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Lacrosse

Comeback follows sidelines from heart condition, brain surgery

Thomas Liantonio, an attack for Long Island University and former Miller Place standout, scored four goals in his rerun to the field after undergoing brain surgery three months prior. Photo from LIU Post

Thomas Liantonio was overcome with emotion as his lacrosse teammates rushed to give him a hug after his first goal. The excitement followed a series of unfortunate events fit for a Lemony Snicket novel.

After undergoing brain surgery just three months earlier, the Miller Place resident and current Long Island University Post attack led the Pioneers with four goals and an assist in an 18-7 home win against University of the District of Columbia on his return April 17.

Thomas Liantonio following brain surgery this past January. Photo from Thomas Liantonio

“Scoring my first goal back was definitely a special moment,” he said. “To be given the opportunity to start and produce off that opportunity is something I’m very fortunate for.”

Prior to the surgery, the junior said he was experiencing headaches and eye pain but didn’t think too much of it. As problems persisted he decided to get checked out and was shocked when doctors told him he had a brain tumor that would require surgery.

“I was scared, taken aback,” he said, recalling when he heard the news Jan. 2. “I’m a big believer of doing stuff to get your mind off things, and I did what I could to keep things as normal as possible for me. I realized you can’t get down on yourself — you have to keep looking forward to the next day and roll with the punches.”

He returned home following a few days in the hospital, and got started on the path to recovery. Long Island University first-year head coach Eric Wolf said he felt devastated for his student-athlete, especially knowing Liantonio also missed the 2017 season as a result of a heart condition.

“I know how hard he had worked after missing all of last season,” Wolf said. “I know in the front of Thomas’ mind he was thinking he would come back this season, and it was more so in the back of mine. Bottom line: I just wanted him to be healthy. If he could ever play again that would just be icing on the cake.”

Thomas Liantonio crosses the field for Miller Place. File photo by Desirée Keegan

Almost exactly a year prior, Jan. 10, 2017, Liantonio found out he had myocarditis, inflammation of the middle layer of the heart wall caused by a viral infection that can weaken the heart and lead to heart attacks, heart failure or sudden death if his blood pressure were to rise too high. He said he was having some chest pains, and again didn’t think anything of it, assuming he had a respiratory infection. After visiting a walk-in
medical center, he found out he had an irregular heartbeat. Following an EKG, MRI and cardiogram, he was told of the infection.

“To see him get blindsided by two things back-to-back and see how it was affecting his morale, as a parent, that’s very disheartening,” his father Steve Liantonio said. “He’s a strong kid, and luckily he has great friends and people at LIU Post that he relied on to keep his spirits up, keep him positive. We thought good things were going to come for him, and it worked out.”

The Pioneers’ head coach said after a week-and-a-half of practice, he could see his player shaking off the rust. Wolf first opted to sideline Liantonio after he practiced at midfield and, after a night’s sleep, decided he needed him out on the field.

Liantonio, who first picked up a lacrosse stick in second grade, said he couldn’t imagine not playing the sport again.

“I love the fast pace,” he said. “I saw the opportunity I had to go far in the sport and wanted to take it. I didn’t think I’d make it back to the lacrosse field this season, but getting cleared, I was so happy I didn’t know what to do.”

Thomas Liantonio with his mother Maria following his first game back. Photo from Thomas Liantonio

Given the amount of physical contact in lacrosse, Liantonio’s dad thought a return to the field was risky, afraid of a push or helmet-to-helmet contact, but said the return also provided a lesson to his son.

“You can only hold somebody back for so long,” he said. “He was strong-willed and after several conversations he felt determined and healthy enough to do it. At some point in time you just have to let go and say, ‘Go for it.’ This proves when you put your mind to something you can overcome anything.”

Wolf said he asked current attackmen, who’d had successful campaigns up to that point, to let Liantonio return to his rightful position. He said his players were selfless, and he was moved by what Liantonio brought to the team in his first game in nearly two years.

“I was shocked, but not surprised given who Thomas is,” he said. “He played awesome. The emotional lift that he gave our team could not be measured.”

The coach said while there’s no tiptoeing around the contact in the sport, he knew his player was all in, and has improved and grown more confident with each game he’s played since.

“He works hard, has a positive attitude and makes his teammates better — he does everything we ask,” Wolf said. “To see a guy go through what he has gone through over the past two years and to keep persisting through real adversity … it’s incredible.”

Tigers take 9-6 win over Ward Melville's, which was the 400th of head coach Carol Rose's career

The Northport girls lacrosse team’s motto this season is “earned, not given,” and the Tigers proved Tuesday that they’re heeding the message.

In a battle of undefeated teams, Northport worked for each possession, goal and turnover to take a 9-6 win over host Ward Melville April 24.

“It’s the best feeling knowing we came out strong and were able to finish against a really great team,” said junior midfielder Olivia Carner, who scored a game-high four times and added an assist. Her final goal served as insurance, finding an empty net with 33 seconds left. “I was nervous, but I knew we had to be confident and work together.”

“I’m just so happy that they kept up the intensity throughout the entire game. They’re fighters, and they kept their composure.”

— Carol Rose

Northport junior goalkeeper Claire Morris made a stop with 7:18 remaining, and senior midfielder Nicole Orella scored the go-ahead goal off that possession for a 7-6 advantage in a game that saw five ties.

“We wanted to take care of the ball, make good decisions, and they were able to do that,” said Northport head coach Carol Rose. “They played as a team — they needed everybody.”

Rose said she was most impressed with senior attack Katherine Meyer, who scored twice. Her second goal, off a Danielle Pavinelli assist, gave Northport an 8-6 cushion with 2:03 left in the game.

“That’s the most she’s scored in a game, so she stepped up big for us,” the coach said. “Everybody contributed in some way. The defense was relentless, they caused a lot of turnovers. The goalie played really well. I’m just so happy that they kept up the intensity throughout the entire game. They’re fighters, and they kept their composure.”

After the teams traded scores until the game was 4-all, senior midfielder Emerson Cabrera popped outside the zone and made an arc around to the front of the cage where she scored from the left side to give Northport its first two-goal lead, 6-4, with 20 minutes left in the second half. Once again Ward Melville raced back into contention, with seniors Kate Mulham and Shannon Brazier scoring on free position and diving shots, respectively, to make it a new game.

“Kate Mulham is a really fast girl and we all knew we needed to be on our toes with her,” said Northport junior defender Isabella Hubbard. “We paid attention to her a lot throughout the game. There was a lot of pressure on [the defense], but we knew what we had to do and how to get it done.”

“It was a midseason battle, a test, and I told [my girls] to remember this feeling, because I can guarantee we’ll be seeing [Northport] again somewhere down the road.”

— Kerri Kilkenny

The senior, who scored three goals, said she uses the pressure placed on her from being the team’s leading scorers as motivation.

“I’m confident in the talent of my teammates and know that if I am shut down by a double team or a faceguard, my teammates around me will step up,” she said. “Every girl on the field deserves to be there, and I know that they will perform just as well in high-pressure situations. Northport is a big and fast team, and we knew they had some serious skill and speed in the midfield. Possession was crucial, and Northport’s players on the draw circle were tall and shifty. We knew the draw controls could determine the outcome of the game.”

Ward Melville head coach Kerri Kilkenny said she saw her team struggling to move the ball, and that losing draws early on put the Patriots in a hole.

“Northport was shooting the ball — they took at least double the amount of shots that we did,” she said. “They were more disciplined today than we were. They were absolutely the better team, but we hung in there. It was a midseason battle, a test, and I told them to remember this feeling, because I can guarantee we’ll be seeing them again somewhere down the road.”

The win was Rose’s 400th during her 29 years at the helm. She has averaged more than 14 wins per season at Northport.

“It’s kind of surreal — that’s a lot of lax games,” she said. “It’s an honor to have had the privilege to coach these wonderful, talented players in Northport throughout my tenure. It would not have been possible without the dedication and hard work that these kids put in throughout the years. They wanted this win bad, more than me, and they were really excited. They’re taking care of business and they’re on a mission.”

Northport (9-0 overall, 8-0 in Division I) plays host to Sachem North April 27 for a 4 p.m. matchup. Ward Melville (8-1, 7-1) will travel to Sachem East for a 4:30 p.m. game April 27.

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Kate Timarky gets double-teamed. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Middle Country’s girls lacrosse team was able to hold off visiting Bay Shore twice behind four goals from Emily Diaz, to take a 12-9 win April 24.

“I knew that they were better than their record shows and I warned [our team about that], because they’re going to come in hot,” head coach Lindsay Dolson said. “I saw a lot of watching — we need to at least get the ball on the ground [off the draw] to give us a chance.”

Emily Diaz outruns a defender and breaks toward the goal. Photo by Bill Landon

The Mad Dogs struggled to gain possession and were pressured early behind Marauders draw wins, but still managed to put away three goals before Bay Shore got on the board. Juniors Sophie Alois and Jennifer Barry did all the work in that space, with Alois scoring twice, her second, off a flick from Barry for the 3-0 advantage, and Barry scored unassisted for the 2-0 lead.

As was the case throughout the game, Bay Shore was quick to answer, scoring two goals in just over a minute, and tied the game twice in the first half, at 5-5 and 7-7, which ended the scoring for the first half. Barry, who had a hat trick and added two assists in the opening 25 minutes, said she took her coach’s words to heart.

“Our coaches tell us before every game that you need to play every game as if it’s your biggest game [of the season],” she said. “We did a good job at settling down, spreading out [our offense] and if you have confidence in yourself and your play, then everything else will fall into place.”

Jennifer Barry draws a crowd as she pushes her way up the middle of the zone. Photo by Bill Landon

Youth and experience served up scores in the second half for Middle Country. Seventh-grader Kate Timarky, who had an assist in the first half, scored twice in 30 seconds to help her team regain the lead. Barry found Diaz, a senior, on a cut to the cage to score what would end up being the game-winning goal. She added two more thereafter to Bay Shore’s one to give the game its final score.

“We expected them to be better than what their records told us, our coaches are always good about informing us about other teams,” Diaz said. “We’ve been struggling at the draw control lately, but every game it gets a little bit better — we work on it in practice every day.”

Dolson said despite a less than ideal draw control performance, she said she was pleased with other aspects of her team’s play.

“[We did a good job of] holding the ball there at the end, [because] we’ve struggled keeping possession in the past, but we passed better,” she said. “They were more coachable, and I thought we handled the pressure a lot better.”

Middle Country improves to 7-2 and will be back in action April 27, when the Mad Dogs travel to Patchogue-Medford for a 4 p.m. contest.

Mount Sinai's Morgan Mitchell races downfield with Comewogue's Mia Fernandes pushing her toward the right sideline. Photo by Desirée Keegan

By Desirée Keegan

The Mustangs chanted in the huddle: “unleash the madness.”

Fueled with fire following its first loss in 21 games, the Mount Sinai girls lacrosse team amped up the intensity to clobber visiting Comsewogue 15-2 April 23.

After being down 6-0 in the first half of a loss to Bayport-Blue Point last Friday, the girls knew they had to come out firing.

Mount Sinai’s Emma Tyrrell passes the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“We realized we can’t take any team lightly,” said junior attack Morgan Mitchell. “We have to play each game like it’s our last one; stay focused and keep our eye on the prize.”

She kept that concentration in the draw circle, flicking the ball toward the sideline instead of up or down the field, so that sophomore midfielder Jenny Markey could scoop it up. Markey boxed out Comsewogue’s Hannah Dorney for crucial minutes of possession that led to two of her three goals in the first five minutes of the game.

“I know I was going against a strong opponent in Hannah Dorney — I had to box her out first so she doesn’t get it, because she’s strong in the circle,” Markey said. “When I boxed her our I knew I have the ball. If we match other team’s intensity we can play with anyone.”

Mount Sinai began double-teaming the Warriors ball carrier once they finally got possession and forced 17 turnovers in the first half. After Comsewogue’s Julia Fernandes scored off a Dorney assist to cut Mount Sinai’s lead to 4-1, senior Camryn Harloff began to attack, scoring two straight of her game-best four goals to up the advantage. Mitchell assisted on two of them as the Mustangs scored five times in a 15 minute span.

Mount Sinai’s Meaghan Scutaro shoots while Comsewogue’s Ava Fernandes (on left) and Hannah Dorney reach to block her. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“I like being in the middle, and Morgan and I work really well together,” said Harloff, who’s heading to the NCAA’s No. 1-ranked team, Stony Brook University, in the fall. “When her older sister [Kasey Mitchell] was on the team I worked well with her, too. We just click.”

Kasey Mitchell, an Stony Brook lacrosse player currently, and Harloff will be teammates again soon.

Mount Sinai spread out the assault with senior attack Meaghan Tyrrell also scoring a hat trick, and her younger sister Emma adding two goals and an assist. Twin defenders Meaghan and Kirsten Scutaro picked up the pace to get to slides that blocked Comsewogue from getting close to the cage the rest of the way.

“I think we bounced back from our loss, which we really needed,” Harloff said. “I think we met their intensity, and I think we played as a team.”

Behind head coach Al Bertolone who eclipsed 100 career wins with a 14-7 triumph over Christian Brothers Academy April 16, Mount Sinai moves to 8-1 overall and 6-1 in Division II. The Mustangs travel to Sayville April 26 for a 4:30 p.m. game.

“We have to take it play by play and realize how we got ourselves here,” Mitchell said. “It’s focusing on those little things. We set the bar so high, and we need to continue to reach it.”

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Defense helps contain Sachem East in final quarter to pull out 5-4 win

By Bill Landon

Sachem East sent shock waves through the Smithtown West boys lacrosse team, but the Bulls didn’t back down from the fight.

After the Flaming Arrows scored to draw within one in the fourth, Smithtown West took control and slowed the clock to come away with a 5-4 win during an autism awareness fundraiser game April 14. Smithtown West remains undefeated on the season outscoring opponents 100-34 through eight games.

“First of all, hats off to Sachem East they played a complete game, a great game and they tested us in every phase of play today.”

— Bob Moltisanti

“First of all, hats off to Sachem East they played a complete game, a great game and they tested us in every phase of play today,” Smithtown West head coach Bobby Moltisanti said. “Defensively we did a great job, our short stick midfielders did a great job as well, so hats off to them and to our goalie holding them to just four goals. And on offense we got the job done and got the victory.”

The Bulls struggled against Sachem East’s (3-5 overall, 3-4 League I) stout defense early, with long sticks swatting at every pass and scooping up sever loose balls, taking four direct takeaways.

Midfielder Andrew Arce scored his first of three goals off a feed from attack John Hoffman for the early lead at the 7:46 mark of the opening quarter, but as with most of the game, Sachem East answered. Just 34 seconds later, Peter Engleken’s solo shot stretched the netting to even the score.

Smithtown West showed its a threat from every position when defenseman Kevin went the distance a minute later and scored.

Again, it was Engleken that made it a new game before Hoffman, who leads his team in scoring with 21 goals and 10 assists, broke the stalemate with four minutes remaining in the half on a feed from attack Marc Cottage.

“There was nothing easy about it. They cut our lead to one and we had to play mistake free if we were going to come out with the win.”

— Andrew Arce

Smithtown West banked its first insurance goal with just under five minutes left in third quarter when Sean Byrne flicked the ball to Arce on the cut, but Sachem East’s Nick Pagnotta dumped one in from close range to once again keep things close.

Arce fired a shot from 20 yards out with 10:35 left in regulation to complete his hat trick and put the Bulls out front again by two, 5-3.

“We knew we had to go back to our basics,” said Arce, a Binghamton University-bound senior. “They were tough on defense and they came at us hard the whole game — there was nothing easy about it. They cut our lead to one and we had to play mistake free if we were going to come out with the win.”

Tyler Jordan scored the final goal for the Flaming Arrows, but Moltisanti credited defenders Kevin Ehli, Reed Greco, Dave Gonzalez and Christian Lowd for holding off Sachem East to close out the game, and Kyle Walker for his 10 saves in goal.

Smithtown West will be tested once again when the Bulls travel to Connetquot (5-2 overall, 5-1 League I) April 18 at 5 p.m.

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Pete LaSalla rushes through Eastport-South Manor’s defense before rocketing a shot that finds the netting in a loss to the Sharks April 9. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Rocky Point came from behind in the first half, but was victimized by a comeback late in an 8-7 home loss to
Eastport-South Manor April 9.

Up 7-3 heading into the fourth, the Sharks scored five unanswered goals and won the final faceoff with 1:34 left to seal the deal.

Zach Gill carries the ball across the field
despite longstick midfielders’ attempts to hold him back. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“I think we did a good job early on offensively, but as the game went on we had many unnecessary attempts to force goals when we should have killed off time,” said Rocky Point’s Pete LaSalla, who finished with four goals and an assist. “As a team we need to continue to grow and be able to close out games and not let teams come back.”

The senior sparked the Eagles’ response in the first quarter when he scored from the right side 30 yards out unassisted with about a minute left to cut the Sharks’ 2-0 lead in half. Classmate Zach Gill knotted things up less than two minutes into the second to make it a new game, and by the 2:39 mark LaSalla scored his second and third goals for a 4-2 lead. He wrapped up his points in the first half with a dish to Gill for a goal that put Rocky Point up 5-2 heading into the break.

“Through the first three quarters I️ thought we played great as a team, we really put everything together and were playing as a whole,” said sophomore goalkeeper Tyler Kotarski.

Up 6-3, Rocky Point went a man down after a late hit and fended off shot after shot with the first-year varsity starter making multiple stops between the pipes.

“We had great goaltending from Tyler Kotarski,” LaSalla said. “When we went a man down I was happy that our defense stepped up and didn’t let up a goal.”

Tyler Kotarski prepares to put the ball in play after making one of his 12 saves. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The goalie said he was just trying to do his job.

“I was just trying to save every ball that came at me,” Kotarski said. “We killed both of the penalties with only four guys on the field — it felt great to get that defensive stop. During times like that I️ try not to pay attention to the scoreboard and act as every shot could be a game-winning goal.”

LaSalla scored in the final minutes of the third. Also taking faceoffs all evening, he won possession twice in the final quarter, but the Sharks found a way to steal it back, each time scoring to close the gap until the game was knotted at 7-7.

“We just need to keep the momentum going through all four quarters and finish strong,” Kotarski said. “Lacrosse is one of those sports where you can score multiple goals in a short amount of time, and that’s exactly what Petey [LaSalla] did and that’s exactly what they did in return. It’s been a real honor playing on varsity and watching our team improve as a whole. We’ll bounce back from this.”

Rocky Point looked to redeem itself with a game at Mattituck April 11, but results were not available by press time. Rocky Point returns home to take on neighboring Mount Sinai April 13 at 4:30 p.m.

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Xavier Arline makes his way to the cage in a postseason game against Cold Spring Harbor last season. File photo by Desirée Keegan

By Jim Ferchland

Shoreham-Wading River can always count on the Xavier Arline’s attack.

The sophomore, fueled by a recent loss 10-5 loss at home to Mount Sinai, scored four goals and added four assists in a 13-8 win at Bayport-Blue Point April 6.

“My team goal, at the end of the day, is to just help the team win as much as possible,” said the University of North Carolina commit. “The team played as a unit today. I think everyone played their role — the producers produced.”

Zach Colucci moves the ball around the outside of the circle in a playoff game last year. File photo by Desirée Keegan

Arline and senior Zach Colucci alone were too much for the Phantoms to handle. Colucci capitalized on four of his own opportunities and assisted on another. Senior Kyle Boden tallied a hat trick and an assist and classmate Tim Cairo had a score and two helpers.

“Senior leadership stepped up big time,” assistant coach Brian Baker said. “We had some highs and lows but the boys responded well. We actually played lacrosse together as a team.”

The Wildcats jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in just over seven minutes of action. Arline scored once in that span and added two more unassisted goals to give Shoreham-Wading River a 5-1 lead heading into the second quarter.

Bayport-Blue Point cut the deficit to 6-4 with an assist and goal from senior midfielder Tim Sacca, but it would be the closest the Phantoms would come. The Wildcats retaliated with two goals to increase their deficit back to four, with Arline scoring his fourth after grabbing a ground ball to stop the Phantoms’ scoring streak.

Shoreham-Wading River scored three times in the third, with Cairo assisting on two, to Bayport-Blue Point’s one.

Arline assisted the Wildcats’ final two goals from Colucci and Boden to give his team a 13-6 edge, its largest lead of the game. Bayport-Blue responded with two unassisted goals by junior midfielder James Ringer and senior attacker Sal Locascio, but it was too little too late.

Shoreham-Wading River’s took on Eastport-South Manor at home April 11, but results were not available by press time. The Wildcats are back at it taking on West Babylon on the road April 13 at 4:30 p.m.

Smithtown West's Reed Greco moves the ball across the field while Middle Country's Tom Stock chases after him. Photo by Jim Ferchland

By Jim Ferchland

In the rainy and windy conditions, junior attacker Marc Cottage and the Smithtown West Bulls dismantled
Middle Country Mad Dogs on  its home turf.

Scoring the first four goals for boys lacrosse team April 3, Cottage sparked the Bulls offense with a team-high eight points in a 15-3 victory at Newfield High School. He helps keep their season perfect so far at 4-0 and gave Middle Country its third loss of the year (1-3).

Smithtown West’s Marc Cottage shoots past a Middle Country defender. Photo by Jim Ferchland

“It felt good,” Cottage said about his performance. “I thought our offense played great in the first quarter. It was a good team win.”

The Bulls got an early first quarter advantage leading 5-1 after a Danny Caddigan goal with 3:15 left. The game was tied at one point after Cottage’s first goal in the first minute. Then, Middle Country’s Tom Stock found the back of the net 43 seconds later to tie at up at 1-1.

Not much scoring happened in the second quarter, but it was Kyle Zawadzki who scored all two of Smithtown West’s goal in the 12 minutes. His first goal gave the Bulls a 6-1 lead, assisted by Christian Lowd with 10:46 left. Middle Country’s Jacob Hyman had an unassisted goal 1 minute, 13 seconds later to cut the deficit back to four, but Zawadzki’s shot in final minute hit its mark to make it 7-2 Bulls at the half.

There was a combined 28 points scored between 12 different players for Smithtown West. The Bulls had 13 assists on 15 goals.

“Everyone was contributing,” Zawadzki said. “It wasn’t just one person, even though Cottage did have seven goals. He was just capitalizing on all the opportunities he had.”

The Bulls put the game away in the third quarter, outscoring the Mad Dogs 5-1, giving the Bulls a nine-point advantage at 12-3. Matt Caddigan scored 48 seconds into the quarter and was assisted by John Hoffman, who had four assists on the afternoon. Andrew Arce also had a goal and an assist for the Bulls. Three of Cottage’s seven goals came in the third, with one of them finding the back of the net in the final four seconds of the quarter.

Hoffman, Cole Vencak and Troy Riley all had good, unanswered goals in the fourth for the Bulls to win 15-3.

Even though he’s a junior, Cottage sees himself as a captain of the team.

“I always have seen myself as a leader,” Cottage said. “I’m pretty sure all the starters feel that way — to teach the younger kids — just to be the best and play well.”

Smithtown West’s Christian Lowd races up the field. Photo by Jim Ferchland

Stock found the net twice for the Mad Dogs and going up against Smithtown West, he wanted to do exactly just that.

“They’re a pretty good team,” Stock said oft Smithtown West. “They’re ranked pretty high. I was just trying to score some goals.”

Smithtown West played with three different goaltenders in Cameron Young, Kyle Walker and Mike Simone. Adam Hyman stayed in the entire game as the only goalkeeper for Middle Country. He had nine saves on the afternoon. He said the team will bounce back from the loss.

“We just need to work hard in practice and take this loss as a ‘W,’” Hyman said. “We just have to keep on working hard. This loss motivates the whole team to get better because no one likes to lose.”

Middle Country head coach Chris Siragusa said that Smithtown West is the best team they will face all year. Middle Country finished 5-9 in Division I last year, and lost 16 seniors from that squad, boasting a majority
of freshmen and sophomore this year.

“I think it’s just [about gaining] experience for our guys, because of the youth,” Siragusa said. “Stock and [Jacob] Hyman are both sophomores and they’re going to be part of the future. They were part of the team last year when their heads were spinning. I think it’s just about getting older and maturing.”

Smithtown West will look to stay undefeated when it hits the road to face Northport April 5 at 10 a.m. Middle
Country wants to retaliate after the loss with an at-home contest against Sachem North at 4 p.m.

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Cameron McNicol fires at the cage during practice. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

One week into practice, head coach Pete Mitchell is liking what he’s seeing from his Warriors, showing the depth he hopes can carry Comseowgue into the postseason.

Seniors Richia Lacalandra on offense and Zach Gagnon on defense have filled the shoes left by Will Snelders and Ryan Dorney, and junior Thomas Heller will remain between the pipes this year.

Tom Heller makes a save during practice. Photo by Bill Landon

“This year, there’s a lot of competition,” Mitchell said, noting that he puts a lot of faith in his mostly-returning offensive unit and new faceoff taker Cameron MacNicol.

“He’s very good,” Mitchell said of MacNicol. “[We have] a good mix. We’ll be a lot deeper — we have a lot more kids — and I think that was one of our faults last year.”

Even as snow puts practice indoors, Lacalandra said the team is working hard.

“Coach is getting us there — we’re running every day, we’re getting bigger, stronger, faster; that’s key,” the Stony Brook University-bound four-year varsity player said. “As that happens, the play will come. The team has chemistry, and [I believe] we’ll get it done this year.”

Last year, Mitchell said few people expected the Warriors to make the postseason with a 7-9 record, let alone battle Eastport-South Manor in the Suffolk County Class B semifinal round. He thinks with his stronger defensive unit, especially with the blocking skills of his midfielders, the Warriors’ chances are that much higher.

“I have probably two of the best defensive middies that I’ve ever had in Reno Molina and John Felice, who is actually my backup goalie — he’s one of the fastest human beings I’ve ever seen,” said the coach adding junior Sean Kennedy will be another to watch.

Chris Spahr clears the ball during practice. Photo by Bill Landon

Gagnon said it’s been tough to be stuck in the gym, but said the team is focused on facing Kings Park in the first game of the season March 27.

“[We’ve] got a lot of young kids, a lot of talented kids who push each other hard,” he said. “We just have to stay after it, keep our eyes on the prize. We need to be smooth, clean things up a little bit [because] some things are still a little sloppy, we have to start talking more, but besides that I think we look good.”

Heller, a University at Albany-commit, said his team will never settle with where it’s at until hoisting up a championship trophy.

“Everyone’s hustling — we’ve got a solid offense, we’re moving the ball well on defense and [creating those passing lanes],” he said, adding he sees Half Hollow Hills West being stiff competition, but likes Comsewogue’s chances. “I think we’ll beat them.”

Mitchell said he’s pleased with the dedication he’s seen so far, and seeing his team not take any practice lightly will provide good results out on the field.

“Everybody’s on their ‘A’ game,” Mitchell said. “We’ll be prepared [for that first game]. These kids know what Comsewogue lacrosse means to the school and to this community. When you play Comsewogue you know you’re going to play a lacrosse game.”

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Mount Sinai's girls lacrosse team won its first indoor national championship after besting the No. 1 and No. 7 teams in close games. Photo from Al Bertolone

The Mustangs will remain in good hands this spring.

The Mount Sinai indoor girls lacrosse team — led by sister sets Meaghan and Emma Tyrrell on offense and Meaghan and Kristen Scutaro on defense — claimed the school’s first national title this month. The Mustangs outlasted Bishop Ireton, Virginia’s BigLax 13-12 in a sudden-death victory in the final Jan. 7 to grab gold at the second annual high school IL Women Indoor Lacrosse National Championship.

“My girls played six games in two days and were warriors,” head coach Al Bertolone said. “They played hard and never wavered — came back from being behind in the final — it was great to see them win because they are the first Long Island team to win this tournament and to beat No. 1 McDonogh.”

Mount Sinai, the tournament’s No. 5 seed, was one of eight teams to advance out of pool play, going 3-0 to get to the quarterfinals. Over that stretch, the Mustangs scored 59 goals and let up 36. The team advanced to the semifinals with a 17-11 win over North Fork and beat McDonogh, Maryland’s Orange Crush, last year’s finalist, 13-12, to advance to the championship game.

“This really tested our team offensively and defensively, and our team definitely rose to the occasion, which is huge for us so early in the season,” senior Meaghan Scutaro said. “To beat the No. 1 team, McDonogh, has always been a goal of our team since I was in eighth grade. To finally have the chance to play such an outstanding team was surreal, and then to win it all was the cherry on top. We were all tired from playing such amazing teams, but we were excited, and knew that we wouldn’t come this far to not win.”

Bertolone pointed to the sister bonds as the glue that holds his team together. The competition had an added dose of intrigue as in the Mustangs’ first game of the tournament, against Run n’ Gun, five future Syracuse University teammates toed the line against one another.

“Playing with them shows you how it’s going to be in college,” junior Emma Tyrrell said of competing against future Orange teammates. “It’s great to play with them.”

Senior Meaghan Tyrrell’s lefty finish shined at attack, and her sister was consistently found unmarked at eight meters. Guarding by the University of Notre Dame-bound Scutaro twins, and blocking in goal by Sienna Massullo (2018, Pace University) and Emily Lamparter (2021, University of Maryland) also impressed.

“You know exactly how your sister plays, and you can depend on her to help you finish plays, which works in our favor having sisters on the offense and defense,” Scutaro said.

Seeing the chemistry continue to build now is just a taste of what’s to come this season when the Mustangs head outdoors, and, at the collegiate level.

“The culture we have established combined with the friendships they have has created a bond that is family-based,” Bertolone said. “It’s unreal how connected we are.”