10/21/11 6:53pm
10/21/2011 6:53 PM

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Riverhead's Fatima Brown attempted a block against North Babylon's Valerie Amengual.

BLUE WAVES 25, 25, 25, BULLDOGS 21, 20, 14

The Riverhead High School girls volleyball team might be thinking, if only the entire season was played against North Babylon, then things could be different.

But, of course, that is not how it works. In what has been a rough season in terms of wins and losses, the Blue Waves are 2-0 against North Babylon, but 0-10 against everyone else.

Both teams were in the same position before Friday’s match — at the bottom of Suffolk County League IV with identical records.

“It’s so much more frustrating that we’re losing when we know we can win, and I know we can win,” Riverhead outside hitter Mariah Messina said. “That’s the only frustrating part.”

The Blue Waves showed they can win on Friday. They surely have North Babylon’s number.

Sara Tucci, a sophomore setter, had eight assists and served for four aces for Riverhead, which scored a 25-21, 25-20, 25-14 win over the visiting Bulldogs, snapping a six-match losing streak.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Riverhead junior right-side hitter Megan Conroy tried to push the ball past North Babylon's Valerie Amengual.

“We knew we could do it, but it was kind of tough because they’re a really scrappy team, so they’re going to run and get everything,” said Riverhead middle hitter Fatima Brown.

Riverhead’s first-year coach, Amy Bullock, said she knew this would not be an easy season. But she has been heartened by the noticeable improvement she has seen over the course of the campaign. More accurate passing has allowed the Riverhead setters, Tucci and Alyssa Meyer, to work on quick sets, which can be almost unstoppable when run correctly.

“They definitely have improved greatly, and they deserve a win like this today,” Bullock said. “Their attitudes are great, and every day they come to practice ready to play, no matter what.”

Megan Brewer put all 20 of her serves in play for the Blue Waves (2-10, 2-8), and five of them were aces.

Valerie Amengual had five kills, three dinks and a block for North Babylon (1-11, 1-9). The Bulldogs have lost eight straight matches since they lost to Riverhead in five games on Sept. 22.

“It’s been a rough season,” said Greg Bentivegna, who is in his second year as North Babylon’s coach. “It’s been hard, but the bottom line is tonight they played good volleyball, and they’re fighting. I think it’s about learning to win because if you string it all together, they obviously have the ability to do it. It’s just making it all fit together.”

With only three seniors, the Bulldogs are battling inexperience. Riverhead has four seniors: outside hitter Kiana Wiwczar, Brown, Messina and Meyer.

“We are such a good team in practice,” Messina said. “We can kill the ball. We can do good plays. We can have so much fun and play together, but then when it comes to games, sometimes we lose our energy. We get frustrated.”

Frustration wasn’t in the lineup on Friday, though. While the record may not reflect it, the gains Riverhead has seen have been noticed by outsiders as well.

“I can see Riverhead’s improving; I can see our team’s improving, absolutely,” Bentivegna said. “You’re definitely coming along, but of course, every team is improving as you go along, so the games aren’t getting any easier. They’re definitely getting more difficult.”

Brown said Riverhead’s ability to work as a team and stay close has been a great help during trying times.

“On the court, it’s not six different girls,” she said. “It has to be like one girl playing, so you have to have that mentality that we’re all the same, we’re all good.”

Bullock said her team’s passing is 10 times better than it was earlier in the season. Looking at the larger picture, the Blue Waves should be in a better situation next year.

“I can’t say how much I’m proud of these girls just for sticking with it every day,” Bullock said. “With all this hard work, I know we’re going to end this season on the right note.”

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04/14/11 7:21pm
04/14/2011 7:21 PM

BOB LIEPA PHOTO | North Babylon's Emily Catalano examined her passing options while Riverhead's Stacy Griffing closed in on her and Riverhead goalie Emily Parker watched.

In an odd sort of a way, it’s one of the greatest signs of respect that can be shown in high school girls lacrosse. A team will typically put more than one defender on the opponent’s most dangerous offensive player.

With that in mind, a great deal of flattery was directed Carolyn Carrera’s way on Thursday.

Carrera, a center middie for the Riverhead Blue Waves, found herself double-, triple-, and even quadruple-teamed sometimes by North Babylon Bulldogs determined to block her path to the goal. That extra attention is something the talented freshman has had to deal with since the season-opening game.

“It does get frustrating, but the only thing you can do is work through it,” Carrera said. “Any time you have that pressure, you’re getting better yourself. You’re learning from it and new ways to get out of it, so it’s all good in the long run.”

The Blue Waves would have loved to have won the game for their absent coach, but they’re convinced he would have been proud of their effort had he been there to see it.

But effort alone was not enough to stop North Babylon which, boosted by a five-goal, four-assist performance from Kelsey Hart, handed the Blue Waves a 17-3 loss at Coach Mike McKillop Memorial Field in Riverhead.

In picking up its third straight win, North Babylon (5-4, 3-3 in Suffolk County Division I) broke over the .500 mark for the first time this season. The Bulldogs received hat tricks from Ally Kennedy, Alyssa Ferro and Brit Rosino. Amanda Martinez chipped in a pair of assists. North Babylon goalkeeper Alyssa Chetti was credited with nine saves.

“We played great,” Hart, a junior middie, said. “We played together. Everyone got a chance to show what they had.”

North Babylon undoubtedly has a lot. Coach Stacey McPartland believes the Bulldogs have what it takes to make it into the playoffs for the first time in three years.

“We’re very physical,” she said. “We’re very run and gun. We’re hot-headed. We need to slow it down a little bit sometimes, you know, and think. Our lax IQ is a little shaky, but we have really good athletes and a lot of good runners.”

Riverhead (2-5, 1-5) was without Coach Rich D’Alsace. D’Alsace was in Florida because of a death in the family. In D’Alsace’s absence, the junior varsity coach, Tracey Carron, ran the team along with a varsity assistant coach, Jim Janecek.

The Blue Waves learned on Monday that a nephew of D’Alsace’s had died, and it had an impact.

BOB LIEPA PHOTO | Riverhead's Bethany Peters, left, and Megan Conroy chased North Babylon's Val Amengual.

“It’s on their minds and it’s on their hearts, definitely,” said Janecek, who expects D’Alsace to be back on the sideline in time for the next game on April 25 against the Smithtown East Bulls.

Determined to make a good showing for the missing coach, the Blue Waves played hard, but North Babylon’s superior experience and talent showed. The Bulldogs fired in the game’s first nine goals within the opening 14 minutes 33 seconds, and forged an 11-2 lead by halftime.

“It feels great, like the gears are clicking,” North Babylon senior defenseman Emily Abma said. “Everything’s coming together.”

The Bulldogs were also smart about how to handle Carrera: Give her as little room to maneuver as possible. They held Carrera to only one goal from four shots, and that is an achievement. Carrera also won 15 of 21 draws.

Bethany Peters had a goal and an assist for Riverhead, which also received a goal from Stacy Griffing.

“I could honestly say that I’m happy with how we played because we’re a team and we picked it up and we never let down,” Carrera said. “We played our hearts out.”

Considering that Riverhead is in its first varsity season, McPartland was impressed by some of the things she saw from the Blue Waves.

“They’re definitely better than some of the teams that we have played this year that have been around for a while so I take my hat off to them,” she said. “They have a lot of athletes. I feel like this is not really a lacrosse town, but once they get rolling and stuff, they’ll be somebody that we talk about.”

Meanwhile, Carrera is a player to talk about. She has scored a team-leading 20 goals to go with seven assists this season, and has a bright future ahead of her.

Janecek, who said Carrera was a picture of total focus before the game, said he is most impressed by what Carrera does on the practice field.

“Her intensity in practice is the same type of intensity as when she plays,” he said. “She is very, very competitive, and she does go very hard, looking to make herself better and also looking to make her team better.”

Carrera, who has put up six-goal games against the Center Moriches Red Devils and the Copiague Eagles, said that like her teammates, she is learning every game. She said the best way to get away from extra defenders is to run, and she did miles of running during Thursday’s game.

Carrera seemed to take joy that her goal against North Babylon came from a penalty shot. Following Riverhead’s 17-4 defeat to the East Islip Redmen on Tuesday, she worked on her penalty shots. “It was dark out and raining, but I went home and I practiced my side-armed shots and everything,” she said.

What is the biggest lesson Carrera has learned this season?

She said it is to keep her head up and understand that statistics aren’t important.

“It doesn’t matter as long as I’m playing my hardest and playing my heart out,” she said. “That’s all that matters.”

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01/29/11 9:43pm
01/29/2011 9:43 PM

GEORGE FAELLA PHOTO | Elwood Lamb III scored 17 points for Riverhead, but the Blue Waves lost in North Babylon.

NORTH BABYLON — Sometimes what a person doesn’t say will get the message across much better than words.

After his high school boys basketball team dropped a 63-50 Suffolk County League III loss to North Babylon on Saturday, Riverhead Coach John Rossetti was asked what he thought of the game. Rossetti took a long time before answering: “That’s all I can say right now. I guess dead silence.”

One certainly couldn’t blame Rossetti for being speechless. The Blue Waves, who have hopes of reaching the playoffs, endured a rough 24 hours, dropping an excruciating 41-36 home defeat to Newfield on Friday.

Following Saturday’s game, Riverhead dropped to 5-8, 4-5 in the league.

“We have to win three out of our next five,” Rossetti said. “Is it doable? Yes. But it is now an uphill battle. We’re digging ourselves a hole that we shouldn’t be in right now.”

The effort was there, but the execution wasn’t.

Rossetti wasn’t silent when he spoke to his team in the locker room afterwards.

Elwood Lamb III, who led Riverhead with 17 points, said Rossetti told the team “that we shouldn’t hang our heads. We’ve still got five games left in the season and that anything could happen. So just keep our heads up and work hard and try to win the next game.”

The next game is against Copiague at home on Thursday.

The Blue Waves’ shooting went cold at the worst times and they handled the ball like a hot potato. They committed 32 turnovers. North Babylon, which improved to 6-6, 3-5, made 26 turnovers, but the hosts didn’t hurt themselves as much.

“We had a lot of turnovers, a lot of missed layups,” Lamb said. “They had a lot of turnovers too, but they capitalized on our turnovers.”

The Blue Waves stumbled to a 19-7 first-quarter deficit, committing nine turnovers. North Babylon senior guard Preshod McCoy set the tone, scoring a layup off a steal for the game’s first two points. Before you knew it, the Bulldogs enjoyed a 12-2 advantage.

A striking transformation occurred in the second quarter. The Blue Waves looked confident, cut down on the turnovers and hit their shots. They outscored the Bulldogs, 23-8, buoyed by an amazing 17-3 run to close out the half.

“We had the intensity,” Lamb said.

GEORGE FAELLA PHOTO | Ryan Bitzer of Riverhead launched a jump shot.

Lamb scored 13 points in the period, including three three-point shots from the left corner within 82 seconds.

“I was just feeling it,” he said. “I was taking what the defense was giving me. I had to take advantage. My teammates helped me get open shots. We were able to capitalize and have a good second quarter.”

The Blue Waves went back to their early ways in the second half, throwing the ball away three times in the opening 40 seconds. North Babylon did not convert any of those turnovers into points, but they were missed opportunities.

“It sets the tone for the half,” Rossetti said. “We came out a little bit on the heels. They did a nice job of getting some transition buckets, which created opportunities for them to make it a helter-skelter type game.

“I thought we made a great run in the second quarter, got momentum. We had a lot of turnovers to begin with. Those crucial three, four minutes to start the second half, we have been lacking.”

Riverhead still was very much alive after Reggie Moore’s steal and layup sliced the lead to 48-47 with 4:56 left in the third quarter. But a cold shooting spell, combined with more turnovers, allowed the Bulldogs to go on an 11-0 spurt. Guard Devonte Green (game-high 27 points) scored nine points for the hosts in the quarter.

“We can’t just come out in the third quarter lackadaisical,” Lamb said. “That’s how we got behind. We’ve got to keep that same intensity we had in the first half.”

Trailing by double digits, the Blue Waves threw up many three-pointers to try to scrape their way back into the game. By the time Lamb hit their only three-pointer, North Babylon had secured a 59-50 lead with 59.4 seconds remaining.

“It’s a pattern that we’ve shown that we got dry for a long amount of time,” Rossetti said. “We just happen to miss shots at the bad time.”

01/29/11 7:20pm

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Naysha Trent of Riverhead, shown being defended by North Babylon's Casey Filippone, brought her side 10 points.

It’s going to take a lot to beat the North Babylon High School girls basketball team this season. Some might be tempted to say it will take a complete performance for four quarters, but then again, the Bulldogs were extended beyond that by the Riverhead Blue Waves on Saturday, and yet that still wasn’t enough.

North Babylon survived a furious challenge by Riverhead to maintain its unbeaten record and give a major boost to its bid for an eighth straight league championship. With six players (three from each side) fouling out, North Babylon prevailed in a double-overtime thriller, 78-68, at Riverhead High School, bumping up its record to 12-0, 9-0 in Suffolk County League III. The Bulldogs made 7 of 8 free throws in the second overtime period, when they outscored Riverhead, 13-3, with six of those points coming from Charise Wilson. Wilson, a freshman guard, finished with a game-high 27 points.

Earlier in the game, both teams came within seconds of winning. A last-second layup by Brianna Jones tied the score at 55-55 for North Babylon as the fourth quarter ended, forcing overtime. Then, after Riverhead fell behind by as many as six points in the first overtime, it forced a second additional four-minute period thanks to a clutch three-point shot by Jalyn Brown that made it 65-65 with eight seconds left in the period. Before the first overtime ended, Wilson chucked a desperate attempt that ricochetted off the top of the backboard.

“Wow, incredible, unbelievable,” were the words North Babylon Coach Debbie Brajevich used to describe what transpired.

“It was the most exciting game of my life, I got to say,” Brown said after the 40-minute game was over. “I have to give it to North Bab. They pulled it out in the end.”

North Babylon got superb production from young players like Wilson and another freshman, Tamara Simpson, who collected 12 points, 13 rebounds, seven steals, six assists and one block. Mary Chisholm and Casey Fillippone added 11 points apiece. Chisholm, a force under the boards, was also good for 14 rebounds, five blocks, two assists and one steal.

Riverhead, which saw a five-game winning streak come to an end, dropped to 9-4, 7-2. The Blue Waves were led by Brown’s 24 points. Kayla Nazario registered 20 points, 11 rebounds, five steals, one assist and a block. Shaniece Allen chipped in 11 points and Naysha Trent had 10.

The game developed into a battle of attrition as players started fouling out late in the fourth quarter. North Babylon lost the services of Chisholm, Brittany Hicks and Jones; Riverhead said goodbye to Trent, Nazario and Allen after they all picked up their fifth personal foul.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Jalyn Brown's 24 points led Riverhead in a double-overtime loss to undefeated North Babylon.

Riverhead came out firing, scoring the game’s first 12 points. North Babylon didn’t get on the scoreboard until Sydney Zambrotta hit a 10-footer 5:34 into the game.

But North Babylon whittled away at Riverhead’s lead and went in front for the first time when a putback by Chisholm made it 43-42 with 5:23 to go in the fourth quarter. Second chances helped North Babylon, which had a 27-12 advantage in offensive rebounds. It didn’t hurt North Babylon’s cause, either, that Riverhead shot 1 of 6 from the foul line and 1 of 9 from the field in the second overtime.

“Double overtime is always incredible, and with eighth- and ninth-graders leading the way, it’s amazing,” Brajevich said. “They’re not supposed to win games like that, but they do. These guys are unique.”

Wilson said: “Anybody could have won that game. It was a great experience.”

It was not necessarily a great experience for the Blue Waves, though.

“This is probably the most disappointing loss of my career,” said Riverhead Coach Dave Spinella.

Spinella then referred to the five-point loss in North Babylon on Jan. 4 that slipped through his team’s grasp and the impact this latest loss has on the league title race. “After you’ve played so well and you’ve played so hard, it’s disappointing, it’s gut-wrenching,” he said. “We could have been split and had a chance for the league title and we don’t have that chance now. North Babylon is not going to lose again.”

The Blue Waves can tell you, it will take a supreme effort to beat North Babylon.

“You got to almost be perfect,” Spinella said. “Tonight we were just short.”

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