win over the Wolverines for the Suffolk County Class A title on Nov. 2 at Dowling College. Photo by Bill Landon
Ward Melville’s Kiera Alventosa drives past Newfield’s Michelle Loken in the Patriots’ 2-1 win over the Wolverines for the Suffolk County Class A title on Nov. 2 at Dowling College. Photo by Bill Landon

Ward Melville head coach Shannon Watson said the journey to the championship round wasn’t easy.

“It’s been quite an emotional road — we were down 4-1 in our last game but our kids battled back and it shows how determined they are,” Watson said. “To be here is wonderful, but it just wasn’t enough for them. They wanted to make sure that they had a solid win tonight.”

That solid win came when Mulham received the ball from Thornton, and drove her shot to the back of the cage for the 2-1 lead.

“I expected them to be good — they’re the No. 2 seed,” Thornton said. “So we had to come out with great intensity to keep our momentum.”

Ward Melville will face Massapequa for the Long Island Class A title on Sunday at 2 p.m. at Dowling College.

“I’ll let them take a day to let it soak in and enjoy the win,” said the coach. “Then it’s back to practice and we’ll continue to do what we’ve done all season, working on our spacing and our ball control and sharpening our defense.”

The Ward Melville field hockey team poses for a group photo after edging out Newfield, 2-1, to earn the Suffolk County Class A title at Dowling College on Nov. 2. Photo by Bill Landon
The Ward Melville field hockey team poses for a group photo after edging out Newfield, 2-1, to earn the Suffolk County Class A title at Dowling College on Nov. 2. Photo by Bill Landon