High school sports in 2017 started with a flourish as three Long Island wrestlers continued their individual mastery. The year ended with another notable wrestling moment as Lynbrook ninth-grader Ally Fitzgerald became the first girl to win a sanctioned boys varsity tournament. So here goes 10 of the most memorable moments of 2017.
1. LYNBROOK’S ALLY FITZGERALD WINS WRESTLING TOURNAMENT
Fitzgerald, 14, won the 99-pound crown at the South Side tournament, reeling off four consecutive wins. Fitzgerald recorded three pins and a win by decision as she was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Wrestler. That night she said, “I thought, ‘This is a moment.’ This is a chance to pave the way for other girls to wrestle and to have confidence. I want to set the bar for other girls and show them that there is no limit.”
2. WARD MELVILLE’S COMEBACK FOR THE AGES
The Patriots’ boys lacrosse team scored four goals in the final 1:01 to force overtime and win the state Class A title, 10-9, in Rochester. Matthew Grillo’s goal with one second left in the first overtime period was the winner. Eddie Munoz scored a natural hat trick in just 34 seconds of that fateful final minute and Michael Giaquinto won 19 of 22 faceoffs, including every single one in the fourth quarter and overtime.
3. GIANNA AZZATO’S BLAST LIFTS EAST MEADOW
The Jets were two outs away from elimination in the Long Island Class AA softball championship game. Trailing by two runs with one out in the top of the seventh inning, Azzato blasted one out of the park to beat East Islip, 5-3, and win the title. changed everything. The Jets went on to win the state crown.
4. THORNTON’S OT GOAL LIFTS WARD MELVILLE
Kerri Thornton’s goal with 4:37 left in overtime gave Ward Melville a 1-0 win over Maine-Endwell in the state Class A field hockey championship game. As the five-yard shot left Thornton’s stick, a defender dived behind the keeper to try and make the save blocking her view as the ball went into the cage. “I didn’t see the ball go in at first, but I did see everybody sprinting toward me,” Thornton said. Senior Kate Mulham assisted on the winning goal as the Patriots punctuated a 22-0 season, the best in program history.
5. VITO ARUJAU, JACORI TEEMER WIN FOURTH STATE WRESTLING CROWNS
Syosset’s Arujau wrapped up a fabulous high school career by tying a Long Island record with his fourth state championship. 25. This one was at 138 pounds in an 8-3 decision over Hauppauge’s Jake Silverstein before 6,000 roaring fans. Long Beach junior Jacori Teemer had won his fourth state title only moments earlier. Can Teemer make it five?
6. DUNLAP BUCKET NETS CLASS AA TITLE FOR WESTBURY
Jalyn Dunlap’s putback of a missed free throw in the final seconds gave the Green Dragons a 61-60 victory over Half Hollow Hills East in the Long Island Class AA championship game. The Green Dragons boys basketball team earned its first trip to the state semifinal round as a Class AA school with a thrilling 61-60 victory over Half Hollow Hills East on of the Long Island Class AA championship game.
7. ALEX PARK MAKES A BIG SPLASH
With his Half Hollow Hills boys swimming team falling behind in the 200-yard freestyle relay state championship race, Park made up the deficit in a race-best 20.51 seconds in his 50-yard split to help his team — including Daniel Lee, Dylan Chan and Ethan Tack — win the state championship race. Half Hollow Hills went on to post the top team score at the meet as well at the state championship 4 at the Nassau Aquatic Center at Eisenhower Park.
8. CONNETQUOT GIRLS RULE THE NET
The Thunderbirds hadn’t lost a set on Long Island. They’d never trailed late in a match and carried an unblemished record into the state championship. And here was Connetquot, somehow, trailing Shenendehowa, two games to one and on the brink of being beaten in the final for the second year in a row at the Cool Insuring Arena in Glens Falls. Coach Justin Hertz changed the game plan and put the offensive emphasis on Cassandra Patsos and Kiarra Roth which sparked a turnaround and Connetquot rolled to 25-16 and 25-18 wins to clinch the crown. The key moment could have been any one of Roth’s three kills in the deciding fifth set. Or the final point in which Patsos buried a return for the final scoring spike of a perfect 19-0 season.
9. JEREMY RUCKERT POWERS LINDENHURST
Ruckert, the state’s Gatorade football player of the year, saved his finest performance for the big stage of the Long Island Championship game on Nov. 26. The Ohio State University-bound tight end took the game over from every aspect in Lindenhurst’s 40-23 win over Oceansid. But the biggest moment came in the third quarter on a third down and nine pass, when quarterback Nick Anzalone eluded a sack and lofted a desperation pass that might’ve been intercepted if Ruckert hadn’t channeled his inner Odell Beckham Jr. and made a leaping one-handed catch for a 12-yard gain. That play extended the drive and set up Anzalone’s 8-yard TD pass to Justin Zotto for a 30-16 lead. Ruckert finished with five catches for 110 yards and a score.
10. DANIEL CLAXTON FLIES HIGH
There wasn’t a high jumper in the state who could come close to Smithtown East’s Claxton, who won both the indoor and outdoor state high jump titles. After clearing the seven foot barrier earlier in the season, Claxton cleared 6-11 to win the indoor state title in March. He followed that up with a seven foot jump to win the state outdoor championship and a 7-foot, one quarter of an inch jump to win at New Balance Outdoor Nationals in Greensboro, North Carolina. Claxton is now jumping for UConn.