Gregg Sarra takes you through the top 25 high school sports stories to hit Long Island in 2015.
25. Garden City field hockey
The Trojans dominated all season winning the Nassau and Long Island titles before losing in the state championship game. Devon Heaney's shootout goal helped Garden City get by Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, 4-3, in the semifinal round of the state tournament. Garden City wasted a 3-0 lead when Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake tied the game with four minutes left before Heaney's heroics.
24. Sam Moelis, Lynbrook fencing
He won the Under-17 world fencing championship in men's foil in Uzbekistan in April. Moelis has established himself as one of the top foil fencers in the country, regardless of age. Lynbrook does not having a school fencing program.
23. Sachem North boys volleyball
Sachem North boys volleyball repeated as Long Island champions with a 3-1 victory over Massapequa in November. It was the 37th straight win for the Flaming Arrows, who only dropped three sets to Long Island competition this season.
22. Sarah Cornell, Clarke softball
Though the Rams fell short of a state title, their furious comeback in the championship game was a memorable one. Trailing by four runs entering the seventh inning, Sarah Cornell crushed a three-run home run to cut the deficit to one. Down to their final out, Brooke Scherer launched a dramatic game-tying solo home run to force extra innings where Clarke would fall, 9-7, to Averill Park for the state Class A title. The loss didn't overshadow a season in which Cornell, who had a 23-3 pitching record with 357 strikeouts, led the Rams to the softball program's first Long Island championship.
21. Connetquot baseball
On this day, we were reminded that baseball means much more than the final score. Connetquot righty John Hengge took the mound a few days after the tragic and sudden death of his father Walter Hengge. John was terrific, pitching Game 2 of the Suffolk Class AA finals but Ward Melville prevailed in extra innings, 4-3. The dramatic conclusion saw the teams come together for an emotional handshake that spoke volumes about sportsmanship. Connetquot won Game 3 and went on to beat MacArthur, 3-2, to capture the Long Island Class AA title.
20. Shoreham-Wading River football
The Wildcats won the Long Island Class IV crown for the second year in a row and are currently on a 24-game winning streak. They beat Locust Valley 34-14 in the Class IV title game behind four Chris Rosati touchdowns. Blue-chip prospect Ethan Weiderkehr and Dalten Stalzer helped shut down the Locust Valley offense.
19. Massapequa girls volleyball
The Massapequa girls volleyball team swept Plainview JFK to win its 16th straight Nassau Class AA championship. Top-seeded Massapequa was tested with two very close sets and were at risk of losing their first set of the season to that point, but the Chiefs showed great resiliency and fought back on the strength of Jamie Smith and Kole Pollock. Smith twice notched the winning point and was a clear standout. The match not only added to Massapequa's trophy case, it solidified the team as a contender heading into the Long Island Championship.
18. Jack Coan, Sayfille football
Sayville junior quarterback Jack Coan became the only player in the 24 years of the Long Island championships to surpass 200 yards rushing and 200 yards passing in a 59-15 LI Class III win over Plainedge. He threw for 294 yards and ran for another 227.
17. Cold Spring Harbor boys lacrosse
After tough losses in the Nassau Class C finals the previous two years, Cold Spring Harbor was determined to change the script. The Seahawks did just that last spring. They won their last 18 games, cruised to Nassau and Long Island championships and held off Cazenovia, 9-8, in a thrilling state final. CSH was led by a high-scoring attack of senior Colin Burke and super sophomores Ian Laviano and Ryan Winkoff.
16. Mattituck baseball
Marcos Perivolaris pitched 6 1/3 innings of one-run ball to lead Mattituck to its first Class B state championship with a 4-1 win over Livonia in Binghamton. When they returned home from the 5-hour bus ride they were escorted into town by local fire trucks driven by former players. They community came out a 1 a.m. and rallied around the team. Coach Steve DeCaro said he was not shocked by the support for the 27-1 team. The seniors played together since they were 6th graders on a travel all-star team, and they finished their last game together as state champions.
15. Bridgehampton boys basketball
Bridgehampton won its first state Class D boys basketball championship since 1998 with a 62-49 victory over New York Mills at Glens Falls. There were many links to the school's past. Coach Carl Johnson played on the 1978-80 state title teams. Tournament MVP Charles Manning's father Maurice Manning, also played on three state champions, while guard Tylik Furman, forward Josh Lamison's uncles and guard Elijah Jackson also were relatives of Bridgehampton state champs.
14. Whitman boys soccer
The Wildcats won the school's first-ever Class AA state title with a 5-1 win over previously unbeaten Ballston Spa at Middletown High School. Michael Lorello and Witman Hernandez scored two goals apiece in the title game. Hernandez, Newsday's Player of the Year, added an assist and was awarded the game MVP.
13. Diana Vizza, North Shore cross country
Diana Vizza won the New York State Public School Class B state title in a sport that has been dominated at the state level by upstate schools in recent years. Vizza also kept the Class B cross country title on Long Island one year after Shoreham-Wading River's Katherine Lee won the crown. Vizza mastered the challenging 5-kilometer course in 18:15.6 at Monroe-Woodbury HS on Nov. 14.
12. Amityville boys soccer
Resiliency, selflessness and discipline were the keys behind Amityville's 2-0 win over Pearl River to capture the Class A state final. It was the Warriors' ninth win a row. Amityville (17-5) bounced back from a midseason three-match losing streak, underwent positional changes and acted totally different from a group that used to "mess around" in practice. The result: a special season.
11. James Burke, Port Jefferson cross country
Port Jefferson's James Burke won the high school mile at the Millrose Games. Burke outdueled Northport's Mike Brannigan to win the New Balance High School Mile at the 108th Millrose Games in February. Burke's final lap kick pulled him across the line in 4:11.25.
10. Connetquot rules: Can you dig it?
Coach Justin Hertz's Thunderbirds won all but one set at the state volleyball tournament in Glens Falls for the school's first state crown in that sport. The young core of Nicole Migliozzi, Mackenzie Cole, Cassandra Patsos and others will return next season with hopes of starting a dynasty. The Thunderbirds beat Massapequa, which won Nassau for 16 straight years, to win the Long Island crown.
9. Elijah Riley: A touch of class
The Newfield halfback's display of sportsmanship was a highlight of the Long Island Class II championship game. With his team already ahead, 41-33, he had a clear path to a touchdown in the final minute after fielding an onside kickoff but instead took a knee at the MacArthur 6-yard line. A week later, Riley was named winner of 55th Carl A. Hansen Award, presented to Suffolk's most outstanding player.
8. Tennis anyone? Nassau cleans up at State
Celeste Matute and Courtney Kowalsky of Oyster Bay (pictured) became the first Nassau doubles team to repeat as state tennis champions in 16 years. Lynbrook's Amy Chen and Alexandra Kobishyn won in 1998 and 1999. Hewlett's Kseniya Zonova captured the state singles title. It was the first time Nassau swept both titles since Danielle Paradine and the team of Kirsten Dibble and Lisa Friedlander, both from Syosset, won in 1989, according to NYSPHSAA records.
7. LuHi girls basketball: Hello & Goodbye
Taylor Byrne had a surprise visitor before Long Island Lutheran's state federation tournament title game. Her older brother Kyle, who was stationed in Mississippi with Air Force, got permission to fly to Albany for the game. LuHi went on to defeat Christ the King, 66-52, to capture a third straight title, with Byrne recording 15 points and 14 rebounds. It also marked the final game in the brilliant career of Boogie Brozoski (pictured), who had 24 points and was named tournament MVP for the fourth time.
6. Davien Kuinlan: 485 yards, 7 TDs
The Plainedge back accomplished more in one game than many players do in an entire season. He hushed for a Long Island-record 485 yards to help Plainedge outscore Glen Cove, 56-34 in the Nassau III championship game. He scored seven touchdowns on his way to the greatest single-game rushing performance in history.
5. Massapequa girls 3-peat
The Chiefs captured a third straight state title becoming the first soccer team in New York, boys or girls, to do so in Class AA. Mikayla Pugliese's header off a deflection by Melanie Hingher evened the score, and Hope Breslin (pictured) fired in the winner 48 seconds later in a 3-1 win over Baldwinsville. The Chiefs won their 12th Nassau title in 13 years and fourth Long Island crown in six years.
4. Nick Fanti's fantasy season
Hauppauge's fireballing lefthander threw back-to-back no-hitters and earned the Yastrzemski Award, given to Suffolk's top player and was drafted by the Phillies. He had a 7-1 record with 87 strikeouts in 52 innings and a 0.67 ERA. He also hit .540 with 37 RBI.
3. Wrestlemania: Nick Piccininni
The Ward Melville star became Long Island's second wrestler to win four state titles, equaling the mark of Shoreham-Wading River's Jesse Jantzen. Piccininni finished his high school career with a record of 225-5, with two of those losses coming after he defaulted at the Suffolk League I tournament while battling an ankle injury. Piccininni returned from the injury a week later to win the state title in Albany.
2. Three cheers for cheerleading
The moment varsity cheerleading was sanctioned by the New York State Public High School Athletic Association as a competitive sport, Long Island folks let out a roar last year. But it was this winter season that for the first time all the state rules and regulations were implemented. Coaches, players and parents across Long Island, where the level of cheer competition is very high, had sought recognition for years. And now they have it.
1. Michael Brannigan runs like the wind
Before graduating in June, Northport's Brannigan set the state outdoor 2-mile record in 8:42.92 and the Suffolk outdoor mile record in 4:05.78. Diagnosed with autism at the age of 2, it did not stop him from becoming one of Long Island's all-time greatest distance runners.