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Salute to 2018-19 H.S. sports champions


It was a banner season for many high school athletic programs in the Herald’s coverage area. Listed are the biggest team accomplishments, in chronological order.

Mepham boys soccer: When you’re the county’s leading goal scorer, sometimes the ball just finds you. That’s what happened in the ninth minute of Nassau Class A boys’ soccer championship game Oct. 30 at Mitchel Athletic Complex, when a ball off the foot of Mepham’s Connor Buehler rolled past the Garden City keeper and deflected off the right goal post, landing in front of Andrew Weiner. He buried it for his 22nd goal of the season, and it was all Mepham would need. “I was lucky to be there,” said Weiner after the game, smiling as his team and classmates celebrated the 1-0 victory and the program’s first-ever county crown.

 East Rockaway girls volleyball: When East Rockaway saw its nine-match winning streak come to a halt with a late-season loss to conference rival Carle Place, the Rocks, who figured to be overwhelming favorites to win the county girls’ volleyball title, suddenly seemed vulnerable. The Rocks, however, were back-to-back Nassau champions for good reason. The squad regained its momentum in the playoffs, overcoming a sloppy start to knock off No. 2 Oyster Bay 25-27, 25-12, 25-22, 25-19 to claim the Nassau County Class C championship in a match at Farmingdale State College on Nov. 6. Brooke DeGiulio had 22 assists, and Jamie Keegan recorded 14 kills. The victory marked the third consecutive county title for the Rocks. DeGiulio, Keegan, senior middle Catherine McClure and junior outside hitter Madison Cipriano were members of all three championship teams.

Long Beach girls volleyball:The Lady Marines were in unfamiliar territory in the Long Island Class AA girls’ volleyball championship match against Commack before a jam-packed Farmingdale State College gymnasium on Nov 10. They squandered a two-set lead and were facing elimination for the first time all season. Senior Emma McGovern proved the difference maker, blasting 10 of her career-high 36 kills in the deciding set as Long Beach captured its first L.I. championship in program history, 25-16, 25-23, 15-25, 23-25, 25-14. Senior Grace Rosenberg handed out 34 assists and senior Kathleen Verastegui had 38 digs. Long Beach went on to win the state crown. “Between the mounting pressure and the stamina it takes going five sets, I was a little concerned,” coach Kerri Rehnback said. “But the girls seized the moment. We built a small lead early in the last set and I think that was important mentally.”

V.S. South girls soccer: Valley Stream South worked overtime for a second straight day to complete a dream season and make school history. Junior Kayla Camacho headed in a corner kick from junior Bryana Pizarro with 27 seconds remaining in the first of two mandatory 10-minute OTs and the Lady Falcons held on for a 1-0 victory over Jamesville-Dewitt in the state Class A girls’ soccer championship game on Nov. 11. The goal capped a perfect 21-0 campaign and gave South the first state title in school history — it opened in 1955 — in any team sport. It’s something the Lady Falcons had on their minds since the previous spring. “The girls always believed this was something they could achieve, but they never looked beyond the next game,” coach Demetri Adrahtas said. “It really was an incredible ride.”

 Kennedy boys volleyball: For the second time in school history, the Kennedy boys’ volleyball team rose to the top of the state. Led by tournament MVP Tyler Anderson, the Cougars won their first state title since 2012 and avenged a heartbreaking loss in the 2017 tournament final by defeating Burnt Hills-Ballstone Lake in four sets to win the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Division 2 championship at the Albany Capital Center on Nov. 17. “It was just an amazing day,” coach Dennis Ringel said. “The guys just almost took turns picking each other up and making plays.” Anderson had a team-high 30 kills in the final match, Cooper Moran added 38 assists and Justin Steinberg had 16 digs for Kennedy, which won its ninth Nassau Class B title in 11 years and fourth Long Island crown under Ringel.

 Wantagh girls volleyball: Mental toughness and clutch plays sparked Wantagh to its first state volleyball title in 17 years. The Lady Warriors dug deep to pull out a roller-coaster five-set win in the state Class A final against Niagara Wheatfield on Nov. 18 that epitomized their historic championship run. The clinching point in a 23-25, 25-22, 20-25, 26-24, 28-26 triumph at Cool Insuring Arena in Glens Falls took 23 seconds and ended when Katie Steele hit the ball off a defender before it bounced to the floor. “They were truly unbreakable,” Wantagh coach Dan O’Shea said. Grace Riddle was named to the all-tournament team, along with fellow senior Kayla Rende. Senior libero Jill Laino won the Most Valuable Player award.

Freeport football: The most-anticipated game of the Long Island football season lived up to all the hype Nov. 24 at Hofstra University as undefeated Freeport and undefeated William Floyd battled down to the wire for the Class I title. And for the fifth time in as many meetings, the Red Devils found a way. Senior Jordan Jackson blocked the potential game-tying extra point with 8:18 remaining and had an interception on the final play as Freeport captured its second L.I. championship in three years and sixth overall with a thrilling 20-19 victory. “Coach [Russ] Cellan told us early in the year to be prepared to play a one-point game somewhere along the way,” said Jackson, who picked off Floyd quarterback Mack Driver’s desperation heave at the Freeport 28 and ran out the final five seconds, finishing with a victory slide.

Sewanhaka girls basketball: A staple for Sewanhaka during its run to the Nassau Class A girls’ basketball championship game was its ability to jump out to an early lead. So, when the Lady Indians fell behind No. 3 Wantagh by 10 points early in the March 3 final at Farmingdale State College, they were in unfamiliar territory. For a lesser group, this might have brought panic, but this is no ordinary basketball team. No. 4 Sewanhaka shook off early game jitters, caught fire in the second half, and came away with a convincing 62-46 victory to capture the program’s first-ever county title. Carly Bolivar scored a game-high 26 points, and point guard Flo Hunte finished with 19 to lead the way. Sewanhaka, coached by Alex Soupios, went on to defeat Mt. Sinai six days later for its first-ever Long Island crown.

Baldwin girls basketball: Baldwin was in unfamiliar territory midway through the second quarter of the Nassau Class AA girls’ basketball championship game on March 3, trailing Syosset by eight points and trying to regroup during a timeout head coach Tom Catapano used to stress…what else? Defense. “He told us we were allowing too many easy baskets,” said Kaia Harrison, the lone returning starter from last season’s historic state Federation championship team. “Defense always comes first for us.” The top-seeded Lady Bruins scored the last nine points of the first half and got two crucial treys from Alexis Aponte in the second half on the way to capturing a sixth consecutive county title, 58-53, at Farmingdale State College. Harrison (21), Aponte (13) and Jamiela Moore (13), all seniors, scored in double figures as Baldwin (20-2) won its ninth Nassau crown in 10 seasons.

V.S. North boys track: Valley Stream North’s completed its drive for five. The Spartans made it five consecutive Nassau Class A boys’ spring track and field championships with a dominant effort May 24 at Cold Spring Harbor High School. Senior Jacob Schoenfeld (400 meter hurdles), juniors Matthew Foster (110 hurdles), CJ Parris (long jump), Christian Cicilia (3000 steeplechase) and Anthony Anderson (pole vault), and freshman Ryan John (triple jump) won county titles as North, coached by Mike Frazer and Tim Boyens, stockpiled 164 points to win by a wide margin. Malverne and North Shore tied for second with 53 points.

Hewlett girls track: Hewlett girls’ track captured a fourth consecutive Nassau Class AA spring title, racking up 125 points to runner-up Manhasset’s 90. Although Hewlett’s roster represented a changing of the guard, with more than half of the 45-girl squad consisting of rookie freshmen, seniors and juniors were the top scorers at the May 23 meet. Senior Anyia Wilson won the county title in the long jump and high jump, and scored 26 points for the Lady Bulldogs. Junior Emma Blumenstein defended her county titles in the 100 hurdles (15.93 seconds), a personal best and a new school record, and in the pole vault, and junior Kayley Ragazzini earned the county title in the discus and placed second in the shot put.

Mepham softball: Mepham came painfully close in 2018 — a couple of runs, to be exact — to capturing its first-ever Nassau County softball title. This year, there was no denying its bid to make history. Led by their four-headed pitching monster, stellar defense and a balanced hitting attack, the top-seeded Lady Pirates completed a sweep of No. 3 Division in the best-of-three Class A championship series May 31 with a 10-2 victory at Hofstra. Sophomore Dominique DeLutri’s pinch-hit, three-run triple in the sixth broke it open. Junior Brianna Morse drove in three runs, while junior leadoff batter Stefanie Simone and freshmen Hailey Guerrero and Gianna LaSpina all scored twice. LaSpina homered and drove in three runs in a 6-2 win in the series opener May 29.

Clarke baseball: It took only one delivery from Chris Lydon for Clarke baseball coach Tom Abruscato to determine the senior southpaw was primed for a quality start June 3. One hundred twenty-three pitches later, Lydon completed a two-hit shutout in style with a strikeout as the Rams captured their first Nassau County title since 2013 with a 7-0 win over Division in the decisive third game of the Class A finals at SUNY-Old Westbury. “When I saw his breaking ball snap on that first pitch, I knew he was locked in,” Abruscato said. Clarke, on the way to its 25th win, scored once in the bottom of the first, once in the second and four times in the third, including three on junior Nick Campagnuolo’s bases-loaded double, to provide Lydon with plenty of breathing room.

East Rockaway softball: After mowing down Carle Place and Oyster Bay to take the county, East Rockaway took on the challenge of facing Suffolk champion Center Moriches at Eastport Athletic Complex on June 6 for the right to play for a trip upstate. Once again, the Rocks persevered. East Rockaway scored two early runs and rode the right arm of senior pitcher Emily Chelius to win 2-1 and capture its fourth consecutive Long Island championship and eighth in program history. Chelius, who carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning, gave up just a bunt single. The Center Moriches run was unearned. Leanne Wright’s second inning double brought home Adriana Ramiriz and Emma Pollackov to give the Rocks a lead they’d never relinquish. Chelius had a big day at the plate, going 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles.

 East Meadow softball: The instant Juliana Sanzone’s bat made contact in the top of the first inning of the Long Island Class AA championship softball game on June 7, she knew that when the ball landed, East Meadow would have the early lead against Commack. What Sanzone didn’t know at the time was sophomore pitcher Alexandra Kelly would make Sanzone’s moon shot over the fence in left at Eastport’s Athletic Complex stand up. Kelly allowed only three hits and recorded 19 outs as East Meadow captured its third consecutive L.I. crown with a 10-0 victory. The Lady Jets batted around in the third inning, and gave Kelly five more runs. Senior Amy Mallah had a two-run single with the bases loaded, and junior Amanda Thompson followed with a two-run double.