A salute to champions from 2017-18

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

1. Long Beach girls volleyball

The Long Beach girls took the court for the Nassau Class AA volleyball title match knowing full well what they were up against. Yes, the Lady Marines were the top seed, and had swept Massapequa in an early season match, but they were facing a program that had captured the county title every year since 2000. But all great sports dynasties eventually come to an end. Long Beach rode the momentum of an epic first-set win and went on to sweep the 17-time defending champs 33-31, 25-22, 25-20 on Nov. 8 at SUNY-Old Westbury. Junior hitter Emma McGovern had 19 kills, three aces and two blocks, and made a huge play to stave off a set point in the opening set to tie the score at 31. Junior Grace Rosenberg had 25 assists and 10 kills, the final one coming emphatically on match point.  

2. East Rockaway girls volleyball

Senior outside hitter Melissa Loyer had 12 kills and senior setter Joanna Acampora had 20 assists to lead top-seeded East Rockaway to a 25-15, 25-21, 25-19 sweep of Carle Place in the Nassau Class C title game at the Clark Athletic Center on the campus of SUNY Old Westbury on Nov. 8. Paced by Acampora and Loyer, and strong serving from junior Jamie Keegan and sophomore Madison Cipriano, the Lady Rocks announced their presence by running away with the opening set. It was a season filled with ups and downs for East Rockaway, which had to replace eight seniors from the 2016 squad that played in the state semifinals.

3. South Side girls volleyball

The Nassau Class A girls’ volleyball championship match proved a microcosm of South Side’s season as it battled through consistency issues to capture its third county title in six years. “We’ve had so many ups and downs,” coach Cheryl Scalice said after the third-seeded Lady Cyclones defeated No. 1 Manhasset, 25-23, 26-24, 13-25, 25-13 on Nov. 9 at SUNY-Old Westbury.  Senior Caroline Lanzillotta, who wasn’t expected back after suffering a broken foot Oct. 23, closed out the opening set with a block and clinched the championship with one of her five kills. Senior Stephanie Jackson (eight kills, 16 digs) sealed an intense second set by converting one of senior setter Jackie Wilkins’ 16 assists. Wilkins added 20 digs and junior Caroline LaMacchia had 23.

4. Kennedy boys volleyball

Capturing an eighth Nassau Class B championship in 10 years and the third in a row was on the checklist, but ask any member of Kennedy’s boys’ volleyball team and they’ll tell you it was only part of the mission for 2017. On Nov. 11 at LIU Post, the Cougars overcame their first losing set this postseason to defeat Hauppauge, 25-22, 17-25, 25-20, 25-21, for the Long Island Class B title. Junior Tyler Anderson had 19 kills and 17 digs, senior Josh Kaplan had 10 kills and 19 digs, senior Mitch Mass added 24 digs, and sophomore setter Cooper Moran totaled 56 assists as Kennedy won its third L.I. crown under coach Dennis Ringel.

5. Seaford football

Seaford grounded out a second straight county football title just two weeks after its season was salvaged by a clutch play through the air. The Vikings did not attempt a single pass and rushed for 234 yards in a dominant 21-0 win against top-seeded Cold Spring Harbor in the Nassau Conference IV final at Hofstra on Nov. 16. The repeat championship capped a magical county postseason run that began with the a dramatic 14-12 first-round win against West Hempstead 13 days earlier on a 31-yard touchdown pass from Logan Masters to Sean Allen with 15 seconds remaining. The Vikings capped a historical playoff run a week later with a wild 29-27 win over Miller Place in the Long Island Class IV title game.

6. Oceanside football

For the first time in 40 years, Oceanside celebrated a Nassau County football championship. On a cold, rainy and windy evening on the turf at Hofstra, the Sailors rode a red-hot defense to a 17-0 victory over defending champion Freeport in the Conference I title game on Nov. 18. A unit spearheaded by seniors Mike Scibelli and Bryan Aguilar allowed just 70 total yards and five first downs as Oceanside won its first county crown since 1977. The Sailors, who allowed 13 points in three playoff wins, got all the offense they would need on the opening drive when senior quarterback Tommy Heuer hit senior Dylan Judd for a 10-yard touchdown midway through the first quarter.

7. Lawrence football

Lawrence’s Jordan Alexander waited almost three full quarters for Wantagh to break out its customary bag of tricks in the Nassau Conference III football championship game at Hofstra on Nov. 18. And when the Warriors finally did, he was right in the middle of it. Literally. Alexander not only foiled a hook-and-ladder attempt on third-and-8, he picked it out of midair and turned it into a 31-yard touchdown for the go-ahead score in the Golden Tornadoes’ 21-10 victory. Alexander’s touchdown, which by rule was a fumble recovery, with 1:56 remaining in the third stood as the only score of the second half until senior Chris Collier (208 yards on 17 carries) iced the defensive struggle with a 94-yard touchdown run with 22 seconds left.

8. Wantagh wrestling

A big night for Wantagh wrestling during the Nassau Division I championships Feb. 11 was capped off by a historic triumph from Justin Vines. The senior captured his third straight county title with a commanding 12-4 win against Freeport’s Lee Mauras in the 132-pound final. Vines, who won a state title as a junior, became the last of five Warriors to take home a county championship. Wantagh captured its seventh team title in eight years on the big stage at Hofstra with 291 points to finish 36.5 points ahead of second-place Massapequa. Joining Vines at the top of the podium for the Warriors were James Langan (182), Matt Rogers (170), Jonathan Loew (195) and Josiah Encarnacion (106.) Loew went on to win the state crown.

9. Elmont girls basketball

It didn’t take long for Elmont to spoil Hauppauge’s Cinderella story. The defending champion Lady Spartans scored the first eight points of the Long Island Class A girls’ basketball title game and put on a clinic before head coach Tom Magno lifted the starters less than a minute into the fourth quarter of a 56-30 victory before a crowd of 1,000 at Suffolk Community College in Brentwood on March 6. Seniors Jada Fernandez (16), Kem Nwabudu (14) and Zarria Franklin (11) scored in double figures to lead Elmont (22-2), which held an eye-popping 50-10 lead with 7:17 remaining before the Lady Eagles, who upset each of the top three seeds to win the Suffolk crown, scored 20 of the game’s final 26 points.

10. Baldwin girls basketball

Baldwin had come too far to let history slip away. With their 20-point first-half lead over Ossining cut to four with less than a minute left in the third quarter of the New York State Class AA girls’ basketball title game March 18 at Hudson Valley Community College, the Lady Bruins hit the restart button and found another gear. They dominated both ends of the floor in the fourth quarter on the way to an 87-60 victory, becoming the first Long Island-based girls’ basketball team to win back-to-back state championships. Senior Aziah Hudson scored 34 points and senior Donnetta Johnson (16), junior Kaia Harrison (16) and senior Jenna Annecchiarico (14) also netted double figures for Baldwin, which beat Ossining by 28 in last season’s final to end its four-year reign. The Lady Bruins went on to win the Federation crown, beating Long Island Lutheran in the semis and Christ The King in the finals.

11. Hewlett girls track

For the Hewlett girls’ track and field program, winning county titles has become as predictable as a rooster crowing at sunrise. On the heels of a county championship in the winter circuit, the Lady Bulldogs dominated the field and captured their third straight Nassau Class AA spring crown on May 23. Hewlett amassed 124 points. Manhasset was a distant second with 60. Senior Patsy Iannico had a huge performance. Iannico capped off her illustrious career by winning her fourth consecutive county title in the 400-meter intermediate hurdles. Sophomore Kayley Ragazzini earned her county title in the shot put in dramatic fashion, while sophomore Emma Blumenstein finished first in the 100-meter high hurdles.  Thalia Reveil, also a member of the runner-up 4x100 team, took second place in both the long jump and triple jump.

12. V.S. North boys track

Valley Stream North’s boys’ track and field team won a fourth consecutive Class A spring county championship on May 24, scoring in all but three of 18 events, while the Lady Spartans claimed third place. Underclassmen stepped up to contribute to the boys’ 111.25 total points in the 20-team competition. Among them was junior Jacob Schoenfeld, who was crowned county champion in the 400-meters hurdles with a time of 57.63 seconds and the 400-meters run at 49.71, a new school record. Sophomore Christian Cicilia won the 3000-meters steeplechase, while senior All-County winners were Cornell-bound Shane Johnson, who placed second in the 800 meters at 2:00.19, and Lenz St. Vil, who came in third in the 100 and 200 races.

13. Carey softball

Getting the nod to pitch the decisive third game of the Nassau Class A softball championship series meant the world to Carey’s Dana Romano. And after yielding five straight singles to Mepham in a heartbreaking walk-off defeat in Game 2 two days earlier, the senior righthander delivered in a big way. Romano blanked the fourth-seeded Lady Pirates over the final four innings as No. 2 Carey captured its second county title in five years and third all-time with a 6-2 victory at Mitchel Athletic Complex on May 26. Sophomore Arianna Millan and freshman Destiny Nardello drove in two runs apiece and senior Marissa Nicoletti homered for the Lady Seahawks, who scored 18 runs in the series.

14. East Meadow softball

East Meadow softball coach Stew Fritz always looks at the bright side, and has confidence in his team. So when the Lady Jets fell behind Longwood by four runs after a half-inning of the Long Island Class AA championship game June 1 at Hofstra, the even-keeled Fritz just wanted to make sure they didn’t dwell on it. East Meadow scored once in the second, twice in the third and twice in the fourth, and won in thrilling walk-off fashion, 6-5, when senior Sam Reyes raced home on junior Amy Mallah’s one-out single in the bottom of the seventh. It was the second straight L.I. crown for the Lady Jets, who beat Calhoun to repeat as Nassau Class AA champs.

15. East Rockaway baseball

For years, East Rockaway’s offseason baseball training has epitomized the old adage that there’s no substitute for hard work. While putting in time and effort doesn’t guarantee success, no one can argue that the team is now bearing the fruits of its labor. After its 6-2 victory over Pine Plains in the Class C Southeast Regional Final in upstate Saugerties on June 2, East Rockaway headed to the state semifinals. Sophomore pitcher Chris Perri, making just the second start of his career, went the distance to earn the victory against Pine Plains. Junior Stefano Cilluffo’s long sacrifice fly broke a 2-2 tie in the top of the sixth. East Rockaway made the state final four for the first time since 1981.

16. East Rockaway softball

It was another banner year on the softball diamond for the girls at East Rockaway. The Lady Rocks shared the Nassau Conference ABC-III title with South Side, won the Nassau small schools championship, and claimed Long Island supremacy for the third consecutive year and seventh time in program history. The stellar season came to a halt when the Rocks fell to Pine Plains (Dutchess County) 6-2 in the NYS southeast regional final June 2. It was the second straight season that the Bombers kept East Rockaway from advancing to the state semifinals. The Lady Rocks had a seemingly easy time in their Long Island title game. Junior Emily Chelius was dominant, striking out 12 batters and limiting Mercy to just two hits in a 10-0 rout.

17. Wantagh baseball

While Wantagh’s boasted its share of star power during a dominant three-year run on the baseball diamond, its depth was once again on display in the Long Island Class A championship game on June 2. Seniors Ethan Rockitter and Ryan Murphy came through with RBI singles in the top of the sixth inning to lift the Warriors to a 4-2 victory over Rocky Point at St. Joseph’s College Athletic Complex in Patchogue for their third straight L.I. title and fifth overall. Senior southpaw Anthony Fontana didn’t allow an earned run while scattering four hits and three walks and striking out six, including a pair in the seventh. Senior Patrick Willix had two RBIs and scored the eventual winning run.