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Under Armour All-America

Smithtown East lax player scores three goals, SWR's Chris Gray adds two

Smithtown East's Connor DeSimone hoists up his Under Armour All-America MVP trophy. He scored three goals and added two asssits in North's win. Photo from Connor DeSimone

By Desirée Keegan

In a game that was likely to feature a potent offense — with 44 of the country’s best rising college men’s lacrosse freshmen on the field — it was Smithtown East’s own Connor DeSimone that led the way.

He tallied a hat trick and two assists, and was among 11 scorers that were part of an aggressive North attack that beat South, 18-16, in the Under Armour All-America senior boys all-star game at Towson University July 1. The victory snapped the South’s six-game win streak.

Smithtown East’s Connor DeSimone looks for an open lane. Photo from Connor DeSimone

“My teammates were just looking for me the entire time,” DeSimone said. “They definitely did most of the work, and I give them a lot of credit.”

North went on a 9-1 run in the first half to go into halftime up by six, and the Johns Hopkins University commit helped pace that burst. After  North withstood a man-down situation four minutes into the second quarter, DeSimone picked up a turnover deep in his own offensive end and pushed it into the goal to tie the score at 6-6.

Soon after, DeSimone gave North its lead off an assist from attackman Tehoka Nanticoke, who will play next season at the University at Albany. Then, DeSimone widened the advantage to two when he fed midfielder Matt Licciardi, a Cornell University commit, for a score.

“I was just in the right place at the right time,” DeSimone said. “Competing against the best in the country was something special. Being there was such a great experience.”

Navy commit Nate Buller later powered through the zone with a defender guarding close to his shoulder for an overhead score, but South, which opened the second-quarter scoring in less than a minute, didn’t register another point for the remainder of the half.

Shoreham-Wading River’s Chris Gray races into South’s zone with the ball. Photo from Chris Gray

Instead, DeSimone completed his hat trick and four of  North’s 10 first-half scorers added points.

Shoreham-Wading River’s Chris Gray and teammate Jackson Reid followed DeSimone with one apiece in the span of about a minute.

After Gray found the back of the net, the entire North team congregated in South’s defensive territory, even the bench players, and played duck-duck-goose with the Boston University-bound attackman. It was one of the multiple elaborate celebrations North rolled out during the win.

“It was on the fly,” Gray said of the celebration. “My teammates did a great job all game passing me the ball and every time I shot the ball I tried to use the best angle I had, wether it was a regular shot or a backhand shot. The celebrations play a big part in the UA game because its all about having fun.”

The attackman said he also liked practicing and competing with, and against the top talents in the nation.

“Practice was awesome because everyone was so talented drills were very fast paced and the ball rarely hit the floor, which was very cool to see,” Gray said. “During the game I felt our team did really well sharing the ball and hustling. Everyone was giving it 110 percent and looking for the open man, which made the game so much fun.”

DeSimone made the underclassmen rosters as a sophomore and a junior. The midfielder capped off his high school career being selected as a senior and bringing home the MVP trophy tied for a game-high five points.

Shoreham-Wading River’s Chris Gray plays duck-duck-gooose with his teammates following a goal. Photo from Chris Gray

“It was a life-changing, incredible experience,” he said. “It’s a little taste of what college lacrosse will be like and I just loved being out there. There’s no better way to end my high school career.”

The stands were packed with people from all over the country, including every underclassmen group competing during the weekend. Seeing the younger fans there brought back memories for DeSimone, who was in the stands in 2011 when his older brother was on the team.

“Growing up you look at the kids in the senior game, and say, ‘I wanna be that guy,’” DeSimone said. “We’re the best players from our class, from our schools, so seeing a bunch of kids there and knowing I was once in the same shoes, it’s inspiring.”

He said being so passionate about the sport, earning the selection, competing and contributing during the winning game was a humbling experience.

“This event is the best event I’ve ever been at, and knowing I got selected to play with the best players in the country, it means the hard work has finally paid off,” DeSimone said. “Hopefully it’s just the start.”

By Desirée Keegan

Although North came out on the losing side, falling 16-15 to South July 1, Long Island athletes helped propel North to the first overtime game in Under Armour All-America girls’ lacrosse tournament history. The all-star game pits the best graduating high school lacrosse players in the country against each other every year.

Local lacrosse players Kelsey Huff, Sophia Triandafils, Emily Vengilio, Jamie Ortega, Shannon Kavanagh, Molly Carter and Hannah Van Middelem. Photo from Emily Vengilio

Mount Sinai’s Emily Vengilio and Hannah Van Middelem, Shoreham-Wading River’s Sophia Triandafils, Middle Country’s Jamie Ortega and Smithtown East’s Shannon Kavanagh were all local leaders chosen to play in the senior game.

“I was so excited when I got the call from Under Armour,” Triandafils said. “Long Island is one of the best areas for lacrosse. Everyone was so skilled and we all meshed together. This game was honestly one of the coolest things I’ve done involving lacrosse.”

The girls were treated like celebrities, being provided gear and getting their photos taken all weekend. Kavanagh was just excited to get out on the field one more time before traveling to the University of Florida.

“To have one last hoo-rah before heading off to college was the cherry on top of a great high school career,” she said.

University of North Carolina-bound Ortega and soon-to-be teammate Alli Mastroianni from New Jersey led North, which never trailed in the game, with three goals each. Kavanagh added a goal in the loss.

“We came out strong and really played fast and competitive, and didn’t stop fighting,” Ortega said. “I was happy with how I played and was even happier to add points to help our team compete against the South.”

Smithtown Easts Shannon Kavanagh carries the ball for North. Photo from Shannon Kavanagh

Mastroianni opened the scoring and positioned herself for game MVP honors, finishing with three goals, two assists and four draw controls. North built its early lead, going on a 4-1 run and upping its cushion to 9-5 with six minutes left. The lead, however, was thanks in large part to goalie Riley Hertford’s nine saves in the first 30 minutes — one shy of the record for most in the girls’ Under Armour All-America game.

South twice had to come back from significant deficits; they trailed 11-7 at halftime but came out of the gates strong, scoring five of the first six goals in the second period to knot things at 12-12. North again built a significant lead, going up 15-12 with 10:19 remaining after a pair of free position shots and an unassisted goal.

North had two opportunities for a late game-winning goal after Mastroianni won the last draw of regulation. Kavanagh shot high with one minute remaining, then Vengilio, who is headed to Pennsylvania State University, picked up a ground ball with six seconds remaining, but the team couldn’t get a look at the cage.

“We moved the ball in transition nicely and everyone was looking for that one more pass — we had some pretty nice defensive stops,” Kavanagh said. “But everyone was so good, so it was so much fun to be able to play against such good competition. If I could do the whole thing over again I would in a heartbeat.”

Van Middelem made five stops for North in the second half.

Sophia Triandafils, Emily Vengilio, Kelsey Huff and Shannon Kavanagh lisen up during halftime. Photo from Shannon Kavanagh

“We really got after it in the little time we had together,” she said. The team had three practices Friday before playing the game on Saturday. “It’s not hard to come together though when you have such talented lacrosse players playing together. I felt confident between the pipes knowing I had the top defenders in the country in front of me. It was an honor to be selected for such a prestigious event.”

Her Mount Sinai teammate was one of them, and Vengilio said she was glad to have shared the experience with her.

“It was really amazing to represent Long Island with all the girls I played Yellow Jackets with, and it was awesome that Hannah and I got to represent our hometown,” Vengilio said. “You’re out there playing with 44 of the best players in the country so obviously people are going to score goals and people are going to get stopped on defense. It was a great experience.”

Mount Sinai was the only school to have two players competing on the same team.

“With Mount Sinai being such a small spot on the map it’s great to be out there,” Vengilio said.

The win is just South’s fourth in the 12-year history of the game, and vengeance for North’s win last season.

“Lacrosse has meant the world to me since the day I picked up a stick for the first time,” Van Middelem said. “I have made lifelong friendships and memories from this sport.  It has helped me grow into the person I am today and has taught me so many life lessons. I couldn’t picture my life without lacrosse.”

The Under Armour 2017 senior girls lacrosse team representing the North contained a large amount of Long Island lacrosse players. Photo from Shannon Kavanagh

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Eddie Munoz holds the team back before celebrating the Long Island championship win. File photo by Desirée Keegan

Two of Ward Melville’s multisport athletes are taking their lacrosse talents to the national stage.

Junior Eddie Munoz and freshman Dylan Pallonetti made the Under Armour All-America Long Island highlight and command teams, respectively, and are the only two Patriots to represent the school this week in the underclass tournament from June 30 to July 3 in Baltimore.

“It’s a big honor to be representing my school and my team,” Munoz said. “It’s going to be awesome. These are the kids we’re going to be playing in college. We’re all committed to these very good Division I schools, so it’s nice to be able to play them now and then again when we get to the collegiate level.”

Munoz, who committed to Stony Brook University, originally started out playing baseball. His father Eddie Munoz Jr. said his son started to progress athletically at a young age.

Eddie Munoz maintains possession of the ball as he makes his way downfield. File photo by Desirée Keegan
Eddie Munoz maintains possession of the ball as he makes his way downfield. File photo by Desirée Keegan

“He started walking at 10 months old,” said Munoz Jr., who played baseball and wrestled at Newfield, and was a two-time All-County football player. “By 3 years old, I was throwing a football from 10 yards away and he was catching it with his hands. By the time he was 5 years old, he was switch-hitting at a batting cage and hitting 65 miles-per-hour fastballs. I’d bring him up to the field and would hit fly balls into the outfield and he would naturally be able to catch them.”

But Munoz’s mother’s cousin, who played lacrosse at Salisbury University, told the athlete, who was is an All-League, All-County and All-Long Island football player, that he needed to try lacrosse. Once he did, the rest was history.

“We put a stick in his hand in third grade and he never put it down,” Munoz Jr. said.

Munoz, who also wrestled as a freshman and won the New York State wrestling championship for youth in fifth grade, said he tried a few clinics and didn’t like them, but also said that once he got older and started playing in games, he fell in love with the sport.

“I love the chemistry of the game,” he said. “The way everyone is with each other, the respect factor and the competitiveness, physicality — it never gets boring, there’s no sitting around — it’s constant in-and-out subbing. It’s up-tempo and that’s my kind of game.”

Although already committed, the national exposure will help but will work more in the favor of those like Pallonetti.

Dylan Pallonetti cuts to the outside in a previous Ward Melville boys' lacrosse game. File photo by Bill Landon
Dylan Pallonetti cuts to the outside in a previous Ward Melville boys’ lacrosse game. File photo by Bill Landon

“This is good for him for the future,” Dylan’s mother Michele Pallonetti said. “We’re thrilled and I feel he’s very lucky. He’s worked hard for it, he deserves it, he loves the sport and he’s really passionate about it. He’ll really represent New York.”

Dylan Pallonetti also grew up playing a sport other than lacrosse. Since he was a child, his uncle had him on roller skates in the driveway, and it got him really competitive. He plays ice hockey for Ward Melville’s junior varsity team, and also played basketball. He was the fifth leading scorer in his hockey league this season.

“He’s been playing with his brother and uncle in the driveway for years, the neighbors make a joke about it,” Michele Pallonetti said.

Her son began playing lacrosse in fourth grade on the town team, and by seventh grade, he moved to the Long Island Express club team. This past season, Pallonetti made the varsity team, and earned Rookie of the Year for Suffolk County, which all came as a surprise being that it was his first year on the team.

“We’re super proud of him and most proud that he’s a freshman out there and handles himself confidently and he’s very calm,” his mother said. “He fits in with the older boys. He’s a very low-key, he doesn’t get hyped up over anything, which I think helps him deal with those types of situations, and we love watching him play. It’s very exciting.”

Dylan Pallonetti said that he’s learned a lot and believes he’s excelled at a faster rate in the sport because of all he’s learned from the older players. Although Ward Melville is nationally known, being that the team has consistently ranked high in New York standings, and was just goals shy of another New York State title this past season, he’s also excited to represent the school and more importantly, show what he’s made of.

“The competition is going to be good, a lot of coaches are going to be there and I’m going to try to just play like I always play,” he said. “I just can’t wait to play the game.”