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Jonathan rufa

Rocky Point varsity cheer team. Photo courtesy RPSD.

The Rocky Point varsity cheerleading team placed first in Small Division II at the Universal Cheer Association National High School Cheerleading Championships on Feb. 9-12 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida. 

Throughout the weekend the team competed against over 90 teams. Competing three times with zero deductions in their routine. Rocky Point also won this award in 2020. 

Congratulations to the team members and coaches Samantha Ferrara and Jessica Fleischer, both winning a national championship in their first season. Coach Ferrara was a seventh grader on the Rocky Point varsity team when they won their third national title in 2014 under the tutelage of coach Anna Spallina. She is in an elite group of cheer coaches who have won a national championship as both a cheerleader and a coach.

Winning team members are Ariana Amato, Kaylee Gallino, Abby Rae Hughes, Samantha Morelli, Sophia Musraca, Caiden Palank, Alexis Polaski, Ella Reisinger, Reese Rogers, Alison Rubinetti, Callie Russell, Edie Sternkopf, Adrianna Tavolaro, Ella Velazquez, Avery Ward and Scarlett Ward. 

“This team continually displays tremendous effort and sets high standards for winning,” Rocky Point athletic director Jonathon Rufa said. “The girls began the year knowing that a national championship was possible for Rocky Point and they continued to gain confidence, power and focus throughout the season to achieve one of their championship goals.”

Rocky Point 2023-24 girls basketball team. Photo courtesy Rich Acritelli

By Rich Acritelli

Since 2001, there have been many fine girls basketball players that have suited up for the Rocky Point High School team. But there has been a playoff drought for the 23 years that has been broken through this year’s Lady Eagles squad. Longtime field hockey coach Katie Bittner, who coached the junior varsity basketball team in 2008-09, recently took over and the positive results have been extremely noticeable.

After defeating Smithtown West Feb. 2, the girls earned a playoff seed that saw Rocky Point ladies enthused about this major achievement. Bittner explained that this success originated from the “importance of playing defense, hustling and showing heart on a regular basis.” This formula has worked, as Bittner was pleased with her team’s ability to utilize its unyielding defensive strengths earlier in the season against Westhampton Beach. This opposition was averaging over 55 points a game at the time, but was limited to 43, and Rocky Point lost by only three points. This week, on Feb. 12, the Lady Eagles again played Westhampton Beach, which is one of the higher-ranking teams in the county, was leading at halftime 27-25 and lost a hotly-contested game 50-41.

The Rocky Point girls are led by the aggressive presence of McKenzie Moeller who is committed to play lacrosse at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina. She has been a dominant point scorer who drives to the net and is a rebounder. Moeller scored 24 points against Smithtown West and enjoys the camaraderie of this group. The “comic relief” is senior Sarah May who was the team’s most valuable player as a junior and is a shooting guard who will dive for loose balls. Julia Koprowski is a point guard whose goal is to play basketball next fall in college. Rhiannon Donovan is a senior power forward who has also been a special player. She has found it has been immensely “gratifying” to be a part of a close-knit team that has performed well.

An all-state field hockey player and a lacrosse standout, Kylie Lamoureux has solidified her spot as one of the toughest female athletes in the school and as a determined leader on the basketball team. Her presence is felt playing defense, forcing turnovers and being a fiery player against the opposition. This junior, who will play lax at the University of Maryland, is a two-year starter and a shooting guard. Her good friend junior Fiona Vu, who will be playing lacrosse at Brown University, is a major three-sport athlete who provides key minutes off the bench as a guard and forward. Coming off the bench is senior Nicole Spadafina who is hoping to either attend Indiana University or Tulane. This guard brings the ball up the court and has hit some outside shots. Many of these girls have played together since they were children at the local church league and truly enjoy playing ball together.

The future looks promising with eighth grader Giuliana Tocci gaining valuable experience that will mold her leadership role. Sophomore Kaleigh Moeller is part of the youth movement that has helped push the Eagles toward making the playoffs. She is a forward who comes off the bench where she has played a tenacious defense and has gained many rebounds. 

Athletic director Jonathon Rufa is elated with the drive of this team to succeed this year and make the playoffs. Rufa identified these ladies as being a “hardworking, talented and coachable group of athletes, who are willing to do the little things to win,” adding, “The future of Rocky Point girls basketball looks bright with first-year coach Katie Bittner leading the way.” 

Rich Acritelli is a social studies teacher at Rocky Point High School, an adjunct professor of American history at Suffolk County Community College and curator of Suffolk County World War II and Military History Museum.