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State Championship

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After outscoring Section I's Lakeland-Panas 16-6, Patriots will take on Section V's Victor

By Bill Landon

Looking at the Ward Melville boys’ lacrosse team now, you would never guess that it struggled early in the season.

On Wednesday at Hofstra University, the Patriots scored 16 goals against Section I challenger Lakeland-Panas in the New York State Class A semifinals, to earn them a spot in the championship round Saturday.

“We had our ups and downs this season, which started very quickly,” junior midfielder Dominic Pryor said following the win. “We knew we weren’t doing what we needed to do to play up to our potential, so we had a meeting and we said we have to start playing Ward Melville lacrosse. And that’s what we did tonight.”

Once again, it was junior attack Eddie Munoz who stole the show, scoring five goals in the 16-6 victory. But he too said things started off a little shaky for the Patriots.

“At the beginning of the year, we had trouble finishing,” he said. “That first game against Smithtown West we took 31 shots and scored just one goal, so there’s no excuse for that.”

This time, the team had no problem lighting up the scoreboard.

The Rebels may have hit the the board first, four minutes into the contest, but the Patriots countered with four unanswered goals with less than four minutes left in the opening quarter to take the 4-1 advantage. Pryor, who led the team with six points off a hat trick and three assists, scored twice during that run, while senior attack Chris Grillo found the net off an assist from senior midfielder Owen McAvoy, and senior defender Sean Thornton stretched the net off a feed from Pryor.

“At the beginning of the season you always have the mindset that you’re going to [make it to] states, but early on we weren’t playing at the level,” Grillo said. “As the season progressed we played better and that hope of making it to states became more of a reality.”

Lakeland-Panas countered with two quick goals in the closing minute to cut the deficit to trail by one, and sophomore midfielder Zach Hobbes opened the scoring in the second quarter with a solo shot before a penalty put the Patriots down a player. Lakeland-Panas cashed in on the man advantage to trail 5-4, but Munoz’s stick spoke next when he split the pipes to take a two-goal lead.

“Eddie Munoz comes out and snipes one left, and he’s worked hard at it, and he’s elevated his game,” Negus said.

From there, the Patriots never looked back.

“Our offense works — especially when you’re dodging, you’re banging around the outside because it gets everyone energized and we spread the scoring around,” Munoz said. “Earlier in the season it was tough to find the back of the net, but this game was the best we’ve played all year.”

A loose ball caused a scrum in front of the Rebels’ goalkeeper, and freshman attack Dylan Pallonetti swatted in the ball for a three-goal lead.

Ward Melville outscored Lakeland-Panas 4-1 in the third quarter. Grillo notched two goals during that spurt for the hat trick, and Pryor added his second before assisting on junior attack Andrew Lockhart’s shot.

Munoz drilled home his hat trick goal early in the final quarter to help the Patriots break out to a 12-5 lead.

“It’s un believable what they’re capable of,” Ward Melville head coach Jay Negus said. “We’re trying new things and it’s working.”

Lakeland-Panas managed one more goal in the game, but the Patriots dominated the final period of play.

Pryor finished with his third goal of the game when he did a spin move just outside the crease and drilled his shot past the keeper, and junior Dylan Krieg scored his first goal of the season with the final goal of the game.

“At the beginning we were forcing some shots and I had to keep telling them ‘it’s not the first thing, it’s the best thing’ and that takes experience and maturity. I’m starting to see that,” Negus said. “They’re buying into the game plan and early in the season we didn’t know our team’s identity. But I’ve seen some flashes of brilliance throughout the playoffs.”

Ward Melville will face Section V’s Victor High School on June 11 at Middletown High School at 4 p.m.

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Port Jefferson's Clare O'Connor kicks the ball behind a defender toward the goal in the Royals' 3-0 win over Haldane for the Southeast Regional title on Nov. 7. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Port Jefferson's Clare O'Connor kicks the ball behind a defender toward the goal in the Royals' 3-0 win over Haldane for the Southeast Regional title on Nov. 7. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Port Jefferson’s Clare O’Connor kicks the ball behind a defender toward the goal in the Royals’ 3-0 win over Haldane for the Southeast Regional title on Nov. 7. Photo by Desirée Keegan

By Desirée Keegan

These Royals continue to rule.

The Port Jefferson girls’ soccer team earned the regional crown on Saturday, topping Cold Spring’s Haldane High School, 3-0, to lengthen their undefeated streak and send them to the state stage.

Port Jefferson celebrates Jillian Colucco's goal in the Royals' 3-0 win over Haldane for the Southeast Regional title on Nov. 7. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Port Jefferson celebrates Jillian Colucco’s goal in the Royals’ 3-0 win over Haldane for the Southeast Regional title on Nov. 7. Photo by Desirée Keegan

That pivotal match came after a perfect season for the Royals in League VII, their second in a row. With no Class C Suffolk County challengers, the girls were named county champs and were sent to the regional finals, where they played the defending state champ.

“These girls play hard right to the end,” Port Jefferson head coach Allyson Wolff said about the Haldane match. “To come out here tonight and beat the last Class C state champion is huge for us and gives us that confidence to go upstate. I think we can do it this year.”

The regional victory is the Royals’ second consecutive title, and sends them to the state playoffs, where they fell last year.

Junior forward Jillian Colucci got the ball rolling for the Royals with 12:45 remaining in the first half. The co-captain received a pass up the middle from senior midfielder and co-captain Olivia Love, and chipped the ball to the left from 10 yards out. It just passed the Haldane goalkeeper’s outstretched arms, bouncing into the left corner for the 1-0 lead.

“My teammate Olivia Love — we have a chemistry that I can’t really describe, but I just knew she was going to play the ball … and as the ball bounced I told myself just to get a touch on it, since I saw the goalie coming out of the box,” Colucci said. “I think our possession and our communication was really good today, and we’re going upstate because of it.”

Port Jefferson's Jillian Colucci races downfield with a defender on her hip in the Royals' 3-0 win over Haldane for the Southeast Regional title on Nov. 7. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Port Jefferson’s Jillian Colucci races downfield with a defender on her hip in the Royals’ 3-0 win over Haldane for the Southeast Regional title on Nov. 7. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Opening the second half, sophomore goalkeeper Brianna Scarda made a save to maintain her team’s lead, and junior midfielder Brittany Fazin repaid her with another goal. After leading a pack of defenders and squeezing between two to get ahead at the front of the net, she sent her shot into the left corner past a diving Haldane goalkeeper for the 2-0 advantage.

“I was really scared for that moment because I had a similar opportunity earlier and missed it, but I knew going to it that I could do it,” Fazin said. “So I threw myself on the ball and got the goal.”

With 19:32 on the clock, Scarda made another one of her eight saves on the evening to preserve the clean sheet. Several minutes later, Fazin helped set up the next goal when she crossed a pass from the 20-yard line over to the right sideline 10 yards out from the net to Grace Swords, a sophomore forward, who crossed her shot high above the goalkeeper’s head and into the far left corner for the final score of the game.

Despite allowing three goals, Haldane’s goalkeeper, Sara Labriola, put in a lot of work — she made 19 stops on the evening.

Port Jefferson's Brittany Fazin maintains possession in the Royals' 3-0 win over Haldane for the Southeast Regional title on Nov. 7. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Port Jefferson’s Brittany Fazin maintains possession in the Royals’ 3-0 win over Haldane for the Southeast Regional title on Nov. 7. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“Leading up to this week we all focused so hard and we practiced as hard as we’ve ever practiced in our lives, and we had the mindset that we could to this,” Fazin said. “I think our speed and our vision helped us a lot. I think we were very good out of the air, too. I’m new to the school and to the team and this feels great. I love these girls.”

Colucci was also proud of her team’s outcome.

“There was so much anticipation going into this game because we had three weeks from our last league game until here, so it feels amazing to have our hard work pay off,” she said. “I think our possession and our communication was really good today.”

Although the game was slow to start, the Royals thrive on forward motion.

“Once that one goal kicked in, it got their momentum going, their fire burning and their confidence boosted,” Wolff said. “I said from the very beginning that they could do it and they prove it when they step on the field. They’re a great group of girls and it’s just a pleasure and an honor coaching this group. They have that drive and desire to win and hopefully we can do it upstate.”

Port Jefferson will take on Caledonia-Mumford on Saturday in the state semifinals at Cortland High School Field 1 at 5 p.m. If the Royals win, they will move on to play in the finals on Sunday, at 9:30 a.m. at SUNY Cortland’s Red Field.

Port Jefferson celebrates after its 3-0 win over Haldane for the Southeast Regional title on Nov. 7. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Port Jefferson celebrates after its 3-0 win over Haldane for the Southeast Regional title on Nov. 7. Photo by Desirée Keegan

All five runners medal at state championship

Infinite Tucker, a Huntington runner, leads the 400-meter hurdles pack at states. Photo from Huntington athletics

Infinite Tucker won a pair of gold medals to lead the Huntington boys’ track and field team to an impressive showing at the state championships in Albany last weekend.

Huntington's Infinite Tucker poses with his medals. Photo from Huntington athletics
Huntington’s Infinite Tucker poses with his medals. Photo from Huntington athletics

Tucker won a pair of 400-meter intermediate hurdles races to capture the New York State Public High School Athletic Association and State Federation titles.

“I thought that I was going to win because I didn’t see anyone in front of me the whole race,” the junior said after the first of his performances Friday afternoon. “It wasn’t my best race ever, but I thought that I ran well.”

Tucker’s time of 52.29 seconds in the federation finals ranks him No. 2 in the state and No. 3 in the country this spring.

He plans to compete in the event one more time this season at the New Balance Nationals in Greensboro, North Carolina this week.

Huntington sophomore Kyree Johnson fared well in the 400 dash against a field filled with exceptional athletes. He ran against five seniors in the State Federation finals and finished third in 49.20 seconds. A day earlier, the runner earned a fourth place medal in the NYSPHSAA final. The State Federation races include the top public school, New York City/PSAL and private and parochial school athletes.

Huntington's Kyree Johnson, Scott Gulizio, Infinite Tucker and Shane McGuire won the silver medal in the federation’s 4x400 relay. Photo from Huntington athletics
Huntington’s Kyree Johnson, Scott Gulizio, Infinite Tucker and Shane McGuire won the silver medal in the federation’s 4×400 relay. Photo from Huntington athletics

Johnson’s best time of 48.5 seconds in the 400 dash this spring ranks him No. 1 among all New York sophomores. He too will be racing at nationals.

The long weekend ended on a high note when the Blue Devils’ 4×400 relay won a silver medal in the State Federation race, crossing the finish line in 3 minutes, 16.73 seconds, finishing behind Brooklyn’s Boys and Girls High School. Huntington outraced Newburgh, who had won the NYSPHSAA title only one day earlier.

“What an awesome race,” Huntington head coach Ron Wilson said of the relay. “You just had to be there to witness such excitement. The crowd of people gathered at their feet as the eight remaining young men grabbed the batons.”

Junior Exzayvian Crowell ran with the Blue Devils relay on Friday for the state title, where the team earned a fourth-place finish. Sophomore Shane McGuire took Crowell’s place for Saturday’s State Federation finals, joining Johnson, Tucker and senior Scott Gulizio on the track.

“Shane gave everything he had on the first leg and ran a personal best of 51.4,” Wilson said. “He almost collapsed trying to pass the baton to Scotty Gulizio, who split 49.2, which is good. Gulizio passed to Kyree Johnson who ran a 48.7 split and brought us to third. When our anchor, Infinite Tucker, got the baton, he took off like a jet. He passed the Newburgh anchor, who had won the state crown just the day before. He then set his eyes on the state leader, Boys and Girls, who was about 20 meters ahead of the rest of the field.”

Huntington's Kyree Johnson poses with his medals. Photo from Huntington athletics
Huntington’s Kyree Johnson poses with his medals. Photo from Huntington athletics

The Boys and Girls anchor, Richard Rose had just won the 400 dash in a sizzling 47.11 seconds, so it was a difficult assignment for Tucker to run him down, but the athlete gave it his all, splitting 47.435 seconds, falling just short of first place. Huntington’s time is a new school record and the second best in the state this spring. It’s also the second fastest in Suffolk, ever. Amityville set the record of 3:16.66 in 2002.

“We were just a bit shy of the Section XI record, but we will have one more crack at it at the nationals,” Wilson said.

All five Huntington athletes medaled at the state championships, with Crowell earning one in the NYSPHSAA 4×400 relay race and McGuire getting a silver medal in the State Federation finals. Gulizio won a pair of medals. Johnson and Tucker won four medals each.

“It was an exhausting weekend,” Wilson said, “but well worth it.”

Suzie Petryk leads the pack for Huntington during a previous meet. File photo by Mike Connell

Suzie Petryk runs with a steely determination that few can match. The senior captured All-State honors in two events to pace Huntington girls at the New York State Track & Field Championships at the University at Albany last weekend.

Petryk finished fourth in the 2,000-meter steeplechase and 13th in the 800 run. She also ran on the Blue Devils’ 4×800 relay that took 10th place.

“It was absolutely amazing to be able to run at states with my teammates,” Petryk said. “We have all worked so hard and I really could not have asked for a better way to end my last high school track season.”

The two-day meet saw a string of sensational performances by the top athletes from across the state. In the midst of a magical season, Huntington went toe-to-toe with New York’s best and impressed its opponents.

On the first day of the championships, Petryk went out very aggressive in the 800, hitting the first 400 meters faster than she has in any 800 race. Her fifth place finish came against an extremely talented field.

Saturday saw Petryk back on the track early in the morning. The runner turned in a great effort in the race, which featured the four best athletes in the event in the country going head-to-head. The Blue Devils star finished fourth in 6 minutes, 59 seconds to earn All-State and All-Federation honors. The Federation includes New York City/PSAL, private and parochial schools.

Huntington’s 4×800 relay team consisted of Petryk, Nicole Abbondandelo, Alexandra Koumas and Katie Nugent.

“They ran aggressive with some of the best teams in the state,” Huntington head coach Shawn Anderson said. “They only ran a few seconds off their best, going 9:19. It really was a nice way to end the weekend. Nicole had a huge personal best of 2:19.8 to lead it off.”

“It was a great experience and I was privileged to have had the opportunity to race with my teammates,” said Abbondandelo, a freshman who has quickly risen to be one of Suffolk’s top runners.

Koumas, a junior who is one of the county’s top hurdlers, never fails to give the relay team her best effort.

“I couldn’t have asked for anything better than to have shared this experience with my teammates, especially Katie and Suzie in their senior year,” she said. “It’s something I will never forget.”

Nugent, who only joined the track program two years ago after earlier playing lacrosse, became one of Huntington’s key athletes, excelling in numerous events.

“This was a really fun experience,” Nugent said. “Even though I only ran for about two minutes, every part of the trip was memorable … and spending time with my teammates is something I will never forget.”

Huntington won league and Suffolk Division II titles this spring and Anderson sees last weekend’s state championships as another important step for the program.

“Overall, it was a great experience; a first for them all,” Anderson said of the weekend in Albany. “Sometimes gearing up mentally and trying to perform under the big stage can take its toll, but the girls handled it well. The team had a blast and with one week of training this week, nationals should be an amazing experience as well.”

Petryk will compete in the steeplechase at the nationals.

“This time she will be fresh because it’s her first race,” Anderson said. The Blue Devils’ distance medley and 4×400 relay teams will also be competing.

This version corrects Suzie Petryk’s placement in the 800-meter at states.