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William Floyd

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Arianna Barbieri strikes the ball past a William Floyd defender. Photo by John Dielman

Ward Melville’s soccer team has an advantage most teams don’t: the connection between twin sisters Kerri and Nicole Liucci.

On their senior night, in a 3-0 win over William Floyd Oct. 16, the two scored a goal apiece, and assisted on each other’s tallies to help the Patriots (10-3-2, 9-2-2 League I) power through.

“We have twin telepathy,” Kerri Liucci said. “We work hard together.”

Nicole Liucci passes the ball downfield. Photo by John Dielman

Nicole Liucci was first to find the back of the net after her twin received a pass from the corner, and moved the ball front and center in the box. With a mid-air knock-in, the Liucci sisters made it an early 1-0 advantage.

“We have a really strong bond and we know where each other is at all times,” Nicole Liucci said. “I kept saying to myself, ‘I need to get the ball in the net.’ My sister passed it to me and I kicked it right in.”

More than 25 minutes passed before the Patriots propelled the ball into the net a second time. On a strike from 30 yards out, midfielder Arianna Barbieri found the far left corner, which was a surprise even to her.

“I decided to just wing it,” she said. “Watching it sail over and into the net felt really good. We were pushing the ball as hard as we could trying to score early and shut them down.”

Ward Melville’s defense held down the Colonials in the second half, despite losing returning All-County defender Kayla Winicki to a torn ACL in the first game of the season against Northport. Liv Halvorsen has stepped up to fill her place on the back line, knocking away chances and battling for crucial possession, which she’ll need to continue if Ward Melville wants to win a League I title.

“We had some girls step in and take over and they’ve been great and adjusted well,” Ward Melville head coach John Diehl said. “We’re gelling now and coming together in different ways.”

Kerri Liucci moves the ball across midfield. Photo by John Dielman

Kerri Liucci put the game out of reach with 12 minutes left when she sent the ball into the corner from close range. She had a chance at a goal seconds earlier, when she pushed the ball past a fallen William Floyd goalkeeper, but a defender batted it away. She said she was overjoyed to finally get on the stat sheet.

“I really wanted to score on senior night,” she said. “I tried, put all my effort behind the ball and it went in, and it felt amazing because I was working hard the whole game to get a goal. It was rewarding.”

The three seniors that scored on Ward Melville’s senior night are the three longest tenured members of the team.

“The girls get so excited for this day,” Diehl said of his 14 upperclassmen. “Their energy is high, their spirits are high and they ended up doing well. They’ve endured a lot and they’re a nice group of seniors. I love seeing them happy — it makes me smile.”

After what could potentially have been the last home game for Ward Melville this season, the Patriots soaked it in as the bench cleared in celebration of a successful shutout. Ward Melville travels to Brentwood for the final game of the regular season Oct. 18. If the Patriots come away with a win, they’ll also grab a piece of the League I title for the first time in years.

“Brentwood is always a strong team,” Diehl said. “It’s always tough against Brentwood at their house, too, because they play on grass and we’re not used to that surface, but heading into this last week I like where we are.”

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Ward Melville junior running back Nick Troy rushes with the ball during a practice. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Ward Melville senior running back Nick Messina breaks free of a tackle during practice. Photo by Bill Landon

The stinging loss in the Suffolk County championship game last fall left an open wound on every member of the Ward Melville football team, and the only effective medicine is redemption.

The 2016 season was history making, as the Patriots won three straight games to propel them to the county title game for the first time in 29 years. Trailing William Floyd by a touchdown, the team marched down the field only to be turned away in the red zone in the final minute of the contest.

“Obviously the kids want to get back there again, and these guys this season think they have something to prove,” Ward Melville head coach Chris Boltrek said. “They want to show we didn’t just get there because of last year’s seniors, but that they were a big part of it as well.”

Ward Melville is the No. 5 seed in Division I heading into this season, with William Floyd taking the No. 1 spot. Lindenhurst, Longwood and Connetquot are also in the mix, but Boltrek said the Patriots won’t take any team lightly.

“They have a chip on their shoulder going into this season,” the head coach said of his players. “These kids put in the work in the off-season, they have the mentality that nothing is given to you — you have to go out and earn it every year.”

Ward Melville senior wide receiver Liam Davenport makes a catch during practice. Photo by Bill Landon

Senior defensive end and offensive tackle Jimmy Small said reaching the county title game is something he won’t soon forget, taking that experience and applying it to games this year in the hopes of feeling the intensity and enthusiasm again.

“Me and the rest of the guys from last year — we got a taste of playing in front of all those people, that excitement and the whole town having their focus on us, and that hasn’t happened in a long time for football,” the co-captain said.

He said he thinks his team has the right tools to get back to the championship game and take home the title this time around.

“I think by far our brightest spot is our front seven on defense,” he said. “We have a ton of returning starters, but I think the question mark is our special teams, which was a big part of our game.”

Despite the loss of kick returner John Corpac, Small said the Patriots have two kids even faster than the Stony Brook University commit.

“If everything works out, I think we’ll be even better in that aspect,” he said.

Ward Melville senior quarterback Peyton Capizzi carries the ball during practice. Photo by Bill Landon

Senior running back Nick Messina, a three-year varsity player, reflected on the amount of work that goes into reaching the championship round.

“Just to reach that goal last year — the people coming back know what it takes to get there and it makes us want it so much more,” the co-captain said. “I think we’re strongest on our offensive and defensive line, but we’re going to have to work on our defensive secondary where we have a lot of new players.”

Senior co-captain Thomas Kutchma said to prove to other teams that last season wasn’t a fluke, and show they aren’t out of gas just yet, the Patriots have their goals set even higher this time.

“If we can do what we’re capable of doing we could win a Long Island championship this year,” the guard and defensive tackle said. “We think about that loss every day in practice and we give it 100 percent. We love the sport of football and we want to take advantage of it before it’s over.”

Ward Melville kicks off the season with a 6:30 p.m. home game against Central Islip Sept. 1. The Patriots will travel to Connetquot Sept. 8 for the second game of the year. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Artwork of Selah Strong’s St. George’s Manor, published in the October 1792 issue of New York Magazine. Photo from the Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities

by Beverly C. Tyler

Second in a two-part series.

In mid-1775, while British forces, headquartered in Boston, were facing General George Washington and the Continental Army for the first time, Patriot regiments on Long Island were gearing up to defend the island from Great Britain’s large, well-trained army. Colonel Josiah Smith’s Brookhaven Regiment of 12 companies included Captain Selah Strong’s 7th Company with First Lieutenant Caleb Brewster, seven additional officers and 59 nonrated soldiers.

In the spring of 1776, after forcing the British Army to abandon Boston, Washington moved his army to New York City. The British army and naval forces followed soon after and entered New York Harbor at the end of June with 40 warships, supply ships and troop ships with more than 7,000 British and Hessian soldiers. Washington split his army, placing half on Long Island at Brooklyn Heights as he did not know if the British intended to attack Manhattan or Long Island.

By the end of August, when they attacked Washington’s Continental Army on Long Island, British forces had swelled to more than 20,000 troops. It was to be the largest battle of the Revolutionary War and a major defeat for Washington who lost more than a thousand troops killed or captured.

In early August Smith’s regiment was ordered to join the Continental Army defending Long Island. The regiment, including Strong’s 7th Company marched west to General Nathanael Greene’s camp in Flatbush. In his diary, during the battle, Smith wrote, “August ye 27 we wors alarmed aboute 2 in the morning, and we had many scurmishes and thay atemted to forse our Lines & they kild 1 of my men & we Suppose that we kild a number of them & we Drove them Back & Laie in the trenches all nite.”

It rained all day and night on Aug. 28 and Smith noted, “… thar wors a continual fire kep up between us and the Regulars (British)…” The next day, with continuous rain, thunder and lightning they crossed onto Manhattan. Smith with some members of the regiment marched into Connecticut and finally back onto Long Island at Smithtown. At this point the officers and soldiers with Smith dispersed and went home, many moving their families to Connecticut and the rest, including Strong staying on Long Island.

Strong could easily have moved to Connecticut as he owned land in Middletown, but he stayed and even attended, as a trustee, meetings of the Brookhaven Town Board. Strong was one of many Long Islanders to own property in Middletown or to move there as refugees. One refugee who owned property and spent time in Middletown was William Floyd of Mastic, Long Island’s signer of the Declaration of Independence. Floyd’s first wife died in 1781. Three years later he married Joanna Strong, Strong’s paternal first cousin. Joanna’s brother Benajah served as a captain in Colonel William Floyd’s regiment in 1776 and participated in Benjamin Tallmadge’s successful raid on Fort St. George in Mastic in 1780.

After his imprisonment in New York City in 1778 and his subsequent release, Strong became a refugee in Connecticut, probably based in Middletown. In 1780, following his election as president of the Brookhaven town trustees, a position equal to today’s town supervisor, Strong returned to Long Island, despite the continued presence of British and Loyalist troops, and joined his wife on Little Neck, her family’s ancestral home in Setauket (now Strong’s Neck).

Living on Little Neck with British forces still in control of Long Island, Strong had to be aware of the dangers. Kate Wheeler Strong wrote that, during this period her great-great-grandfather, Strong, saved the life of a British officer. “Not that he was fond of the British, but he had a good reason for saving this man’s life. While walking one day with Caleb Brewster … on the neck on which I now live, they saw a British officer on the shore below. Brewster aimed his gun, but my ancestor stopped him, explaining that while Caleb could flee in his boat, he himself lived here and would have to bear the brunt of the shooting. So Brewster lowered his gun, and the British officer passed on safely …”

Strong wrote a will in 1775, which he later voided, when the war was becoming more certain and he needed to put something, at least temporarily on paper. Kate Strong wrote, “He evidently thought in the event of his death it would not be safe for his wife and children to remain there for he ordered all his land to be sold including tracts on the south side of the island. His wife was to have any furniture she desired …”

His wife was made executrix, and with the help of three other executors, she was to manage the estate until their eldest son Thomas became 21. The names of his executors were Benjamin Havens, Phillips Roe and Samuel Thompson.

The historic Terrill-Havens-Terry-Ketcham Inn during the Revolutionary War was the home and tavern of Benjamin Havens, a spy for the Culper Spy Ring. He married Abigail Strong of Setauket, sister of Strong and related to Abraham Woodhull through their mother, Suzanna Thompson, sister of Jonathan Thompson and aunt of Samuel Thompson. Abigail’s sister Submit married Phillips Roe of Port Jefferson. In April, 1776, both Benjamin Havens and Abraham Woodhull were members of the Committee of Safety, the purpose of which was to keep an eye on Tories in the town. Other members included William Smith (Manor of St. George, Mastic), William Floyd (signer of the Declaration of Independence), Brigadier General Nathaniel Woodhull (Floyd’s brother-in-law and second cousin of Abraham Woodhull), Strong (husband of Anna Smith Strong and brother-in-law of Benjamin Havens), Phillips Roe (Abigail Haven’s brother-in-law) and Phillip’s brother Nathaniel.

In June, 1779, Abraham Woodhull, writing as Samuel Culper, reported that all but two mills in Suffolk County served the needs of the British. Benjamin Havens operated one of those two mills. The same month Rivington’s Royal Gazette reported on a plundering party feast at the house of Benjamin Havens at Moriches that included three Long Island refugees, William Phillips, Benajah Strong, and Caleb Brewster.

These extended family members and Brookhaven town leaders were also Patriot spies. The Culper Spy Ring was more than just five names on Benjamin Tallmadge’s code list, it was a large number of Patriots willing to risk their lives to rid Long Island and America from Great Britain’s continuing presence.

Beverly Tyler is Three Village Historical Society historian and author of books available from the society at 93 North Country Road, Setauket. For more information, call 631-751-3730 or visit www.tvhs.org.

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Nick Messina rushes the ball upfield. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

The No. 4-seeded Ward Melville football team had waited 30 years for another Suffolk County championship appearance, and despite a tough loss to No. 2 William Floyd Nov. 18, 28-21, the Patriots powered the program to new heights.

Dominic Pryor jumps up to make a catch. Photo by Bill Landon
Dominic Pryor jumps up to make a catch. Photo by Bill Landon

“We’re extremely proud of the boys and how far they’ve come this year,” Ward Melville head coach Chris Boltrek said. “Over the last three seasons, we have improved upon the prior year’s record and, for the seniors, Friday was the culmination of their dedication and effort. Hopefully, going forward, our trip to the county championship will encourage student-athletes throughout the district to play football and strengthen the program.”

Ward Melville’s first break of the game came on a fumble recovery when William Floyd was driving into the red zone. The Patriots offense went to work on their own 18-yard line, and senior quarterback Wesley Manning hit classmate Andrew McKenna, a wide receiver, over the middle on a 22-yard pass to move the chains to the middle of the field. Amid the drive, Ward Melville was forced to punt the ball away.

On their next possession, the Patriots also fumbled the ball, but the difference was that the Colonials made the Ward Melville pay for its mistake by finding the end zone four plays later for an early 7-0 lead.

The ensuing kickoff gave Ward Melville good field position following William Floyd drawing three consecutive penalties for an out of bounds kick, delay of game and offsides. Backed up on its own 25-yard line, William Floyd finally got the kick away and the Patriots’ return brought them to the Colonials’ 38-yard line with eight minutes remaining until halftime.

Wesley Manning tosses a pass over the middle. Photo by Bill Landon
Wesley Manning tosses a pass over the middle. Photo by Bill Landon

Ward Melville seized the opportunity and Manning found senior wide receiver Eddie Munoz over the middle, to move the chains to the 29-yard line. Manning spread the wealth and dropped the next pass to senior wide receiver Dominic Pryor on the left side for the 35-yard touchdown reception, and with senior kicker Joe LaRosa’s extra-point kick, the team tied the game 7-7.

With just over three minutes left in the half, William Floyd went up 14-7 with a 10-yard touchdown run from James Taitt, but Ward Melville had an answer. The Patriots went deep into the playbook, and Manning hit Pryor on a screen pass who, although running into a wall, flicked the ball to senior wide receiver John Corpac, who raced down the left sideline for the touchdown. LaRosa’s kick made it a new game at 14-14. 

Ward Melville had an opportunity to take a lead into the break, but failed to find the end zone on four consecutive plays from William Floyd’s 5-yard line.

Manning threw an interception to open the second half, and Taitt moved the ball to Ward Melville’s 1-yard line on the next play. Nick Silva finished the drive to put William Floyd out front, 21-14, to open the final quarter.

“Obviously we are very upset we didn’t reach our goal of winning the LIC, but I’m very proud to be able to say I helped lead the team to the county championship [final], which we haven’t been to in 29 years,” Manning said. “It’s been a great season and we all made memories and have a bond that will last a lifetime.”

The Patriots struggled with the Colonials’ defensive line, and with 6:54 left to play, Silva tacked on his third touchdown run of the game, to extend the advantage, 28-14.

Chris Boltrek coaches from the sideline. Photo by Bill Landon
Chris Boltrek coaches from the sideline. Photo by Bill Landon

On the ensuing kickoff, Ward Melville’s junior running back Nick Messina made a statement, when he returned the ball 74 yards and into the end zone, to pull the Patriots back within one touchdown with 6:32 remaining.

The Patriots’ final push brought them to the Colonials’ red zone with just over a minute left on the clock, but after four chances Ward Melville just couldn’t break through.

“This is a group of kids that are fighters — they don’t quit no matter what was going on,” Boltrek said. “They fought through adversity at all points of the season. They were never out of any game and that’s just the attitude they have. At one point we were 2-4, and for them to show the fortitude and character to believe in one another and believe in the process and keep fighting all the way to the county championship speaks volumes about them as young men. We’re going to miss our seniors, and I hope their Herculean effort has inspired the underclassmen to work even harder for next season — off-season workouts begin after Thanksgiving.”

Ward Melville’s ascent to the finals may have seemed unlikely, needing to win the final two games of the season to make a postseason appearance, and shutting out Connetquot and dethroning previously undefeated No. 1 Lindenhurst. But in his third year leading the team, Boltrek was able to continue the turnaround for the program.

“I have good athletes and I have good coaches, so I give them a lot of credit,” Boltrek said. “And the kids have bought into the idea that Ward Melville could be a football school.”

Desirée Keegan contributed reporting.

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Taylor Tripptree races ahead of the pack and drives the lane for the layup in the Patriots' 56-18 win over William Floyd on Jan. 12. Photo by Desirée Keegan

With 10 players contributing to the score and more than half the points coming from three-pointers alone, the Ward Melville girls’ basketball team had no problem cruising to a 56-18 win over William Floyd Tuesday.

“We worked well together,” junior guard Hannah Lorenzen said. “We really stepped up our defense, and we have a lot of shooting guards that can make threes; we did that pretty well today.”

Kira Sells nails one of her four three-pointers on the evening in the Patriots' 56-18 win over William Floyd on Jan. 12. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Kira Sells nails one of her four three-pointers on the evening in the Patriots’ 56-18 win over William Floyd on Jan. 12. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The Patriots started the game off by scoring eight straight points, with senior forward Heidi Scarth scoring half of them. The team was stealing passes and forcing William Floyd turnovers, but the Colonials bounced back to score five straight points.

Ward Melville re-extended its lead by the end of the first quarter, with senior guard Kira Sells and junior guard and forward Taylor Tripptree knocking down a three-pointer apiece to give their team a commanding 14-5 lead.

“It’s definitely one of our strongest points to our game,” Sells said of scoring three-pointers. “I know I could do better. So I’m just working on getting better every game.”

Sells did do one better, though.

After Shannon Berry banked three field goals to swing the tempo of the game, Sells swished two more treys to help her team further its lead to 30-10 by halftime.

Lorenzen said her teammates did a good job of passing outside if they couldn’t enter the paint.

“It does help a lot, because if we can’t penetrate through the paint, we can kick it and depend on our shooting guards to make the threes, which helps us get ahead,” she said.

But Ward Melville head coach Bruce Haller said a team that wants to go up against the best-of-the-best in Suffolk County, like Brentwood, Longwood, Sachem East and the county-best Commack, would need to play with a more balanced attack.

“It’s a double-edged sword,” he said. “The three is a great weapon, but if you fall too much in love with it and your three isn’t going in that particular game, now what? It’s all or nothing. That’s why we’re focusing on getting the ball inside a little more and getting some second shots. When those threes get missed, someone needs to be hitting the board from the weak side to get some putbacks.”

Hannah Lorenzen remains in control as she sets up a play in the Patriots' 56-18 win over William Floyd on Jan. 12. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Hannah Lorenzen remains in control as she sets up a play in the Patriots’ 56-18 win over William Floyd on Jan. 12. Photo by Desirée Keegan

What did work for the team, though, was getting enough ahead that more bench players were able to see minutes.

“The kids work really hard in practice all the time and it’s nice to get them out on the court, get them some playing time and have them make some shots,” he said. “We have a very talented, deep group.”

Six of the 10 players that scored on that deep roster banked trifectas, and 31 of the team’s total points came from the five bench players that scored.

Bre Cohn and Maggie Zanone came off the bench in the fourth to score six points and three points, respectively, while stealing passes and dishing assists to close out the scoring for the game.

“We’re all close on and off the court,” Lorenzen said. “We have classes together, eat lunch together — so we’re all friends.”

Haller said his team has come a long way, making the decision to come together and step up to replace the injured freshman leading scorer from last year’s team: Lauren Hansen.

“They could have felt sorry for themselves,” he said. “Instead, a number of players are stepping up and taking over responsibilities or a bit of a different role that we didn’t anticipate them having in the preseason, and they’ve done a good job of it. Instead, they decided that they’re going to make a run for this thing.”

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Brandon Nworjih, left, races for the ball for Ward Melville. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The opening seven minutes was all the Ward Melville boys’ soccer team needed to top visiting William Floyd Monday, 2-0.

“I think we did what we had to do today,” Ward Melville head coach Jon Stecker said. “Coming out sometimes when you score two quick goals, you kind of sit back, which can be dangerous. In this case it wasn’t dangerous, but we were able to finish the game.”

Ward Melville's Joseph Graziosi tangles with a William Floyd opponent in a fight for possession. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Ward Melville’s Joseph Graziosi tangles with a William Floyd opponent in a fight for possession. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Senior midfielder Kyle Honor scored unassisted in the second minute after gaining possession at midfield and beating out defenders all the way to the box, sending his shot from the right side into the far left corner.

At 33:02, senior forward Brandon Nworjih scored the second goal of the game. After gaining possession and pushing the ball between two defenders, he dribbled up to the front of the box and sent a straight shot up the center past the opposing goalkeeper.

“It wasn’t one of our best games, it wasn’t one of our worst game, but we did enough to get through it and get the win,” Stecker said. “The defense played solid. We didn’t come out flat. We came out and we played hard, and we just weathered the storm for the rest of the game.”

With the win, the Patriots improved to 8-4-1, locking in third place in League I.

“We brought it in the first 20 minutes, but then we kind of died down,” junior midfielder Jarred Lee said. “We moved the ball well and connected a lot around the field. The defense was solid today. We just need to bring more intensity and play more together and strong.”

Ward Melville will travel Wednesday to top team Brentwood (13-0-0 league) for the final game of the regular season.

Ward Melville's Gedson Pereira sends the ball across the field. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Ward Melville’s Gedson Pereira sends the ball across the field. Photo by Desirée Keegan

William Floyd tried desperately to get a goal at the end of the second half after coming out stronger in the last 40 minutes of play, but Ward Melville’s defense knocked away all attempts.

“I thought we played solid defense,” senior defender Zach Flynn said. “I think we’re finally starting to come together as a team and the team chemistry is coming along. That’s been one of our weaknesses in the past and in the beginning of the season.”

Senior goalkeeper Peter Jespersen made five saves to preserve the clean sheet.

“When we truly come together as a unit we are extremely strong, and we are very talented and very skilled,” Stecker said. “When we’re not together as a unit, that’s where I think we struggle a little bit, and I think part of it is definitely maturity. Right now we’re just looking to just go in and play solid against Brentwood, and get ready for the playoffs the following Tuesday.”