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Dave Herrschaft

School district staff fight for bragging rights while raising money for booster club

By Bill Landon

Mount Sinai school district faculty members were pitted against each other March 3 in the Battle of the Educators. Teachers laced up their sneakers and grabbed a ball, donning black shirts on the middle school side, and gray on the elementary/high school team, for the 16th annual basketball game that raises money for the Mount Sinai Booster Club.

Mount Sinai High School Assistant Principal and Director of Guidance Matt Dyroff, who is the event’s organizer, said the week of practice each team had leading up to the game paid off. In the first quarter, each team traded points until the black team hit a triple to retake the lead, 28-27, before going on a scoring frenzy to take a 10-point lead, 37-27, into the halftime break.

“We do it for our booster club because they do so many things not only for our sports teams, but any other thing we ask their help with they’re more than willing to donate for the cause.”

—Matt Dyroff

“We’ve been practicing hard,” Dyroff said. “A couple of outdoor practices in the cold, but the teams got down to work — they buckled down and it was evident in the score tonight.”

Dyroff had a lot of help with the event from Mount Sinai Booster Club member Terese Lumley, the student council members who volunteered their time to help out, and Mount Sinai High School earth science teacher Roger Cardo, who took care of the play-by-play commentary.

With a $5 admission fee and $1 charge to compete in the halftime shooting contest, Dyroff said he hoped the event cold exceed last year’s $3,000 raised, and as students lined both sides of the court to take part in the shooting contest, it seemed the goal may very well be met.

“Each year we’re hoping to improve on the previous year, and preliminary amounts suggest that we’ve approached $4,000 tonight,” Dyroff said. “We do it for our booster club because they do so many things not only for our sports teams, but any other thing we ask their help with they’re more than willing to donate for the cause. No matter what it is.”

Celebrity spectators, in the form of the first-time county championship girls’ basketball team, had fun watching their teachers take the court.

“It’s a fun time, and everyone comes together to watch the game,” senior point guard Victoria Johnson. “Everyone can joke around take trick shots. It’s all for fun, and that’s the best part of it.”

“Everyone comes together to watch the game. … It’s all for fun, and that’s the best part of it.”

—Victoria Johnson

There were no trick shots down the stretch though, as both teams battled through the final 25 minutes of play. The gray team shook off the first-half jitters and chipped away at the deficit to retake the lead, 62-61, with less than two minutes left in the game. The black team battled back to take a three-point lead in the final 10 seconds of the game, but the gray team had one last possession.

With the ball in hand, Mount Sinai boys’ basketball head coach Ryan McNeely took matters into his own hands when Dyroff inbounded him the ball, and McNelly let a three-point shot fly with 2.3 seconds on the clock. The ball rimmed out as the buzzer sounded, and with that, the middle school held on for a 67-64 win, to claim the championship trophy for the second year in a row.

Senior center Veronica Venezia said the event was a much-needed respite while she and her Mustangs team prepares for the Long Island championship against Nassau County’s Elmont March 11 at SUNY Old Westbury.

“It’s definitely a fun night watching everyone come out and play — all of the teachers and their families and a lot of people coming out to join our community,” she said. “It’s a good breather — especially because it’s a basketball game — it’s a great night watching our coaches play against each other.”

After the game, Dyroff weighed in on the girls’ unprecedented success this season.

“Going to the Long Island championship is tremendous,” he said. “The district and the community have been so supportive of it. The girls have put in so much time and it’s come to fruition. The off-season workouts, the summer leagues, the spring leagues, getting out to play — this group has progressed each year and to see it culminate in a county championship is huge.”

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Mount Siani senior midfielder Chris Marrs squeezes between Miller Place senior midfielders Daniel Meneses and Carter Contreras to gain possession of the ball in the Panthers' 2-0 blanking of the Mustangs on Oct. 5. Photo by Desirée Keegan

By Desirée Keegan

The Miller Place boys’ soccer team had yet to allow an opponent to score at home all season, and continued that streak with a 2-0 blanking of Mount Sinai on Monday.

The victories were not only a result of the team’s strong defensive line, but also because of the efforts of senior forward John Murphy, who scored at least one goal in all three of the team’s home clean sheets.

Miller Place senior forward John Murphy dribbles the ball downfield in the Panthers' 2-0 win over Mount Sinai on Oct. 5. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Miller Place senior forward John Murphy dribbles the ball downfield in the Panthers’ 2-0 win over Mount Sinai on Oct. 5. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Miller Place started off with two quick opportunities at a goal, but one hit off of the far left post and the other went through the field goal post above the net, and Murphy saw two of his own opportunities thereafter that just went wide. Despite a 0-0 score at the end of the first half, the Panthers were still able to get the job done in the second.

“We saw the game out,” Miller Place first-year head coach Kenny Lake said. “One of the biggest things we’ve been focusing on is shutouts more than anything else, and making sure we’re not giving up any cheap goals. We’ve kind of eliminated that since the beginning of the season, so I thought they did a great job.”

With 26:04 left to play in the game, senior defender Alex Moschella dribbled the ball all the way down the right sideline from Miller Place to Mustangs territory, and crossed the ball in front of the net to Murphy, who knocked it in for the team’s first point on the board.

“It felt good,” Murphy said of the goal. “Especially when I got the ball and went down the line; beat out the whole defense.”

Less than two minutes later, Moschella did it again, but this time, the cross opportunity was initially missed. And although a shot on goal was made, it went off of the top crossbar. A rebound was attempted, and Mount Sinai senior goalkeeper Nicolas Jensen was able to come up with the save, but couldn’t maintain possession of the ball. After it bounced out of his hands and rolled out in front, the Panthers found themselves with another opportunity at a goal, and Miller Place senior midfielder Daniel Meneses rocketed the ball just left of a diving Jensen.

Mount Sinai senior goalkeeper Nicolas Jensen punts the ball into play in the Mustangs' 2-0 loss to Miller Place on Oct. 5. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Mount Sinai senior goalkeeper Nicolas Jensen punts the ball into play in the Mustangs’ 2-0 loss to Miller Place on Oct. 5. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“They played tough,” Mount Sinai head coach Dave Herrschaft said of his team. “Definitely, they had a great first half, and then let up two in the second half and it was tough for them to really bounce back after that. I think they played a solid game. Offensively, they’ve got to get a little more creative and start finishing.”

With the win, Miller Place improved to 5-2-1 in League VI, while Mount Sinai dropped to 1-6-1.

While Lake is in his first year with the program, his team is already on pace to surpass the feats the team has been able to achieve over the last few years.

“They were business from day one — I didn’t have to do a whole lot of changing,” Lake said of his initial encounters with the team. “They came in as disciplined soccer players and that’s something that has been a pleasure. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of kids — mature, well-mannered, hard-working; they’ve given me everything they have to give.”