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St. Joseph’s College

Elwood Middle School’s new principal Christina Sapienza meets and greets students Aug. 24. Photos from Elwood school district

Elwood Middle School students are kicking off the new 2017-18 school year with a new principal at the helm.

Christina Sapienza, the newest middle school principal met sixth- to eighth-graders for their first day Sept. 5. She was  appointed to the position by Elwood’s board of education over the summer.

“We knew we needed to find a real all-star for the students of Elwood Middle School,” said Superintendent  Kenneth Bossert in a statement. “Dr. Sapienza was a candidate who didn’t just want a job, she wanted a position in a district where she felt she could really be successful and make a difference. I am confident that she is the right person to do that here.”

Sapienza said she grew up in Huntington and went to St. Joseph’s College in North Patchogue. She received her doctorate degree in educational leadership from Concordia University in Chicago.

“I’ve always been very passionate about working with middle school-aged students,” she said. “It’s a unique time in their development where they need strong, trusting, loving adults in their lives that can help support them as they develop their sense of self.”

Elwood Middle School’s new principal Christina Sapienza meets and greets students Aug. 24. Photos from Elwood school district

Sapienza has extensive experience as an educator and nearly a decade of administrative experience. In her career, she previously worked as a special education teacher in the Plainview-Old Bethpage Central School District and was an assistant principal for Oceanside schools in Nassau for six years. Sapienza is coming to Elwood from her most recent role as assistant principal at Commack Middle School for three years.

“What I recognized very quickly about the Elwood school district is it has a strong sense of community, which I am really excited to be a part of,” she said.

Over the course of the summer, Sapienza said she’s had the opportunity to meet Elwood’s teachers and staff in preparation for her new role. Middle school students and their families were invited to a special meet and greet with the new principal Aug. 24.

The first thing I hear from everyone I meet is, ‘You are going to love it here,’” Sapienza said. “People could not be kinder or more supportive.”

As the new principal, Sapienza said one of her main goals is to get Elwood’s parents, teachers and staff immersed in learning more about the adolescent development of middle school-aged students and how that influences providing instruction and support to them.

This has been a focus of Sapienza’s career as a member of the national Association for Middle Level Education. She has traveled across the country for more than five years as a AMLE presenter teaching other educators about the best practices for teaching middle school-aged children given their stage of psychological and physiological development.

“I hope to bring my passion and passion for middle school learning to everyone who speaks to me,” Sapienza said. “I want to spend this year learning about the Elwood culture and community.”

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Mount Sinai falls in the Long Island championship game for a third straight season. Photo by Alex Petroski

It took 23 games, but the undefeated 2017 Mount Sinai Mustangs softball team finally met its match in the Long Island championship game. The Mustangs fell to MacArthur, 7-0, June 2 at St. Joseph’s College for its first loss of the season. Sophomore starting pitcher Julia Golino allowed five earned runs, 10 hits and two walks over 3.1 innings to blemish her was-perfect record.

Mount Sinai prays for a rally in the seventh. Photo by Alex Petroski

Mount Sinai’s powerful offense managed just four hits in the final after scoring at least six runs in 11 out of their last 12 games. For a third consecutive season, the Mustangs reached the high of a county championship, only to fall short of a Long Island crown.

MacArthur’s Jessica Budrewicz shut down Mount Sinai with a complete game shutout, seven strikeout performance. She allowed three Mustang hits in the first two innings, but just one more over the final five. Mount Sinai head coach Thomas Tilton applauded her performance in the circle.

“She’s good man — she moves it, she’s got a rise ball, a nice changeup, she hit her spots and she didn’t miss much,” he said. “   Tip your hat to her, she’s a good pitcher. That kid can throw.”

MacArthur celebrates defeating Mount Sinai in the Long Island championship game. Photo by Alex Petroski

The Generals put Golino in a hole early, scoring the first five runs on two-out hits. Golino couldn’t escape trouble in the fourth frame, and junior Emma Wimmer had to come into the game in relief to stop the bleeding. Even a 40-minute weather delay due to thunder and lightning couldn’t cool off Budrewicz and the MacArthur bats.

The Mustangs’ head coach reflected on the impact the team’s three seniors had on the season.

“They left a great mark, a great mark,” Tilton said of the departing group of 12th-graders who helped deliver the first three Suffolk County championships in program history during their tenure. “They’re the foundation of what we’ve built here and hopefully we can continue to do it.”

The Mustangs will be returning all but one starter in 2018, as left fielder Angela Bukofsky is the only regular graduating.

Hailey LaGuidice swings at a pitch. Photo by Alex Petroski

“It definitely means a lot — it’s great,” an emotional Bukofsky said after the game of the three county crowns she’ll be leaving behind at Mount Sinai. She said her teammates were what she will miss most about playing for the Mustangs. “We definitely deserve it. We worked really hard to get here. Going from a record that was about even in wins and losses to being 22-0 is just amazing.”

Though the loss stung in the present, Tilton said he still has a hopeful eye on the future.

“I think we’ve got a really strong team again next year — we’ll be back at it,” he said. Golino and fellow starting pitcher Wimmer dominated all season in 2017 for the Mustangs, and both will be back to try to get over the hump in 2018. Standout shortstop Lové Drumgole, who Tilton called “the real deal,” and one of the best players on the Island earlier in the playoffs, will also be returning for her senior season to give a run at a Long Island title another shot. “We won’t be quitting,” Tilton said. “I can tell you that.”

By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli

Recently, I participated in the Freshman Investiture Service at Joseph’s College in Patchogue. I have been privileged to be a faculty member in the social science department for more than 30 years. This service of welcoming is very simple. It is an ancient tradition practiced in many colleges and universities around the world as a formal way to welcome the new community of scholars and learners to the college. This year the theme for the Class of 2020 was integrity.

As I watched more than 500 college freshmen walk into our athletic center, representing every community on Long Island and beyond, I said to myself: “What an important theme for this class!” It seems that genuine integrity has truly been lost or buried in the rubble of human selfishness and narcissism. The present political and social landscape in our country seems to be devoid of any real sense of integrity.

What is true integrity? It is honesty, truth, principal, character and respect woven together in the fabric of one’s soul. It should be the foundation of every person’s life! It should shape how we treat each other, socially, politically, morally and religiously. Integrity is critical to sustaining a peaceful and respectful world.

Unfortunately, it seems like some people in power on every front have lost their way in this regard. Dishonesty and lack of respect is infectious everywhere. It wears many faces. It is the senseless violence in our streets. It is the blatant lack of respect for people who risk their lives to protect us every day — as well as the lack of respect on the part of some who use their power abusively.

We lack integrity when we discriminate against people because of their religion, their sexual orientation, their immigration status, their race and their ethnic origin. That Investiture Service provided for me a renewed sense of hope because more than 500 college coeds were reminded in a variety of ways of how profound and important real integrity is, if they hope to reach their goals and live their dreams.

The world desperately needs a new generation of leaders who are grounded in integrity. The class of 2020 potentially has the next generation of business leaders, college professors, compassionate doctors, lawyers and trades persons. The next generation of political leaders are among this class; our next representatives and senators and possibly the next president of the United States of America!

We must work hard to change the national discourse because of our integrity. We must work harder at being more inclusive, less judgmental; we need to build less walls and better bridges. We need to celebrate that which unites us and not that which divides us. We must focus on building people up and empowering the next generation to use their gifts and talents to make the world a better and more peaceful place to live. Hopefully, we in education will challenge the members of the class of 2020 to strengthen their integrity as they begin this new chapter in their lives.

Fr. Pizzarelli, SMM, LCSW-R, ACSW, DCSW, is the director of Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson.

Tom Rotanz poses for a photo with a gold medal and trophy after the U-19 team he was an assistant coach of won a world championship. Photo from Tom Rotanz

A familiar face is stepping onto the college lacrosse scene.

Tom Rotanz, a former head boys’ lacrosse coach for Shoreham-Wading River for 18 years, will helm St. Joseph’s College’s new men’s lacrosse program, which will begin its first season in spring 2017.

“It’s something I always wanted to do,” Rotanz said of joining the college ranks. “I think any competitive athlete and coach wants to show someone what good can come from having the right people around you and the good players that are willing to commit themselves, and I hope to have another successful tenure at St. Joseph’s.”

Tom Rotanz will be the first head coach for St. Joseph's College's men's lacrosse program. Photo from Tom Rotanz
Tom Rotanz will be the first head coach for St. Joseph’s College’s men’s lacrosse program. Photo from Tom Rotanz

Rotanz has a long history with lacrosse.

His elder brother was on the team that won Ward Melville’s first Long Island championship in 1974, and the younger Rotanz was part of the squad that won the second and third in 1976 and 1977. The lacrosse captain earned All-American honors as a senior in 1977, after his team also made it to the New York State championship game, the first one for lacrosse. The boys lost that game, 12-11.

From there, he was the captain of the Suffolk County Community College lacrosse team that won a national championship and earned All-American honors twice. He then repeated that feat at Adelphi University, where he was also named an All-American twice.

“Tom was a great player,” said his former high school coach, and a legend on the lacrosse scene, Joe Cuozzo. “He was a great competitor, had a great sense of humor about him, and I really enjoyed working with him.”

As a coach himself, with the Shoreham-Wading River Wildcats’ program only a year old, Rotanz took over a roster of 14 players, including six freshmen. The team went 1-15 his first season, scoring 38 goals on the year. But seven years later, the team was ranked fourth in the country, after winning a New York State championship and scoring close to 400 goals.

“It snowballed into something that was really neat to be a part of,” he said. “In the last 13 years I was there, we won 10 county championships, five Long Island and three New York State. People always wondered why or how we kept winning every year and being ranked one or two in the county. I say if you have bright kids that buy into the system, I think anything is possible.”

Tom Rotanz gets water dumped on his head by a former Shoreham-Wading River team after a win. Photo from Tom Rotanz
Tom Rotanz gets water dumped on his head by a former Shoreham-Wading River team after a win. Photo from Tom Rotanz

Rotanz earned his first of six Suffolk County Coach of the Year honors in 1999, two years before he led the program to its first county championship in 2001. In 2002, the program repeated as Suffolk champs en route to Long Island and New York State titles. The team also swept Suffolk, Long Island and New York State championship titles in 2007 and 2012.

In 2012, the coach added to his list of accolades, serving as an assistant for the 2012 USA Men’s U-19 lacrosse team that won a world championship.

Now, he hopes to be able to bring that same success to St. Joseph’s, and Shantey Hill, assistant vice president and senior director of athletics and recreation for the college, thinks Rotanz is the perfect fit.

“We were very lucky in that Coach Rotanz applied,” she said, referring to the school’s intensive, national search across all NCAA institutions. “He has a plethora of experience, and … he knows the landscape of Long Island, and he’s very well-connected with his peers to be able to do good recruiting for what we’re looking for.”

For Rotanz, being on the scene as long as he has and being a part of Long Island lacrosse, serving as an assistant coach at Smithtown West for the last two years, will be beneficial throughout the recruiting process for the Golden Eagles.

“I’m very close friends with a lot of the Suffolk and Nassau coaches, so they’re already contacting me with players that they think will be a great fit, kids that they think would really like to play for me; so that’s the neat thing.”

He added, laughing, “I think there will be a lot more kids that think about not leaving the Island now, hopefully.”

Tom Rotanz makes a save during a Ward Melville boys' lacrosse game. He helped the team to two Long Island championship titles and a New York State championship appearance. Photo from Tom Rotanz
Tom Rotanz makes a save during a Ward Melville boys’ lacrosse game. He helped the team to two Long Island championship titles and a New York State championship appearance. Photo from Tom Rotanz

According to Hill, the school decided the time was right for a lacrosse program after seeing that a number of Division III student-athletes in the college’s Skyline Conference that commit to play lacrosse come from Long Island and that there was interest with incoming and current students. The college also built a new outdoor athletic facility.

Hill said St. Joseph’s found the right coach in Rotanz.

“We think we hit a home run with coach Rotanz,” she said. “He’s not only a wonderful coach, but also a great man, and he will do great things. We’re looking forward to him not only being the face of the lacrosse program, but also being a mentor to our male student-athletes. His tenure speaks for itself. He’s very well-connected, and he has good relationships with lots of people, and that’s something you can’t put a price tag on.”

Cuozzo, who was inducted into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame, said he used to go to Shoreham-Wading River practices and games to watch his former athlete, and has been thrilled with his approach to the game.

“The way he treats kids, he’s a real student of the game, and I can’t say enough on how proud I am of his accomplishments,” he said. “He brings a winning attitude.”

Rotanz, who said he tries to emulate the ways and successes of his former coach, is competitive, according to Cuozzo.

“He hates to lose — I think he got that from me,” he said, laughing. “I wasn’t a very good loser.”

Luckily, neither one of them has had to do much of that.

Tom Rotanz coaches from the sidelines of a Shoreham-Wading River boys' lacrosse game. Photo from Tom Rotanz
Tom Rotanz coaches from the sidelines of a Shoreham-Wading River boys’ lacrosse game. Photo from Tom Rotanz

Cuozzo compiled a 699-73 record while at the helm of the Patriots’ program. In 2007, he became the head coach at Mount Sinai, where he brought his win total to 747 in his four years before retirement. During his tenure with the Wildcats, Rotanz amassed a 256-99 record.

Cuozzo also thinks Rotanz will be able to draw athletes to the school.

“A lot of kids like to leave Long Island when they are finished with high school — they don’t want to stay local — but knowing Tom, he’s very convincing,” Cuozzo said. “He’ll do his homework. He’ll go out and scout, he’ll go to high school games and he’ll talk, make phone calls. He’s very organized, he’s very knowledgeable about the game, and there’s no doubt in my mind that he’s going to be successful there.”