Defending Champ Brewster, Hen Hud on Collision Course
By Tony Pinciaro
The BREWSTER girls’ lacrosse team had a 2018 season that it will never forget. Led by third-year Coach Sara DiDio, Brewster won its first sectional title and advanced to the New York State Final Four before falling to Honeoye Falls-Lima by a goal. The Bears walked off the field at SUNY-Cortland proud of what they accomplished and primed to return in 2019.
“It was an exciting and amazing experience with a great group of girls,” DiDio said.
The only drawback to the 2018 season was the graduation of six players, Lauren Craft (playing for Penn State), Tara Regan, Juliana Rienzi, Grace Pastore, Leah Frey and Michelle Feighan.
Not many teams can graduate six players from a sectional champion and state semifinalist and still be considered a favorite to repeat. However, DiDio, who was the JV coach before moving up to varsity to replace Gerry Walsh, returns a deep, talented nucleus, highlighted by seniors Meagan Beal (M), Maggie DePaoli (M), Haile Ratajack (M) and Marina Souza (A). Beal, an All-Section and Academic All-American last year, will attend Furman University. Ratajack, a 2018 All-League selection, will attend Keene State in the fall.
A pair of junior Danielles, Heintz (G, All-Section in 2018) and Regan (A, All-Section) complete the sensational six. Regan has verbally committed to the University of Colorado.
“We have some new players filling in some key roles this year,” said DiDio, in her 12th year with the program. “We are looking to a couple returning defenders to step in to help Heintz on the defensive end. We also have some younger players with a lot of potential to make some impact this season.”
DiDio pointed out her team has solid offensive chemistry, moves the ball well and has a tremendous work ethic. The one thing Brewster, as well as all of Section 1, has to adjust to is the new self-start rule.
Brewster, 17-5 last year, is in a league with John Jay-Cross River, sectional finalist Hen Hud, Rye, Byram Hills and Horace Greeley.
“We are excited for the season and coming together as a team,” said DiDio. “We have a core group of returners who have set the tempo and are making sure the newcomers are adjusting to the varsity level. We have a tough schedule this season, but hope that helps raise our level of play.”
Brewster split a pair of one-goal games to open the season – a 9-8 victory over Carmel and a 12-11 overtime loss to Lakeland/Panas.
Ratajack and Regan each had a hat trick against Carmel. Ratajack also won five draws and Regan had three assists. Olivia Meola scored her first varsity goal and Heintz made nine saves.
“Carmel was up, 7-4, at the half, but Brewster came back and stepped into gear the second half, “ DiDio said. “First-game jitters were definitely out the first half for us and Carmel came to play.”
Souza finished with four goals, Ratajack added three goals and Regan chipped in two goals and two assists against Ratajack collected seven draw controls and Alex Meola added six.
Class D PUTNAM VALLEY flies under the radar when it comes to lacrosse, but one thing the Tigers do annually is win and contend for a sectional title.
Last year, the Tigers went 13-3 during the regular season and played for the Section 1 Class D title where they lost a heartbreaker, in overtime, to Bronxville.
Fourth-year Coach Courtney Hyndman said goodbye to seven seniors, five of whom are playing in college and will turn to its fantastic four for leadership – seniors Jacklyn Phillips (M), Kaitlin Cohen (A), Kimberly Hyndman (G) and Katherine McNamara. Phillips will attend Sacred Heart in the fall and McNamara is going to Bryn Mawr.
The midfield is highlighted by the sophomore duo of
Lindsey Cohen and Catherine O’Sullivan. Hyndman said seven new players, who all bring different skills and talent to the team, are joining varsity.
“Although we have seven seniors again this year, we are a pretty young and small team,” said Hyndman. “We have a lot of rebuilding to do this year after losing some heavy hitters, but so far these girls are really focused and motivated to build their skills and lacrosse IQ. We have a very tough schedule this season and will be tested both physically and mentally. I have the most faith in this team and program, so I can’t wait to see what the year brings.
In year two of his tenure, Coach Rob Molfetta guided HEN HUD to the Section 1 Class C final and was the runner-up. Molfetta and his team is hoping for a return trip to the championship game this season, but hoping to reverse the result.
Hen Hud will embark on the 2019 season without stalwart goalie Mackenzie Porter, who is playing in her freshman year at Rutgers.
The Sailors have a core five back, led by sophomore Kira Varada, an All-Section pick last year. Fellow returnees Haley Merchant, Erin Clark, Fiona McGovern and Katherine Warner were All-Section HM.
“We have a core group of new players that will compete for playing time,” Molfetta said. “We are experienced on offense, losing only one player to graduation, and we will be tenacious on defense.”
Molfetta said his defense will be young, so preseason has been important in learning Hen Hud’s new defensive system. This will be important as Hen Hud will have a new goalie.
“We are striving to get back to the sectional final,” Molfetta said. “We need to be unselfish on offense and play as a team on defense. Our schedule is difficult so we need to be ready for every challenge that comes our way.”
Hen Hud’s schedule includes the upper echelon of Section 1 teams — Suffern, Yorktown, Rye, John Jay-Cross River, Brewster, Mamaroneck, Somers and Lakeland Panas.
The Sailors recorded a 14-7 season-opening win over Carmel.
Prior to becoming the LAKELAND/PANAS lacrosse coach, Rebecca DiSisto-Leslie was an assistant to her former mentor, Sharon Sarsen.
During DiSisto-Leslie’s assistant coaching days, she witnessed annual excellence from the Rebels, resulting in a trip to the Section 1 Class A semifinals or final.
Now in her fourth year as coach, DiSisto-Leslie and her Rebels are coming off a sectional semifinal berth in 2018. And with the majority of her team returning, the Rebels will look to take it a step further this season.
Colgate-bound senior Emily Kness (A) and senior Gianna Scialdone (D) headline the returning nucleus. Juniors Raquel Nieves and Megan Mucci will control the midfield, Miranda Lopes is in goal and Jenna McCrudden joins Kness on attack, as does sophomore Keirra Ettere.
DiSisto-Leslie said that with a young team last year, many of the players remain the same.
“My hope is that they are willing to step into much bigger roles this season,” said DiSisto-Leslie, who also played on the 2003 and ’06 field hockey state champion teams. “We have strong team chemistry and strong finishers this year that are another year older and that much more experienced. We also have a strong defensive unit lead by Miranda Lopes and Gianna Scialdone.”
The Rebels’ strong finish to the 2018 season gave DiSisto-Leslie heightened optimism for 2019.
“My hope is that this team can continue to grow this season, especially from where we left off last year,” DiSisto-Leslie said. “I will be looking to my sophomores and juniors, that were on the varsity last year, to step up and take on more leadership roles on the field this season.”
Just like Sarsen did in lacrosse, and field hockey, DiSisto-Leslie put together a tough schedule. The Rebels will play North Rockland, Suffern and Mahopac, as well as league rivals Yorktown, Hen Hud and Brewster.
Lakeland/Panas opened the season with a thrilling overtime victory, 12-11, over 2018 Section 1 Class B champion Brewster. Emily Kness scored on an eight-meter shot, her fourth of the game. Julia Araujo, Katelyn Cerrato and Ettere each had two goals and McCrudden added a goal and two assists. Lopes made 13 saves.
It is an annual dilemma that OSSINING Coach Patrick Wheeler happily welcomes.
Wheeler, in his third season, opens practice missing several key players as these girls are with Coach Dan Ricci, usually playing for the NYS Class AA girls’ basketball championship.
Five players – Jaida Strippoli (A), Julie Iorio (M), Brooke Weeks (M), Kylee Taxiera (G) and Alexandra Forman (D) celebrated as the Pride won the 2019 state championship and, last weekend, lost in the federation state finals.
“After graduating only two players from last year, we return the core of our team,” said Wheeler, who was Ricci’s assistant before becoming head coach. “We suffered through a lot of injuries last season, missing 100-goal-scorer Jaida Strippoli the entire year, as well as missing midfielders Brooke Weeks, Julia Iorio, and goalie Kylee Taxiera for extended periods of time. We are missing a key piece this year as well with midfielder Kacie Scarduzio tearing her ACL during basketball.
“Still, I believe this is our strength. We have constantly had to deal with adversity, but have stuck together. We also have a large group of girls who know how to work hard and know how to win. That goes a long way in high school athletics.”
When Ossining is at full strength, the Pride will aim to increase its win total from 2018 and advance in the sectional tournament.
“We have a competitive schedule and play in a very good league with great programs,” Wheeler said. “We will have to work for everything we get, but I am hoping on improving on our record from last season and getting back to being able to play at the pace Ossining wants to play at.”
MAHOPAC came up one game shy of its appointed goal – a semifinal loss to Mamaroneck. And even though six players graduated, highlighted by Caroline Raymond (playing at West Point) and Hannah Lieto (playing at East Stroudsburg), the Indians will once again be a Section 1 Class A contender.
This is based on the returning nucleus of seniors and captains, Natalie Scanlon (M, All-Section last year), Jordan Barbagallo (G) and Katie McDonough (M). Barbagallo and McDonough were All-Section HM. They are joined by fellow senior Zina McInerney (M). Juniors Christina Lopreato, also a captain (M) and Sophia DeFrancesco (A) round out the returning group.
Nine newcomers, including five freshmen, join varsity. Juniors Kira Dobbs and Samantha Faeth, both attack, and sophomores Tatiana Moran (M) and Carly Ravoli (D) are moving up. The freshmen five are Audrey Colucci, Ava Jennings, Nicole Panny and Avery Pryzmylski, all midfielders, and Mia Del Bene (D).
Coach Jim Lieto, in his 11th year, pointed to his team’s returning experience as its strength. Mahopac has experience, and depth, on attack, midfield and defense.
“Jordan Barbagallo is a three-year varsity player, and the girls in front of her combine for twelve years of varsity experience and a significant amount of starts. In the midfield, each of them have their own strong side of the ball, but all of them are skilled on both offense and defense. At attack, we are skilled attackers, feeders and shooters.”
With plenty of experienced returnees, it’s understandable regarding Lieto’s optimism.
“I am extremely excited about this year’s team,” Lieto said. “We return more experience than we have ever had. We have a new offensive coach, Jack Kensil, who brings a lot of fresh perspectives to that side of the ball. I think that, combined with our traditionally strong defense, will make us a strong team this season.”
Lieto noted that some of the marquee games this season are Scarsdale, March 29, at Mamaroneck, April 6, and at Lakeland/Panas, April 26.
Coach Kerry Hackert created the CARMEL program in 2008 and returns for her 12th year. Last year, Carmel qualified for the Section 1 Class A Championship, but suffered a first-round loss. Five starters graduated, but Carmel’s top returning player is senior Katie Taranto (M), an All-Section HM choice last year. Taranto has committed to attend the University of New Hampshire.
Hackert welcomes back senior Cat Babnik (G), junior Margaret Flocco (A), and Maryrose Murphy (M). Carmel possesses speed and versatility, however, Hackert noted that two starters are currently injured.
“We have a lot of new players who are getting used to the varsity level,” Hackert said. “We lost our first game, versus Hen Hud, but we didn’t quit and tied them in second half.”
Carmel will square off against archrival Mahopac and some of the Rams’ other top games include Ursuline, Fox Lane and Suffern.
Carmel also led Brewster, 7-4, before the 2018 Section 1 Class B champions rallied to a 9-8 win.
Babnik registered nine saves, including her program-record 489th. Taranto and Flocco had three goals apiece and Taranto also won six draw controls. Camryn Schilling and Taylor Roth also scored.
Alexa Lucchesi and Tori Doyle began their second year as the SOMERS High coaches, following a 7-10 2018 season, including a Section 1 Class B first-round win.
Somers graduated four seniors. Doyle and Lucchesi have three returning seniors who will be playing in college: Hannah Lustig (M), who will attend the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Emma Kittredge (M), who is going to Sacred Heart and Alex Pittman (D), who is Holy Cross bound. Lustig and Pittman were All-Section picks last year and Lustig also earned All-NYS honors.
The junior tandem of Megan Dineen (A) and Jen Campbell (M) also return, giving the Tuskers a solid core.
“Our team strength is our midfield and attack,” Doyle said. “All are returning players and we’ve really worked out the kinks from last year and are meshing together well. We are very hopeful about the upcoming season. Returning most of our team and having five commits really is going to help us. We have a lot of other players stepping up and taking on a leadership role as we now have six starting seniors ready to make an impact on their last year.”
Somers opens against Pelham, today.