Port Jefferson School District’s athletic programs have excelled in recent years, but the Royals faced a new kind of challenge this summer.
Adam Sherrard has been named the replacement for Port Jeff’s outgoing director of health, physical education and athletics, Danielle Turner, who accepted a similar position in the Locust Valley school district in June.
Sherrard, a Farmingville resident, has coaching and teaching experience from previous stops at Huntington and Smithtown school districts, where he taught physical education at all grade levels. Most recently he taught at Jack Abrams STEM Magnet Intermediate School in the Huntington district. He served as Smithtown East High School’s defensive coordinator for the varsity football team and as a middle school lacrosse head coach, in addition to other high school and middle school coaching assignments, according to his LinkedIn page.
“I’m eager to work with the students, staff, nurses, administrators, coaches and parents in the district,” Sherrard said in a statement. “Since I first arrived here, I noticed the commitment to the well-being of students is profound and I look forward to continuing to strengthen the positive environment in the Port Jefferson School District.”
He earned an advanced graduate certificate in educational leadership from Stony Brook University and a Master of Arts in educational leadership and administration from Touro University International, according to a district press release. He holds a Bachelor of Science in physical education from Cortland University.
“The energy and enthusiasm that Mr. Sherrard exudes will serve our district well,” district Superintendent Paul Casciano said in a statement. “We look forward to his leadership and progressive ideas in building on the many successes of our athletic program. Mr. Sherrard will continue to move us in the positive direction of our physical education and health education programs. This includes social and emotional growth opportunities to ensure our students have the support systems needed to succeed.”
During Turner’s time with the Royals, the girls varsity basketball and soccer teams each reached New York State championship rounds, with the soccer team bringing home its second straight trophy in 2016. It was the team’s third straight appearance in the finals. The basketball team fell just short in the 2017 state title game, though it was the first time it had won a county crown since 1927. Quarterback Jack Collins broke numerous school records and became the first football player in school history to be named League IV Most Valuable Player. The wrestling team went undefeated and won the League VIII championship during the current school year. Shane DeVincenzo put Port Jeff’s golf program on the map, winning the Suffolk County individual title in 2017.
“Port Jefferson will always have a special little place in my heart, and I could not be more thankful that my career has led me through it,” she said in a June email.
Athletics in the Port Jefferson School District reached unprecedented heights during the last few school years, and now one of the people who oversaw part of the rise is moving on.
Danielle Turner, the district’s director of physical education, health, athletics and nurses since 2016 will not be returning to the district this fall. She said in an email she had accepted a similar position in the Locust Valley School District.
“I would like to thank the board of education, district staff, students and this great community for taking a chance on me as a new AD,” Turner said. “I am confident that the tools, knowledge, and skillset I’ve acquired here in Port Jefferson will serve me well at my new home in Locust Valley, and throughout my career. Port Jefferson will always have a special little place in my heart, and I could not be more thankful that my career has led me through it.”
During her time with the Royals, the girls varsity basketball and soccer teams each reached New York State championship rounds, with the soccer team bringing home its second straight trophy in 2016. It was the team’s third straight appearance in the finals. The basketball team fell just short in the 2017 title game, though it was the first time it had won a county crown since 1927. Quarterback Jack Collins broke numerous school records and became the first football player in school history to be named League IV Most Valuable Player. The wrestling team went undefeated and won the League VIII championship during the current school year. Shane DeVincenzo put Port Jeff’s golf program on the map, winning the Suffolk County individual title in 2017.
Turner was the assistant principal at North Country Road Middle School in Miller Place prior to taking the position in Port Jeff. She received her first teaching and coaching positions at Longwood Middle School, where she was a physical education teacher and varsity volleyball coach from 2008-12, while also coaching lacrosse and basketball at different levels. She later served as assistant principal at Eastern Suffolk BOCES’ Premm Learning Center and Sayville Academic Center.
While at Port Jeff, she was known for attending nearly every sporting event, posting updates on social media and serving as a promoter of the district’s athletes.
Superintendent Paul Casciano wished Turner well in her new endeavor in an email.
“We’ll miss her energy and vision,” he said. “We thank her for her contributions to our successes over the past two years.”
The district will conduct a search for a new athletic director.
First Royal Division IV MVP break school records this season
Port Jefferson outgoing quarterback is officially royalty.
Jack Collins is the school’s first football player to be named MVP of Division IV. But if he had his way when he was young, the Royals senior wouldn’t even be a quarterback.
“I was a wide receiver,” he said, explaining how he played the position for almost two years before being told the middle school team was in need of a field general. “We had a little contest, and I ended up getting the job.”
Collins didn’t want to be a quarterback because being the center of attention seemed like too much for him. He’s quiet, reserved, qualities not normally associated with successful quarterbacks. But as the years passed he grew to love it, and others respected the way he played the position.
In his senior season, Collins broke school records for touchdowns (18), completions (143) and yards in a season (2,261). Being the first MVP, which is voted on by division coaches, also qualifies him for the Hansen Award, which goes to the most outstanding high school football player in Suffolk County, and the Boomer Award, which is awarded to the top quarterback. The winners will be announced at a Section XI dinner Dec. 4 at the Hyatt Regency Long Island in Hauppauge.
“We knew Jack had all the capabilities to handle the physical part of the position,” Port Jefferson head coach Andrew Cosci said. “What stood out even more was his maturity mentally. We knew he could handle anything we threw at him, and his work ethic early on was just one of those un-coachable things.”
Collins was called up to the varsity team his sophomore year and played in a handful of games toward the end of the season before being named the starter as a junior. He said the honor was unexpected, but felt encouraged after being recognized.
“I worked hard in the offseason — put my heart and soul into it — and getting called up made me feel more comfortable and prepared to be the leader of a team,” he said. “I think my coach made the right decision. It was a good learning experience.”
Cosci said the coaches immediately began tailoring routines and strategies so that the offense revolved around Collins. The quarterback had worked with an outside coach to enhance his accuracy, power and consistency, but also learned about leadership. The changes were noticed immediately.
“Jack is like no other quarterback I’ve played with,” senior wide receiver Marquis Feldman said. “He knows everything that’s happening on the field before it happens. It’s honestly like playing with a college quarterback.”
The senior’s head coach went one step further in his praise of Collins.
“He watches tons of film, tries to understand things better and fully, he never rests on his laurels — he thinks about what he has to do to get better and he continues to get better because of that,” Cosci said. “As a true leader and a true great player does, he made everyone around him better.”
Marquis said he saw his teammate develop on the field firsthand.
“Everyone on my team gave 110 percent every snap of every game — we were relentless,” he said, adding that he only just moved to the district in August. “To see Jack get recognized for his efforts is phenomenal, because we all knew he was an MVP. I couldn’t be more proud to call him my quarterback and already a very close friend on and off the field.”
To Collins, success is not about him, but more a reflection on his coaches and teammates, he said.
“At first, I didn’t see the good in it as much as I was afraid of the bad,” he said of taking on the quarterback role. “My teammates made me see it’s not that bad. It’s awesome to see the other coaches respected what we were doing, but honestly, we’re all putting in the work together and our coaches are putting game plans out that work. I’m the one that gets a lot of the credit for it, but it was definitely a team effort.”
Collins’ successes have also served to shine a light on the program.
“You can always look at the bigger schools and shake your finger and say ‘We’re too small, we’re never going to win anything,’” Collins said. “But we’re proving everyone wrong.”
Another important aspect of being a varsity football player is having young kids on the sidelines at games, according to Collins. They reminded him of himself when he first watched the Royals, wishing to one day emulate what he saw.
“I wanted to be like them in every single way,” he said. “I hope when the kids look at me they think that and that I set a good example.”
It’s a mentality he has already instilled in all facets of the program, according to Cosci.
“Jack has been the cornerstone for us in taking the next step,” he said. “He’s definitely more of a lead by example, but when Jack opens his mouth everyone listens. He never really talks about himself, he’s grounded, and it’s refreshing. The first thing out of other coaches’ mouths was ‘What a quarterback you have.’”
The Port Jefferson sophomore swimmer made her third straight trip to the state championship meet Nov. 18 and 19 at Ithaca College, and far surpassed her finishes last season of 13th in the 200-yard individual medley and 15th in the 100 backstroke. Despite Top 10 finishes this time around, she said there’s still more work to be done.
“I was happy with how I placed,” said Sommerstad, who placed fourth in the individual medley in 2 minutes, 5.43 seconds and sixth in the backstroke in 56.59. “But I wish I swam a little faster.”
The sophomore said she felt more confident having competed at the state event the last two years, but said nerves did kick in once she got into the pool. She said she wasn’t happy with how she swam in the preliminaries, and used that to fuel her fire. As she always does, she stretched before each race; listened to music to keep her energy high; and ended up finishing the backstroke in a new personal-best time.
“I knew I had to swim fast,” Sommerstad said. “Because I wasn’t where I wanted to be coming out of preliminaries, I was nervous heading into finals, but I was trying as hard as I could — focusing on the little things.”
Her Three Village Swim Club coach Mark Anderson said her underwater work continues to make her more competitive at higher-level meets.
“It was pretty incredible,” he said of watching her compete. “I’ve been extremely happy with how she’s raced so far without having a meet to rest and taper for. I’m really excited to see her success continue.”
Port Jefferson athletic director Danielle Turner, who was not at the meet, said she was gripping her phone all day waiting to hear how Sommerstad did.
“It was really exciting seeing Kyra’s name up on the board representing little Port Jeff on a big-time stage … not small school-large school, but all schools,” Turner said. “She has proven that she is one of the best in the state.”
Now Sommerstad will prepare for the winter junior nationals down in Knoxville, Tennessee, before going to a travel team meet in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Anderson said he has high hopes for his swimmer in the future.
“There’s a lot of fine-tuning that goes into hopefully putting together the perfect race, and the last two years have been very rewarding for myself and for Kyra,” he said of the dedication and hard work his young swimmer has already put into training. “I would love to see her compete and contend at national-level meets, whether it be junior nationals and make Top 8 or make it to nationals and place Top 16. Our ultimate goal is to get her to the 2020 Olympic trials, and have her do great there. Regardless, getting to see her grow up and mature and become what’s going to be a very good collegiate swimmer has been a real enjoyment for me. Wherever she ends up swimming in two years, she’s going to be a coach’s dream.”
Port Jefferson sophomore grabs gold in 100-yard backstroke, 200 individual medley for second season
By Desirée Keegan
Coach Mark Anderson asked Port Jefferson swimmer Kyra Sommerstad what her goal was heading into the 200 individual medley race at the Suffolk County championships Nov. 4.
“I want to go 2:04,” she answered, which would be a career best for the sophomore.
By the time she touched the wall, Kyra had completed the 200 yards in 2 minutes, 4 seconds, which also earned her a first-place finish.
“Watching her swim, she looked great,” said Anderson, her Three Village Swim Club coach for the last two years. “She had gone a 2:04, and I thought that spoke to the kind of person she is. She’s incredibly driven, very positive and she goes into every race knowing what she wants to do and how she wants to do it. It makes me proud to see someone grow the way she has over the last couple of years to someone that is capable of setting a goal in her mind and achieving it.”
On top of placing first in the individual medley, Kyra also grabbed gold in the 100 backstroke.
“I knew from last year that I could win,” said Kyra of the county meet at Suffolk County Community College’s Brentwood campus. “I really went into it determined and I really wanted to win the same events that I won the year before.”
Being the top seed gave her confidence going in that she could reclaim the county crown in both races, she said. She said Anderson and Port Jefferson head coach Mary Fleckenstein helped her work on her technique and mentality to get her ready to race. Prior to getting into the water, she stretched and listened to pop music to get in the zone.
“I swam some fast times before counties so I knew where I was going into it,” she said. “I get myself pumped up by listening to music. I just didn’t want to drop my spot.”
Port Jefferson athletic director Danielle Turner said seeing all that the swimmer has been able to accomplish at such a young age is inspiring.
“Kyra is an outstanding student and an overall great person,” Turner said. “She never looks for recognition or praise, however her accomplishments and incredible ability should absolutely be highlighted. She has represented Port Jefferson in the most positive of ways and on many stages.We could not be more proud of Kyra, and we are excited to see what the future holds for this young talent.”
Fleckenstein shared a similar sentiment, adding that she’s been a joy to work with.
“She’s very impressive,” the coach said of Kyra. “She’s such a sweet girl. She’s gracious, she’s easy to work with. She doesn’t go in with an ‘I’m going to win because I’m the best’ attitude. She gets in the pool and does her job.”
Anderson and Fleckenstein have seen the sophomore mature over the last year, and said they think bigger and better accomplishments are ahead.
“She challenges herself every day,” Fleckenstein said. “She doesn’t like to miss practice. They’re all signs she’s headed in the right direction. There’s some untapped talent in there, and her club coach has been doing a great job bringing her along. By the time she graduates she’ll be sought after by many colleges.”
Her Three Village Swim Club coach has been focusing on underwater work with his swimmer, including off-the-block movements, hand speed, tempo and turns.
“I’ve been extremely happy with how she’s raced so far without having time to rest,” Anderson said. “In the next couple of weeks she has the state championship, the winter junior nationals down in Knoxville, Tennessee, and then she’s going to have our team’s travel meet in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. There’s a lot of fine-tuning this week that goes into hopefully putting together the perfect race this weekend and it’s going to be a real test to see how she’s prepared over the last couple of months.”
He added, with her attitude, he knows she’ll succeed.
“She is incredibly positive, incredibly hard-working, dedicated, she’s a great student in the classroom and just getting to know her and getting to see her grow up and mature has been a real enjoyment for me,” he said. “She is a coaches dream.”
Kyra validated Anderson’s comments, saying she’s ready for what lies ahead.
“I’ll be working really hard in the pool and perfecting my technique,” she said. “I’m getting ready to swim fast.”
A special class of seniors is leaving behind an unprecedented run of success at Port Jefferson High School.
Jackie Brown, Courtney Lewis, Jillian Colucci, Brian Mark and Corinne Scannell are just some of the athletes that have helped put the school back on the map in a variety of sports over their respective high school careers.
“These seniors would be starting players at larger schools and on larger teams,” Port Jefferson athletic director Danielle Turner said. “They’re just great athletic talents in their sports regardless of the size of a school. They’d play anywhere.”
Brown, who played field hockey, softball and basketball at Port Jeff, is committed to play field hockey at Adelphi University. She was All-Conference as a freshman, All-County as a sophomore, and All-State and All-Tournament as well as a captain her junior and senior seasons. She helped lead the Royals to the county finals in 2016, and graduated as Long Island’s all-time leading scorer in field hockey. She was also a four-time New York State Public High School Athletic Association scholar athlete in all three sports.
“Most of us seniors are two-sport or three-sport athletes, which makes us so diverse,” Brown said. “We all use skills from one sport to be successful in another. I, for instance, use my field hockey vision to better see the basketball court. We’re also passionate, and give 100 percent and work hard.”
Lewis reached the 2,000 career point plateau last basketball season, and led the team to Suffolk County and Long Island titles, as well as the program’s first regional win and state finals appearance. She became the 22nd player in Suffolk County girls’ basketball history to reach the career milestone. She will be playing for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute this winter.
Colucci was a standout soccer player, and also competed on the basketball team. She led Long Island in goals scored her junior year and propelled the soccer team to the state finals the last three years. The Royals brought home back-to-back Class C state championships in 2015 and 2016. She also holds the record at Port Jefferson for career goals (105) and assists (62). She will be taking her talents to Marist College this fall.
“There is nothing better than finding success in doing something you love,” Colucci said. “The best part is that it was all so unexpected. It felt really special to bring attention to the school, and the community supported us every step of the way.”
She said while she was always humbled by the attention, at times she felt embarrassed, because to her, it was about the team.
“We all experienced success because we’re all talented athletes with the same drive and passion,” she said. “Since Port Jeff is so small, we’re not just teammates, we’re friends.”
Her brothers, parents, aunts and uncles were all Royals, and Colucci said she’s proud to be able to carry on their legacy.
Mark, another three-sport standout — in football, lacrosse and basketball — helped each of his teams reach new heights. Despite the lacrosse program being just three years old, it’s made the playoffs every year, and the football team achieved its best record in the last six years during his senior season.
“While the program still isn’t on the same level as some of the other top schools, I’m confident that the program is heading in the right direction,” he said, reinforcing the fact that the bond and community support played a big part in the rise. “Our group of seniors — both boys and girls — has always been really ambitious in the goals we’ve set for ourselves athletically.”
Turner saw it, too.
“He was constantly putting himself out there, he was always in the wight room and going above and beyond to do something to improve his game,” she said.
Mark said he hopes he and the other seniors made an impact on the younger generations of athletes.
“I know that a lot of us took pride in representing our school well and providing a good example for the younger kids in our community,” he said. “We know that we were once those kids and remember how we idolized the varsity players so seeing younger kids in the stands watching us always gave us a little extra motivation.”
Scannell, who is headed to Wake Forest University in North Carolina, has not committed to playing a sport. She was a defender for the state championship-winning soccer team and helped the basketball squad to the state finals. Her family was also instrumental in paving the way for the first varsity lacrosse team. After several failed attempts to launch a program at Port Jeff, the team competed for the first time this year,narrowly missing the playoffs by one win.
“My dad was a big proponent — it started in my backyard,” she said of her dad who coached youth lacrosse. “The fact that we can pave the way, it’s nice we can give others the opportunity to play. They can color in the lines we drew this season.”
Turner lauded the athletes not only for their skills, but also because “they’re just great kids.”
“They have such good values and I think those values they hold are what make them great athletes,” Turner said. “They come from great families, they’re committed, they put the team first, they’re always willing to sacrifice, they’re dedicated, and that’s in all facets of their life.”
One instance in particular Turner recalled was when the girls’ basketball team was upstate competing for the state championship. She said, although Scannell didn’t want everyone to know about it, if the team had lost in the semifinals, the 2017 class president was going to travel home to compete in a half marathon to raise funds for children with cancer on the day of the finals. She was frequently caught with Brown, the vice president, hosting bake sales or raising money for a charity or school event.
The athletic director said Colucci was always in her office asking how she could earn more community service hours. Colucci won the Butch Dellecave award for her dedication to athletics and academics, coupled with completing 160 hours of community service. Mark won the Golden Eleven Award, which is presented to the top 11 academic scholars in Suffolk County, and the LaBue Award, which is presented to the top scholar-athlete is Suffolk County football.
“They put everybody else before themselves, they’re all going to great schools, and they’re mature, great kids,” Turner said. “And most of all, they grew with the kids in their class. They learned from each other and acted as role models to each other. Those values and bonds became stronger, and there’s nothing I would change about them. I feel I got so lucky to step in when I did [as athletic director] even just to know these kids.”
Scannell said she agreed the bond the girls created playing together for so long was crucial to achieving every milestone.
“Playing together at such a young age, especially with soccer, we knew how someone was going to touch the ball, who was going to send a long ball, when someone would pass, and it’s not just knowing the soccer or basketball style, but knowing each other’s personality and how their thinking goes,” she said. “It takes a history to understand. Our relationships made it so strong, but we all also wanted it. As long as you love what you’re doing that’s the most important thing.”
Intense focus is a common characteristic among many successful golfers.
For Port Jefferson golfer Shane DeVincenzo it’s no different. On a whiteboard in his room, he wrote down five goals back in January — place in the Top 10 in the American Junior Golf Association preview tournament, rank in the Top 20 among New York State high school golfers, win two tournaments this summer, become a Suffolk County and state champion, and sign a letter of intent to play golf in college.
The standout athlete clearly has a laser-like focus on his goals, as he has already checked off the first two items on his list, and the sophomore isn’t stopping there.
“My whole summer is going to be golf,” Shane said. “I’ve progressed really quickly, and the better I get the more I like it.”
Shane started swinging a golf club during the summer before eighth grade. As a freshman, he traveled upstate to compete for the New York State Public High School Athletic Association title, and finished 60th. Returning this past season, he placed ninth in the AJGA preview tournament; finished second in the county, losing in a sudden-death playoff hole; and moved up to sixth in the state and fifth in Federation, which earned him All-State honors. The 16-year-old is the first Royal since 1962 to achieve the feat.
“I still don’t think it’s sunk in yet — to me, it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal,” Shane said of his huge turnaround in the state tournament. “But it pushes me to keep going.”
Although he may not notice how big the boost up in the rankings really is, especially being that there are no classes or divisions in New York high school golf, his head coach at Port Jefferson was there to reassure him he’s growing in the sport, and fast.
“The first few days he came down to tryouts, you could see he had some ability, it was just a matter of where he was going to go from there, and how hard he was going to work,” Port Jefferson head coach Chuck Ruoff said of his initial impressions of Shane. “I’ve seen tremendous progression. The trajectory he’s taken in the past three years — the improvement — I’ve never seen anything like it.”
He has come a long way not only individually, but he has also helped make a name for the school, as he joins recent Port Jefferson athletes who have turned in some stellar performances in wrestling soccer, basketball and now golf recently.
“We’ve been fortunate this year to have a couple of kids that put Port Jeff back on the map in a lot of different ways,” Port Jefferson athletic director Danielle Turner said. “It’s changing the whole athletic scape of the district. He’s been a light switch.”
“I’ve seen some kids among other teams we play — a lot of great players — and Shane is certainly putting himself right up there. He’s the best player to come through Port Jeff, definitely in my time and probably ever.”
— Chuck Ruoff
Besides working with Ruoff for the past three seasons, Shane signed up for lessons with Port Jefferson Country Club head professional golf instructor Bill Mackedon, who competed in PGA tour events, won three Player of the Year awards and still holds three course records. Mackedon’s father was also a head pro at country clubs for 35 years.
“He has fantastic fundamentals,” Mackedon said. “We’re fortunate that we come across children that are gifted athletically, and he’s certainly one of those kids. Shane’s developed so nicely.”
The pair has also been working together for three years, in the hopes of becoming more competitive over the last two.
“He has exceptional talent and I think he can play at the highest level if he continues to improve,” Mackedon said. “I think the future is certainly bright for him.”
Shane has learned to properly grip the club from his coaches, successfully complete pulling back on the iron, lowering it and swinging away, and now he’s working on rotating his lower body to gain maximum distance.
“I give credit to both of them,” Shane said of his coaches. “They’ve taught me a lot of things. They’ve brought me a long way.”
Mackedon said given Shane’s age and current skill level, his future success will come down to conditioning, which they work on twice a week. His Port Jeff coach said his athlete never stops working.
“Shane is a perfectionist,” Ruoff said. “Until he feels he’s comfortable with it, he won’t stop. He’ll continue to work at that skill, continue to address that problem. By the second year of him playing, he was clearly the best player we had. He was making a name for himself among other players in the league, and took even another step forward this year, and clearly established himself as the best player in our league.”
Shane was taking on players from top teams like Ward Melville, Northport and Middle Country. He used his work ethic and drive to help Port Jefferson outscore Ward Melville twice this past season, for the first time in school history. The Patriots had previously gone on an 88-match win streak that ended last year.
“I’ve seen some kids among other teams we play — a lot of great players — and Shane is putting himself right up there,” Ruoff said. “He’s the best player to come through Port Jeff, definitely in my time and probably ever.”
In Ruoff’s eyes, Shane’s greatness is evidence of his dedication to the sport, and the changes he has made to continue to reach his goals.
During the state tournament, Shane was one shot off the lead going into the back nine. He got into an unlucky situation where his ball was buried in a bunker, and his score rose as a result.
“At that point, he could’ve done one of two things — he could have let that be the end, and let it continue to bother him, or push through it,” Ruoff said. “And he didn’t let it affect his game. That poise, confidence and consistency is something we’re striving for. He has all the tools — the physicality and the skills. He’ll be our team leader this fall and we’re hoping to go back to Cornell [University] and make our way to the top of the leaderboard.”
Shane’s father Matt DeVincenzo, athletic director in the Comsewogue School District, who has seen two of his sons go on to make names for themselves in wrestling, couldn’t help but smile thinking about all his son has achieved in such a short time.
“It turned out to be the best choice for him,” he said of Shane, who also played middle school football, baseball and basketball, and continues to wrestle. “He’s matured so much since last year — he doesn’t get as rattled when he doesn’t make a good shot — he looks like a seasoned kid out there.”
DeVinenzo recalled the first time he took his son to the Country Fair after they returned from a golf camp, which is where he got hooked on swinging the club.
“I recorded him because I thought it was fun,” DeVincenzo said. “Now, Shane and I look at the video to see how far he’s come.”
The seed of there being a Port Jefferson girls’ lacrosse team was planted by former athletic director Deb Ferry and has began to grow with current leader Danielle Turner. According to head coach Allie Franklin, three seniors, who have been playing the sport since they were little, were the catalyst for this new varsity team.
What’s impressive about the Royals, who are among five teams in Class D, is that they finished fourth this year, narrowly missing the postseason by one spot.
“You don’t see many [first-season] teams nowadays, so to know that you’re part of the very first team, it’s an accomplishment,” said senior Clare O’Connor, one of those three seniors who was also part of the two-time championship-winning soccer team. “And we do have some very strong players.”
Port Jefferson wrapped up its inaugural season on the road May 9 against division powerhouse Bayport-Blue Point. The Royals competed in Division III and, despite it being their first season, managed to win two games and narrowly lost another by a point.
After a nail-biting finish March 24 against Copiague, where they lost 14-13, the Royals breakthrough performance came six days later when they defeated McGann-Mercy, 18-7, at home to ink the first-ever varsity lacrosse victory. From there, they faced the top teams in the division, but notched a second win May 1, a 13-9 win over visiting Hampton Bays.
For freshman Sophia Knapp, who was called up to be a part of the team, it’s an honor to be starting out her high school career with a new team.
“[I was so excited] when I found out I was going to be able to play with people that I played with in PAL,” Knapp said. “I was nervous coming into the actual game, but once I got out there I felt that I was at home again, so it’s very special for me to be part of this team.”
The significance of the history-making season showcased this year wasn’t’ lost on Alexa Wakefield, another senior who helped kickstart the program.
“It means a lot honestly — we started with the PAL teams and we all stuck with it,” she said. “And all of the younger girls are getting a lot better so in the next few years we’ll have a solid team and I’m very excited about that.”
Franklin said she’s encouraged by her younger players, and with the prospect of a dedicated goalkeeper — something they didn’t have this season.
“I think the big piece next year is that we’ll have someone who’s a true goalie,” she said. “This year we had four field players stepping into that role rotating through and that was difficult for us, but next year [we’ll have] somebody who has been in the pads, and that’s their true position. That will help us tremendously.”
Besides her, the final senior, Corinne Scannell, is looking forward to seeing what eighth-grader Katelynn Johnston can do.
“She’s just good,” she said. “I can see her being the next leader of our program.”
Scannell, already a three-sport athlete already playing on the state championship-winning soccer team and history-making Long Island championship basketball team, continues to make history with the school.
“We’ve been playing since we were little, so it’s definitely exciting to pioneer it,” she said. “I’d say that the best part of it is being on the field — all of the teams practice there — and it’s really cool to see all the younger girls playing,” she said. “Yeah, we had a few rough games this year, but we’re paving the way for them to succeed.”
Danielle Turner, who is currently the assistant principal at North Country Road Middle School in Miller Place, will take over July 1
A new athletic director has entered the kingdom.
After an extensive search, Port Jefferson school district hired Danielle Turner to be the new face of Royals athletics, taking the helm on July 1 and replacing Edward Cinelli, who has served as interim athletic director since former leader Deb Ferry left in December.
“I’m super excited to get in there and start,” Turner said. “Being an athletic director has always been my goal. It’s a small community, a very supportive community. I think for me Port Jefferson is the perfect fit.”
The Sayville resident and Farmingdale native is the assistant principal at North Country Road Middle School in Miller Place, a role she took after first applying for the athletic director position there. She will follow former assistant principal Robert Neidig to Port Jefferson, who himself left Miller Place to become the principal at Port Jefferson Middle School.
North Country Road Principal Matt Clark said Turner will do a phenomenal job for the Royals.
“She did a really nice job of acclimating right to our culture and I could tell right away she had tremendous initiative,” he said. “We were very impressed when she stepped in and became a big part of the fabric of what we do. She’s done a great job of team building within teachers and she’s also done a really nice job of supervision of both faculty and staff. We’re really proud of her.”
After graduating from Sachem, Turner received a bachelor of science degree in physical education from SUNY Cortland. She followed that up with a master’s in athletic administration and coaching from Stony Brook University, and is currently pursuing a doctorate in educational administration and supervision from St. John’s University. She also holds certification in the areas of the Dignity for All Students Act, crisis prevention intervention and first aid, and is a certified personal trainer.
Turner received her first teaching and coaching positions at Longwood Middle School, where she was a physical education teacher and varsity volleyball coach from 2008-12, while also coaching lacrosse and basketball at different levels. She later served as assistant principal at Eastern Suffolk BOCES’ Premm Learning Center and Sayville Academic Center.
“I went from teaching phys ed with sixth-graders to being a special education assistant principal, which was extremely difficult but also was just a great learning experience for me in terms of the types of students that I dealt with,” Turner said in an interview.
David Falco, a physical education teacher at Sachem North and the school’s varsity football coach, instructed Turner when she was on the girls’ basketball team there. He said his former athlete was a dedicated, tough inside player. As a SUNY Cortland alumnus, he was an integral part of her college discussion.
“She has a love of sports and kids, she has a great rapport with parents and the other administrators in the building, and I’ve seen her interact with all of those groups in a very positive way,” he said. “I think the sky is the limit for Danielle in regard to athletic administration, and I think that’s because of the way she approaches all the different tasks she has — and that’s because of her work ethic.”
Turner, who is also making waves as a female boys’ basketball referee, said she’s thankful for those like Lisa Lally and Deb Ferry, Miller Place and Port Jefferson’s former longtime athletic directors, for paving the way for females.
“I owe it all to them,” she said. “They’ve been super supportive and helpful, and excelled and thrived in the position.”
She thinks Port Jefferson is the perfect place for her because of its small, intimate setting, and said she was excited to learn that the athletic office was within the high school.
”Port Jeff obviously has a great reputation academically, so I definitely keep up with that reputation while getting a feel of the land,” she said. “I want to continue with producing quality student-athletes and ultimately improve upon those programs in whatever way we can. I am again just so thrilled to be able to see the kids in action, and get out there at games supporting our kids.”
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