St. Anthony's back in familiar spot
Proving the team's sub-.500 season in 2009 was merely an aberration, this year has featured St. Anthony's hockey returning to its former levels of domination.
St. Anthony's (12-2-0) is in first place in the CHSAA A Division with 24 points. The team is allowing less than two goals per game (21 total), and scoring nearly five per contest (68).
After a run of seven straight Suffolk league titles from 2001-08 which culminated in a state championship, the Friars switched to the CHSAA and had mixed results in their first year.
"The kids that were in the program didn't realize how much the travel and involvement would be," coach Jeff Stelmok said about the greater travel distances in CHSAA competition. "We ended up losing a lot of our players and went 0-7 in our first seven games. But then we went 7-1 to end the year."
St. Anthony's failed to make the playoffs and that fueled the Friars this season. Senior center Bill Pascalli, who played for the St. Anthony's state title team, is one of the major contributors.
"He's the strongest player in the league, I don't think anyone's close to him," Stelmok said. "I'm optimistic he'll be the MVP of the league."
Defenseman and captain Ryan McDermott will be matched up against the opposition's top line. "He's been a pillar for us for the last two years," Stelmok said.
Holy Trinity has quickly and quietly usurped its competition in the CHSAA this season, and with the boys and girls teams holding top seeds, appears poised for a championship run.
The girls, in just the program's third year, went 12-0 after finishing third last season. "The girls are really excited because they get to have a banner hung in the gym for being regular-season champions," said Frank Messina, who along with his wife, Mary, coaches both teams. "But they want the bigger prize."
They're led by senior captains Kristen Romano (159 average) and Jennifer O'Connor (146) and anchored by twin sisters Angela (157) and Jennifer Valveri (152). "Some of the other teams that were better than us lost key bowlers and we didn't really lose anybody," Messina said, referring to defending champ Kellenberg and St. John the Baptist. "We're tough to contend with."
But eight of the 10 bowlers are upperclassmen and the coach acknowledged that this is somewhat of a win-now season.
"After next year, we're going to have to rebuild," he said. "If you have a good shot, you can't let that slip by."
The Holy Trinity boys went 11-1, their only loss to St. John the Baptist - the team they lost to by 21 pins in the finals last year. This year, they're favored and will have a bye in the quarterfinals. They'll bowl in the semis Wednesday at Farmingdale Lanes.
Trinity boasts depth with Luis Christie (210), Sal Rivieccio (194) and Tom Jakubowski (190).
"We feel pretty good, but we won't take anything for granted," said Messina, who'll have his team get familiar with Farmingdale Lanes on Tuesday. "Any team that advances to the semis can be victorious."
East, North live to face off
Just because Half Hollow Hills finished the season undefeated for the fourth straight year doesn't mean there wasn't any drama in Suffolk League I.
Because of Hills' dominance, the race for the No. 2 spot proved the compelling story line, and nothing summed up the competition like the Sachem East-Sachem North rivalry.
The teams, which both finished the year 5-2 and tied for second place in League I, tied the season series at a game apiece, each team winning by the slightest of margins on the final event of the meet.
North beat East, 93-92, on Dec. 10 and East returned the favor after the Christmas break, defeating Sachem North, 94-92, on Jan. 7.
Sachem North won the 400 relay by roughly two seconds in the first meet, but both teams amped up their efforts for the final contest, with only 0.5 seconds separating the final result. Sachem East won 3:26.22 to 3:26.72.
"The first meet they beat us by two seconds," Sachem East coach Bill Kropp said. "But the winning time was 3:30 . . . so we swam six seconds faster in that relay. They didn't want to lose.
"With Sachem East and Sachem North, there's that built-in rivalry. You don't have to say anything as a coach to get them up. No matter what sport it is. That East-North game is the mark on the schedule as soon as the schedule comes out. The kids know each other. They're friends. They're online, they're texting each other. They're talking smack both ways."
TRACK & FIELD
Schmidt, Lipari strong milers
Holy Trinity junior Colleen Schmidt finished fourth in the girls invitational mile in 4:58.06 Friday at the Millrose Games at Madison Square Garden. Schmidt was the top Long Island finisher. Roslyn's Emily Lipari took fifth, Kelsey Margey of Harborfields was sixth and Riverhead's Katie Skinner 10th.