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Many LI student-athletes face prom dilemma

Connetquot High School students Luciano DeRenzo and his

Connetquot High School students Luciano DeRenzo and his girlfriend Taylor Rogan on Saturday, June 3, 2017, at Connetquot High School. Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

It happens every year somewhere on Long Island when two dreams collide and student-athletes have to choose between going to the prom or playing in a championship game.

Last Tuesday, three St. Anthony’s High School seniors, already in Staten Island after winning their Catholic league softball semifinal game, were faced with the dilemma of heading back to Long Island for the senior prom with no time to spare or playing in the championship game.

Dresses had been purchased. The players made the difficult choice and chose to go to the prom.

“The whole time, none of us wanted to leave,” said catcher Justine Lomenzo of Kings Park. “We wanted to be with the team whatever happened win or lose. . . . We had to make a decision which was stressful.”

The St. Anthony’s prom was held 60 miles away at Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. Tickets cost between $175 and $200 per person, and doors closed at 6:30 p.m. Justine’s mother, Lisa Lomenzo, estimated that the girls’ families spent an average of $1,000 to $1,200 between the prom dress, shoes, hair, makeup and tickets, as well as transportation to and from the prom.

“Obviously it’s still hard to know we weren’t at that game, but I don’t regret going to prom,” said Justine, who called both the prom and the state championship game once-in-a-lifetime experiences. “The prom is very different for girls and boys.”

Luciano DeRenzo, a senior who played football for Connetquot High School, has wanted to play in the Empire Challenge game since he was a kid.

He was thrilled in April that he had made the team for the June 21 game at Hofstra University. Then a friend pointed out that Connetquot’s senior prom was going to be on the same night — and at the same time — some 55 miles away in Wading River.

“I’ve always dreamed about playing in the game,” DeRenzo said. “I’ve thought about putting on that Long Island jersey and representing Long Island. This definitely means a lot to me.”

Taylor Rogan, DeRenzo’s girlfriend, also means a lot to him. “Whatever makes her happy, makes me happy,” DeRenzo said.

“I told him I’d skip prom and go to the game and support him,” Rogan said, “but at the end of the day, he told me he wanted to do both” and came up with a plan that had him taking pre-prom pictures before heading to the game, leaving by halftime, showering at Hofstra and changing into his tuxedo on the ride home.

“These conflicts occur annually,” Mattituck girls lacrosse coach Matt Maloney said. “Every year, schools have trouble with proms and games.”

Maloney started getting worried back in May when more than six of his girls lacrosse players were asked to the Mattituck junior prom on May 26, the same day his team was playing in a county championship game at St. Joseph’s Athletic Complex in Patchogue.

“The number of girls being asked to prom grew more and more, and not just juniors but some sophomores,” he said. “I was worried a little about the game. But for the girls it’s a rite of passage and a status thing. Plus, they need a little more time to get ready [for prom] so it definitely was a concern.”

Maloney’s concerns for the game were assuaged as Mattituck defeated Babylon, 15-2. The game ended around 3:30 p.m., and the players were able to travel from Patchogue to their homes, get ready, and attend the prom that night at the Hyatt Place Long Island in Riverhead.

“Luckily we won,” Maloney said, “and everything worked out.”

Babylon softball coach Rick Punzone’s team wasn’t as fortunate in 2004. His Panthers advanced to the Suffolk Class B semifinals on May 21, the date of Babylon’s senior prom. Punzone remembers a few of his players missing the game as Babylon lost, 12-0, to Eastport-South Manor, much in the way that St. Anthony’s lost 8-0 to Moore Catholic in the Catholic state title game this year.

“It was agonizing,” recalled Punzone. “At the time, I was very disappointed.”

Lorraine Delaney of Bay Shore is the mother of one of the St. Anthony’s players who went to the prom on Tuesday. She said her daughter, Alyssa, was devastated after making the choice to leave for the prom.

“I don’t want this to happen to any other school, team, parent or child,” Lorraine Delaney said.

“Yes, we are grateful we won a [conference] championship, but we have to live with ‘what if.’ What if they could have brought St. Anthony’s its first state softball title? . . . It will always be ‘what if,’ and that’s a terrible thing to live with. You try to prevent your child from ever having to feel the way we feel now.”

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