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Jason Ahlstrand

Sophia Bica is Northport High School’s Female Athlete of the Year. Photo by Steven Zaitz

By Steven Zaitz

A cavalcade of stars – both athletic and academic – walked the blue and gold carpet of the Northport High School main auditorium on Friday night for the 2022 NESPY awards. 

The best and brightest senior Tiger athletes were recognized for their accomplishments on and off the field during 2021-22 – and in a year of great success for the Northport Athletic Program as a whole, there were almost too many to count. 

Sophia Bica and Dylan McNaughton were the biggest winners, each grabbing two individual awards and one team award, as well as Jason Ahlstrand, who won for best Male Athlete. Head baseball coach Sean Lynch and girls head soccer coach Aija Gipp presided over the ceremonies. 

Bica, who will attend the Stevens Institute of Technology in the fall, won for Best Female Athlete as well as Best Record-Breaking career. She led the Lady Tigers Field Hockey team to a New York State Championship last November and a Long Island Title in 2020, a year that had no State play. Bica, a starter on the field hockey team since the eighth grade, holds the Northport High School record for assists in a career.  

She was also a superstar point guard and four-year varsity player for Coach Castellano and his Lady Tigers basketball team. She led Northport to the Suffolk County AA Championships in three of those years and this past season, was the league’s Most Valuable Player. In addition to these individual awards, Bica’s Field Hockey squad won the 2022 NESPY statue for Best Female team. She will be playing both sports at Stevens. 

“I will cherish this recognition and will always remember the great feeling I got every time I went out there with my team and had a big win,” said Bica, who glowed in a pink and gray flowery chiffon gown. 

McNaughton, for as long as the people of Northport can remember, has never taken a day off. From the classroom to the gridiron over to the hardwood and the Lacrosse field, Big Dyl’s uniform was always dirty and there wasn’t a loose ball that he didn’t think was his. 

In his senior year he was All-Suffolk at linebacker for the football team, played for the county championship in basketball and was one win away from winning a New York State Title in lacrosse. In the classroom, he had a 104.9 weighted grade point average which made him a National Football Foundation Scholar Athlete. McNaughton, who is headed for the University of Indiana, won NESPYs for Best Male Student Athlete and Male Tiger Icon Athlete. The Lacrosse team, for whom he scored 14 goals in 2022, was awarded Male Team of the Year for their State Title game appearance. 

“Winning two NESPYs was a special way to end my Tiger career,” said McNaughton. “Ever since freshman year I wanted to win one and last night that dream came true, and it was awesome.” 

Jason Ahlstrand of Tiger Football and Basketball is the 2021-22 NESPY Male Athlete of the Year. Photo by Steven Zaitz

Ahlstrand, whose dazzling smile and flamboyant style of play made him a Tiger fan favorite, won for Best Male Athlete. 

From his crazy basketball dunks to his long touchdown catches, Ahlstrand was one of the most entertaining sports stars to grace Northport High School in recent years. He was also a deadly accurate field goal kicker and if he was defending you in basketball, you were in for a very long day. He was All-Suffolk County in football in 2021 and MVP of the team, recording seven touchdowns and 67 total points. He helped the Hoopin’ Tigers to a 50-6 record during his three-year career at guard and was a key member of the team that upset Brentwood for a Suffolk Title in 2020-21. He ended his career by taking home the NESPY for Best Male Athlete and will play football at SUNY Cortland in September. 

“I’m just so happy to receive this award,” said Ahlstrand. I’m glad that I’ll always have these memories to look back on.” 

Bica’s field hockey teammate and lacrosse star Angelina Longo was voted Iconic Female Athlete of the year. The future Arizona State Sun Devil and two-time all-New York State defender had 19 steals in the Field Hockey Championship game against Shenendehowa in the Lady Tigers breathtaking 1-0 victory at Centereach. She was also the all-state Sportsmanship Award recipient in 2022 and was the embodiment of #NotDoneYet nation during their undefeated 21-0 campaign. 

Lisa Kovacs, one of the most well-rounded people ever to grace the hallways of N.H.S., was awarded the Best Female Student-Athlete. Kovacs led the girls soccer team to a 14-3 record and a number one seed in the Suffolk County AA playoff bracket this past autumn.  This is a small blip on the radar screen of what Kovacs is all about. She qualified for National Honor Society and made the Honor Roll every quarter of her academic career, she’s been the Student Council Class President three years running, a volunteer Math Tutor, a Doctors of Tomorrow Program Award recipient, and she even works at the hotdog stand on Football Saturdays. Kovacs is as big a part of the fabric of the Northport High School student body as there is, and she’s also a tough-as-nails soccer player who battles deep in the dirt for every possession. She will be attending Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. 

Nick Watts isn’t your average basketball big man. Although he is 6’7”, he doesn’t just lurk around the paint and post up his man for easy layups. He does everything well, he’s a fiery competitor and a great and unselfish teammate. Watts was awarded the NESPY for Best Breakthrough Athlete and Best Individual Performance. He earned the latter for his 12 three pointers and 42 points in the first half against Connetquot – one of the most memorable Tiger feats in 2021-22, in a year filled with them. Watts is also a great rebounder, passer, shot blocker and overall defender.  He will attend the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown. 

On a team of stars, future Duke Blue Devil Kaylie Mackiewicz snagged the Best Female Individual Performance NESPY for her unstoppable goal-scoring abilities in girls lacrosse. A five-year varsity starter, she scored the game-winning goal in double overtime to win the Long Island Championship just a few weeks ago.  It’s only one of a dizzying checklist of achievements for the All-American who scored 138 goals over the past two years, has a weighted GPA of over 100, and is an Academic All American. 

Other 2021-22 NESPY winners are Charlotte McGroarty for female Breakthrough Athlete of the Year. McGroarty was part of a State Championship field hockey team, a State finalist lacrosse team and Suffolk County finals-reaching basketball team. Chase Hendrickson, who ran track for the first time this year, qualified for States in the 400-meter sprint. He won the NESPY for male Breakthrough Athlete of the Year. Will Flynn was the winner of the Comeback Player of the Year NESPY, as he made it back on the football and lacrosse fields after suffering a torn labrum which required surgery and a grueling rehab. Aiden Stang won for Best Upset of the Year as he defeated the top ranked wrestler in his weight class in the League II tournament. Tom Izzo was awarded the NESPY for Courage as a member of the Tiger Unified basketball team, for whom he played all four years of his high school career.