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Senior Night

By Bill Landon

It was senior night at Hauppauge High School on Oct. 17, and the seven seniors looked to make it a win at home against Ward Melville. The win lifts the Patriots to 7-6 in the division, as the loss drops the Eagles also to 7-6 with one game remaining for both teams before postseason play begins Oct. 25.

— Photos by Bill Landon 

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Kings Park girls soccer team upperclassmen celebrate senior day with their families. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Kings Park was spreading the wealth on senior night — something that especially pleased senior Jessica Hoyt.

Senior Jessica Hoyt powers past a defender. Photo by Bill Landon

“I’ve been playing with these girls since the seventh grade and not all the seniors play that much,” she said. “So it was great to see them get playing time and a bunch of them scored, who usually don’t, so it was just a really nice day.”

Four girls, two seniors, found the back of the net in the Kingsmens’ 5-0 shutout of East Hampton Oct. 16. The win was especially sweet for those upperclassmen playing in their last home game of the regular season.

“To win on senior night was amazing — I don’t get a lot of playing time, but to win tonight, our season just got even better,” senior defender Zoe Dougherty said.

The game against Hampton Bays though was not what she or any of her teammates expected. Even though the Bonackers are 0-13 on the season, they brought their A game.

“They were not what I expected,” Dougherty said. “Being in last place without a win they pressed us in the first half, holding us to just one goal.”

Kings Park scored in the 28th minute, when Hoyt drilled a Sam Hogan cross pass into the netting to break the ice.

Senior Mary Tuorto heads the ball. Photo by Bill Landon

Hogan, a junior, beat out a defender for an open look at the goal two minutes into the second have, and sent her shot into the upper left corner. She scored a solo shot later in the half for a 3-0 advantage.

“We played them once before, so we knew they’d be tough — they don’t ever give up; they swarm to the ball and they play really hard,” Kings Park head coach Bryan LoPalo said. “They played better than their record indicates. [This is] an extremely tough league.”

With senior bench players swapped in for starters, junior Amelia Galdorisi and senior Mary Tuorto also found their way to the scoreboard. Kings Park ends the regular season at 11-3-2 overall with an 11-2-1 mark in League V. The girls soccer playoffs begin with outbracket games Saturday Oct. 21. The first round starts Tuesday Oct. 23.

“That was unexpected, [it was] a little different game they played, but absolutely they challenged us,” Tuorto said comparing the two matchups between the teams. “I was shocked at how our seniors came together. We don’t normally all play together on the field. Tonight it was so important to win this game.”

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Nora Gabel scores two points on a putback. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The Comsewogue girls’ basketball team dropped its second-to-last game of the season to Sayville Feb. 7, 51-44, on senior night, but it wasn’t for a lack of effort from the Warriors.

Sam Collins prepares to take a shot from beyond the arc. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“I think we came out really strong, got them a little nervous — on their heels a little bit,” senior Sam Collins said.

That’s because she was swishing shot after shot from beyond the arc. Collins scored all nine of her team’s first-quarter points on 3-pointers, and added another at the start of the second.

“I work so hard on it and when I get an open shot I’m happy to take it,” she said. “It helps my teammates and it’s hard to contest a shot like that.”

Her coach likes what he’s seen from his four-year starter as well. Collins has racked up 43 3-pointers this season.

“She makes a living out there,” Comsewogue head coach Joe Caltagirone said. “She can post up too, but with the 1-3-1 defense that [Sayville plays] it was suited for her to stay out on the wing and take the open shots when she had them.”

The game, which was Comsewogue’s first home loss of the season, was tight through most of the first half. Collins’ fourth trey countered a Sayville 3-pointer, and junior Nora Gabel scored a field goal that put her team out front 14-11, but Sayville always had an answer, or two, and by the end of the first half Sayville had a 24-18 advantage.

Sayville’s defense intercepted multiple passes and won its fair share of battles on the boards, but junior Hannah Dorney grabbed multiple rebounds for Comsewogue, and forced a few turnovers herself.

Hannah Dorney carries the ball into Sayville’s zone after forcing a turnover. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“We softened their defense, we broke it down pretty good and got some good looks, but our shots didn’t fall,” Caltagirone said. “Hannah has been a great addition off the lacrosse team. We had to play their style with the aggressiveness and working baseline to baseline, which she helped with. I was pleased with their effort.”

Heading into the halftime break, Collins said her team talked about ways to make sure the game didn’t slip away.

“We wanted to move the ball a lot more to make them move because they’re eventually going to get tired,” she said. “If we take the first available shot, it’s easy for them to play defense, but if we wait the whole shot clock and get the best shot possible, they can’t do anything about it.”

At first, it worked. Senior Megan Turner drew a foul and sank both of her free throws, Gabel added a 3-pointer and Dorney scored a field goal to regain the lead for Comsewogue, 25-24. Despite the team’s best efforts, Sayville always had a response. Gabel and junior Georgia Alexiou added four points each in the third, but the Warriors fell behind 45-41. and that was the closest they would get.

“As the game progressed we lost it a little bit, then we came back, but there wasn’t enough time on the clock,” Collins said. “We communicate well, we didn’t give them easy baskets, we made them work for it, and we moved the ball.”

Sofia Colocho drives to the basket. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Caltagirone honored Collins, Turner, Brittany DeLeva, Lauren Gray and Christiany Pizarro before the game as part of the senior night festivities.

“It’s bittersweet — I’ll miss them,” the head coach said. “Some are three- and four-year players I’ve been coaching for a while and they mean a lot to the program. I’m happy for them, but I’m sad to lose them.”

Collins was also emotional.

“I never thought this day would come,” she said. “I wish we could’ve gotten the win, but I know we played our best, and that’s enough for me.”

She said despite the loss the energy is high heading into the postseason, and Caltagirone said he believes in the squad’s ability, noting how this season compared to last. The Warriors are winning the close games and aren’t letting teams back into games, something he said is big for the team.

“They do the hard work,” he said. “I’m pretty confident that we can play with anybody. We’ve shown we can play with anybody.”

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Right side hitter Brendan Smith blocks the ball. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Senior night was off to a rocky start at Smithtown West, as the Bulls bounced back from a first-set loss to top Sayville 3-1 Oct. 24, 25-16, 25-16, 25-16 and 25-23. At 9-2, the boys’ volleyball team is in third place behind 10-2 Eastport South Manorville and undefeated Sachem North with three games left before the playoffs.

Outside hitter Kevin Kelleher comes through with a kill shot. Photo by Bill Landon
Outside hitter Kevin Kelleher comes through with a kill shot. Photo by Bill Landon

“Our teamwork and our hustle — we [communicated] really well and we played well as a team,” junior outside hitter Kevin Kelleher said. “We’ll keep working and build that family bond and hopefully that will help us in the playoffs.”

Smithtown West head coach Michael Legge said there would be a different mix in the first set, because all five seniors took to the court. The squad pulled within six points late in the set, but couldn’t come back from the deficit.

The second set was a different story, as the Bulls jumped out front 6-2 and rattled off four more straight points before Sayville called timeout.

“This is a deep team — it’s 16 players — not just the six guys you see on the court,” Legge said. “In practice, the [nonstarters are] constantly pushing the starters to play better and better.”

The Golden Flashes broke service and fired back with four unanswered points of their own to trail 10-6, but after the teams traded points, the Bulls notched six more on a service tare to break out to a 16-10 advantage.

Right side blocker Brian Grudman pushes the ball back over the net. Photo by Bill Landon
Right side blocker Brian Grudman pushes the ball back over the net. Photo by Bill Landon

Bull’s outside hitter Chris Shanley led his team to break point and finished it with a booming service ace that caught Sayville flat footed, to take the second set 25-16.

“The second set was the turning point,” Shanley said. “We had to push through there to show them what we’re made of. We passed well, we had good service, and our blocking was a little shaky, but we hit the ball well.”

Smithtown West senior Brendan Smith got things going in the third set, stringing five point volleys in a row to lead his team to a 5-0 lead. Sayville struggled, committing several mental errors to which the Bulls cashed in on.

Out front 10-4, the Bulls turned up the heat, outscoring their opponent 9-2 for a commanding 19-6 advantage. But Sayville wouldn’t go down quietly, and battled backed to trail 23-16.

In the first three sets, with a 25-16 margin of victory for each, the fourth and final set proved to be even more of a nail biter.

Sayville peppered the scoreboard with 12 points early in the fourth set as the Bulls managed just three. Although the match made it look like the game would end up going to a fifth set, Smithtown West chipped away at the deficit and scored nine unanswered points as Sayville’s defense began to sputter, committing several unforced errors.

Right side hitter Brendan Smith sets up a play. Photo by Bill Landon
Right side hitter Brendan Smith sets up a play. Photo by Bill Landon

Senior right side blocker Brian Grudman answered with a thundering service ace to put his team out front for the first time in the set, 13-12, and said his team had to just shake it off as the Bulls got their head back in the game.

“Our hustle and our ability to pick ourselves back up — not giving up on any balls [is what led us to the win],” he said. “We’re going to raise the net, show some hustle work our butts off as hard as we can.”

Ahead 17-14 lead, Sayville soon brought the set to a 23-23 tie, which prompted a timeout. Sayville gave Smithtown West break point on a service error, and the Bulls made them pay for it, scoring the final point to put the set away.

“They’ve really bought into the team concept — the court defense, the passing, the hustle that they show,” Legge said. “We push that for every single point every single game, and you don’t say die until the ball hits the floor.”

Katie Reilly goes to the rim. Photo by Bill Landon
Katie Reilly goes to the rim. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Needing a win to earn a share of the League III championship title, the Huntington girls’ basketball team took care of business Tuesday night, defeating Smithtown East on the road, 63-50. It was senior night for the Bulls, who were able to close within 11 points late, before falling to the Blue Devils.

Huntington sophomore Alex Heuwetter had the hot hand early, scoring seven points, while teammate Anna Gulizio, a junior, added six to put their team out front 21-9 after eight minutes of play.

Having trouble scoring from the paint, Smithtown East unleashed its 3-point game, with juniors Tori Redmond, Jordi DeBernardo and Alex Schultz netting treys in the second quarter. But Huntington answered back with four 3-pointers of its own, two of which were by senior guard Katie Reilly, propelling the Blue Devils to a 40-24 advantage to open the second half.

“They came out with a lot of passion, especially on a night like this, so we should’ve taken them more seriously,” Reilly said. “I thought we played pretty good, but I think we could’ve played stronger defensively. All in all, we did all right.”

Battling the boards all night for the Bulls was Nina DeStefano, who rebounded several missed shots for putbacks. DeBernardo nailed her second trifecta of the game as Smithtown East outscored Huntington 13-12 after eight minutes, to trail 52-37 heading into the final quarter.

Nina DeStefano fights for possession under the board. Photo by Bill Landon
Nina DeStefano fights for possession under the board. Photo by Bill Landon

Huntington senior Brooke Baade sparked the offense with a field goal and her third 3-pointer of the game, and Heuwetter banked a pair of field goals to put a stop to the Bull’s late-game surge.

Schultz swished a pair of 3-pointers late and DeStefano netted two field goals, but it was too little too late for Smithtown East, as Huntington took the win to finish 12-1 in League III, and tie Riverhead for a share of the league title.

“I knew that they were going to be tough,” DeStefano said. “They’re in first place in our league for a reason. It was a struggle under the boards because they have a lot of good rebounders.”

Schultz led her team in scoring with 15 points, while DeStefano followed close behind with 12 and Redmond tacked on 10.

“Nina DeStefano had an outstanding game for us on senior night, Tatiana Jean did a great job rebounding the ball and Ceili Williams, our sophomore point guard, had one of the best games she’s had for us, and sky’s the limit for her,” Smithtown East head coach Tom Vulin said. “So as a team, we played well together. We cut the deficit to 11 so a couple of turnovers here and there could’ve made it closer.”

Atop the leaderboard for Huntington was Heuwetter with 16 points, Reilly netted 14 and Baade banked 11.

Anna Gulizio drives to the rim. Photo by Bill Landon
Anna Gulizio drives to the rim. Photo by Bill Landon

“They’re a tough team — they’re in third place in our conference and they have a lot of good shooters,” Heuwetter said. “Our defense could’ve been better. They were popping threes like crazy.”

Clinching a playoff berth the week before, No. 19 Smithtown East opened the postseason with an out-bracket game against No. 14 Hauppauge, but results were not available by press time.

“Because of all the snow, our playoff season starts tomorrow, so we’ll know sometime tomorrow morning who we’ll face,” Vulin said following the loss. “I’ll get as much information as I can and we’ll go after it.”

Heuwetter said her team suffered a bitter defeat deep into the playoffs last year, so the Blue Devils are looking for a comeback performance heading into this year’s postseason. Huntington goes into the postseason as the No. 6 seed, and will host No. 11 Half Hollow Hills West on Friday at 5 p.m.

“We really want it,” she said. “Last year we went deep into the playoffs, but we were really upset that we couldn’t get farther, so we’ll use last years’ playoff defeat as motivation to get as far as we can this year.”

Smithtown West’s Sarah Harrington dribbles inside against Lady Cougars sophomore Abby Blount. Photo by Joe Galotti

By Joe Galotti

On Tuesday night, the Centereach girls’ basketball team gave its five seniors the spotlight, honoring the players in a pre-game ceremony before the club’s regular season finale. But, late in the game’s fourth quarter, it was a senior from visiting Smithtown West that stole the show.

Senior forward Mackenzie Heldberg converted a key floating jump shot with under a minute to go, to help her team secure a 47-44 victory over the Cougars.

“You can count on Mackenzie whenever the game is on the line,” Smithtown West head coach Katie Combs said. “She put that little floater in that sealed the game for us, and it’s a testament to her as a player.”

Also helping the Bulls steal a win on Centereach’s senior night were juniors Gabby Horman and Sarah Harrington. The duo combined for 24 points and 20 rebounds in the contest.

Junior Cassidy Treanor and senior Lauren Meigel both reached double-digit points for the Cougars in the game. But, according to Centereach head coach James Steigele Jr., his team did not play collectively, and shoot well enough from the field to come away victorious.

“Our defense was good, and we rebounded well,” he said. “But they were hitting their shots, and we unfortunately weren’t tonight. We had good looks, too.”

Smithtown West’s Gabby Horman moves into the paint against Centereach’s Lauren Meigel. Photo by Joe Galotti
Smithtown West’s Gabby Horman moves into the paint against Centereach’s Lauren Meigel. Photo by Joe Galotti

Even with their inconsistent shooting, the Cougars still held a 32-29 lead with 4:30 remaining in the third quarter. But Smithtown West finished out the stanza strong, ending the quarter on a 10-0 run. Harrington helped spark her team, forcing multiple turnovers and frequently making her way to the basket on offense.

The Bulls took a seven-point lead into the final quarter, and seemed poised to run away with the contest. Centereach would have none of that, as the team quickly worked its way back into striking distance. With 1:28 left in regulation, Meigel hit a layup that trimmed Smithtown West’s lead to just one point.

At this point, all of the momentum seemed to be on the Cougars’ side, but the Bulls managed to stay composed.

“We faced a lot of adversity tonight in the second half, but we just kept pressing harder,” Harrington said. “We knew we had to play defense to win the game.”

Centereach was held off the scoreboard in the game’s final minute, and Heldberg’s late basket helped stabilize things for Smithtown West. On the Cougars’ final possession, the team’s comeback hopes were officially ended by a Horman blocked shot.

“This game wasn’t the cleanest you could’ve watched, but the girls that I coach have a tremendous amount of resolve,” Combs said. “I really appreciate the efforts they gave tonight.”

Despite the loss, Centereach still put together a memorable senior night. Before tip-off, Steigele Jr. took to the microphone and shared kind words about seniors Meigel, Erica Medina, Alyssa Sokolowski, Nicole Fellone and Katrina Gangji.

“That moment meant a lot,” Gangji said. “I’ve played on this team for three years and my teammates mean so much to me. It’s meant a lot being a Centereach Cougar, and the fact that it’s almost over is really upsetting.”

Fellone, who tore her ACL in a recent game against North Babylon, was given a chance to start, at the request of the team’s players and their parents. In a great showcase of sportsmanship, the Bulls allowed Fellone to record a layup, before she exited her final regular season contest to cheers from the crowd.

Both teams will quickly move on from the emotions of Tuesday’s matchup, as postseason play gets underway. Harrington said after Smithtown West’s victory, that the club is feeling good about itself entering playoff action.

Steigele Jr. also seems to have plenty of faith in his squad.

“We’re definitely confident going into the playoffs,” he said. “Our team was able to get to this point for a reason.”