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Lauren Meigel

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Centereach senior co-captain Lauren Meigel reaches for the ball in a game last season. File photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

The 2015-16 season holds promise for the Centereach girl’s basketball team as most of last years starters return to vie for a playoff appearance in League III action with a distinct advantage — having lost just one senior to graduation from last years’ squad.

Unlike last years’ team, which went 4-11, the Cougars lineup features six seniors, three juniors and three sophomores, with 10 returning players.

Head coach James Steigele Jr. said there is no one player who has emerged as a dominant leader this year, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Center each junior Cassidy Treanor shoots the ball in a game last season. File photo by Bill Landon
Center each junior Cassidy Treanor shoots the ball in a game last season. File photo by Bill Landon

“With so many returning players they have all stepped up into a leadership role, especially at their position,” he said, adding that he’ll still rely on seasoned senior co-captains Lauren Meigel, Nicole Fellone, Katrina Gangji, Erica Medina and Alyssa Sokolowski.

To make the post season, the coach told his team that the keys to success are communication, offensive ball control and holding their opponents to as few points as possible.

“Communication might sound vague, but it touches on multiple facets of success,” Steigele said. “We’ll have to move the ball offensively and play a tough, hard-nose defense.”

The Cougars opened their season defeating League I challenger Patchogue-Medford, 48-41, in the coaches for cancer game, and then fell to Elwood-John Glenn and Mount Sinai — all nonleague challengers.

The head coach said he feels positive just three games into the season.

“We were leading Glenn 19-3 after the first quarter,” he said. “They’re very competitive, well-coached and they are a consistent postseason team.”

After the final game of last season, the lone departing senior, Alicia Indence, who plays women’s basketball at Mount Saint Mary’s College, predicted good things for this years’ team.

“With the talent this team has I know they’ll do very well next season,” Indence said.

Centereach will open regular season play on December 15 on the road against Smithtown East with tipoff slated for 4 p.m. According to the coach, Riverhead will be one of the team’s toughest opponents this year. He said he believes that the Blue Waves’ starting five is one of the best in the county.

“You can’t take any team lightly in this league, “ Steigele said. “We need to get past every team in order to clinch a playoff berth.”

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Newfield junior Dalia Perez digs one out during the Wolverines' 3-1 victory over Centereach on Oct. 23. Photo by Bill Landon
Newfield junior Dalia Perez digs one out during the Wolverines' 3-1 victory over Centereach on Oct. 23. Photo by Bill Landon
Newfield junior Dalia Perez digs one out during the Wolverines’ 3-1 victory over Centereach on Oct. 23. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

After dropping the first set to the Centereach, Newfield won the next three on the road, defeating their crosstown rival 3-1 in League III volleyball action Friday afternoon.

The Wolverines looked to put the first set away, leading 20-15 at the first time out, but the Cougars battled back to tie it at 24-24, ultimately winning 26-24.

Newfield head coach Christy Innes said her team came out flat.

“The girls did not come out with a lot of energy, but they turned it around in game two,” she coach.

The second set was very different from the first.

The Wolverines turned up the intensity, and in convincing fashion, claimed the second set 25-16, to tie the match.

Centereach senior Lauren Meigel makes contact with the ball during the Cougars' 3-1 loss to Newfield on Oct. 23. Photo by Bill Landon
Centereach senior Lauren Meigel makes contact with the ball during the Cougars’ 3-1 loss to Newfield on Oct. 23. Photo by Bill Landon

Centereach senior co-captain Lauren Meigel said she wasn’t surprised at the margin of victory in set two.

“That was to be expected as they were angry and wanted to get back [at us],” Centereach senior co-captain Nicole Fellone said. “Today we had great communication, where we had problems [with that] before.”

Trailing by six, Centereach battled back in the third set to tie the game at 21-21, and took a 24-22 advantage, but Newfield refused to lose, rallied back to tie it at 25-25, and neither team would give way, as the rivals retied the game at 26-26.

“Our attacking was a lot better in the later matches,” Newfield junior Rachel Mennonna said. “We talked a lot more and we moved our feet better.”

Newfield senior Gabby Darnaby sets up the ball during the Wolverines' 3-1 win over crosstown rival Centereach on Oct. 23. Photo by Bill Landon
Newfield senior Gabby Darnaby sets up the ball during the Wolverines’ 3-1 win over crosstown rival Centereach on Oct. 23. Photo by Bill Landon

With a 27-26 lead, Newfield finished the third set, to go up 2-1 in the match.

“We played a team that was better than us,” Centereach head coach Mike Weaver said. “We’ve had a number of injuries over the season. We’re down three starters.”

Newfield showed why they took third place in league play this season, by stretching their legs in the fourth set to break out to a 19-11 lead, thanks to the senior captain Gabby Darnaby. On a service tear, rattling off eight consecutive points, Darnaby propelled her team to a 22-11 lead with a pair of service aces along the way.

“We had better energy after that first set — we had better communication and we played better defense,” Darnaby said. “We set up the blocks where they were supposed to be, and that helped a lot.”

Centereach junior Rachel Masullo leaps up to spike the ball in the Cougars' 3-1 loss to Newfield on Oct. 23. Photo by Bill Landon
Centereach junior Rachel Masullo leaps up to spike the ball in the Cougars’ 3-1 loss to Newfield on Oct. 23. Photo by Bill Landon

Newfield junior Dayna Hunter brought her team to the brink with her kill shot for a 24-11 advantage. Coping with an injury-riddled lineup, Weaver had to make adjustments — rotating players to fill the holes.

“Emily Timarky, who is a freshman who was thrown into a spot she’s never played, she stepped up and had nine kills, so I was very happy,” Weaver said.

But it was too much for Centereach, as Newfield put the fourth set away, 25-11, to win the match.

“I think we worked as hard as we possibly could everyone gave 100 percent,” Meigel said. “We hustled the whole way, and on offense, we just kept swinging away; we swung hard and we were not going down without a fight.”

With the loss, Centereach fell to 5-8, and with a win to finish off the regular season, Newfield improved to 10-4, which places them solidly in the playoff picture, which gets underway Monday Nov. 2.