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09/22/16 6:29pm
09/22/2016 6:29 PM

Riverhead volleyball player Melanie Vail 092216

The Riverhead High School girls volleyball team sees itself as a team of the future, with better days ahead. On Thursday the Blue Waves faced a team of the present, with quite an impressive past.

Smithtown East is seeking its 10th straight league championship, according to coach George Alamia, and judging by the way the Bulls played, it would not be wise to bet against them. They walked into the Riverhead gym, bringing along a large stuffed unicorn (wearing a red Smithtown East shirt) and plenty of talent.

08/05/14 12:19am
08/05/2014 12:19 AM
Riverhead junior Sam Dunn, pictured in a game against Central Islip. (Credit: Bill Landon)

Riverhead junior Sam Dunn, pictured in a game against Central Islip, recently won a gold medal playing on a Suffolk County team in a tournament. (Credit: Bill Landon)

The members of the Riverhead girls basketball team are a good group, as their record indicates. They all bring their own individual talents and abilities to the table.

What does Sam Dunn offer?

Well, one doesn’t need to watch Dunn play for long to understand that she’s all about hustle and determination, admirable qualities, to be sure. (more…)

01/28/14 11:18pm
01/28/2014 11:18 PM


The Riverhead Blue Waves have come light years from their stumbling start to the high school boys basketball season, but even their improved play could not overcome the sting of knowing they were going to miss the playoffs for the first time in several years. (more…)

01/06/14 10:30pm
01/06/2014 10:30 PM


Senior forward Ryan Ingarozza scored 14 of his game-high 24 points in the third quarter to lift Smithtown East to a 74-54 win over host Riverhead in a Suffolk County League III boys basketball game on Monday night.

Ingarozza, who finished with 7 rebounds, helped the visitors outscore the Blue Waves, 30-10, in that period to turn a 30-19 halftime lead into a 60-29 advantage. Smithtown East improved to 6-3 over all and 4-0 in the league. The Blue Waves (1-7, 0-4) dropped their seventh consecutive game after defeating Bayport-Blue Point, 72-66, in their season opener on Dec. 9.

Senior guard Dylan Marquez connected on three treys in the third quarter and finished with 9 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists.

Sophomore Charles Manning led Riverhead with 17 points.

05/16/13 7:41pm
05/16/2013 7:41 PM
ROBERT O'ROURK PHOTO | Riverhead's airborne Keith Jefferson firing a point-blank shot that is saved by Smithtown East's Brian Balkam.

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Riverhead’s airborne Keith Jefferson firing a point-blank shot that is saved by Smithtown East’s Brian Balkam.


The Riverhead boys lacrosse team waited 11 years for this day, so when it finally arrived, the Blue Waves made sure that they were ready. But then again, so was Smithtown East.

On an historic day for Riverhead’s program, the Blue Waves turned in an effort worthy of the occasion, but the final result was predictable, nonetheless. The historical record will show that the first playoff game in Riverhead’s 11-year varsity history was a 12-5 defeat, but it was to a talented Smithtown East team, and there’s no shame in that.

Junior attackman Joe Saggese struck for three goals and five assists to lead fourth-seeded Smithtown East to the first-round win in the Suffolk County Class A Tournament on Thursday. Brian Willetts contributed three goals and one assist for Smithtown East (13-3), which will play No. 5 West Islip or No. 12 Lindenhurst in a county quarterfinal at home on Tuesday. Dan Rooney added two goals. Brian Balkam made 13 saves in goal for the Bulls.

And while the 13th-seeded Blue Waves (10-7) surely would have preferred another outcome, they could take pride in knowing that they were the first players in team history to reach the playoffs.

“Being the first team ever in Riverhead lacrosse history to be in the playoffs, just the atmosphere, it’s completely different,” said Riverhead senior attackman Ryan Bitzer, whose next game will be for Stony Brook University. “It brings it up to another level, just the intensity. I’m real proud of our team. We battled, we fought. We never gave up.”

Indeed, Riverhead did a lot of good things and did not play badly, but speed and stick skill was on Smithtown East’s side. The field turf at Nicholas Schroeder Field in St. James is built for the Bulls. It’s a fast field, and Smithtown East is a fast team. The Bulls have the ability to cleanly scoop up ground balls on the first attempt, and then they are off and running.

“It was one of our weaknesses last year, picking up ground balls,” Smithtown East coach Jason Lambert said. “I think we’ve really improved on that. Our transition game is really good. When we get going, going from defense to offense, and start picking up ground balls, we can be effective.”

ROBERT O'ROURK PHOTO | Ryan Hubbard scored on this shot for Riverhead 1 minute 47 seconds into the fourth quarter, cutting Smithtown East's lead to 9-4.

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Ryan Hubbard scored on this shot for Riverhead 1 minute 47 seconds into the fourth quarter, cutting Smithtown East’s lead to 9-4.

Riverhead is the only Class A playoff team that doesn’t play its home games on field turf, according to Riverhead coach Vic Guadagnino. “It’s tough,” he said. “I’m not complaining. … It’s a faster game on this stuff, and you can see that they’re on it all the time.”

Riverhead’s first playoff game started at precisely 4:32 p.m. with the first of 14 face-offs won by Smithtown East (as compared to seven for Riverhead). The Bulls worked the ball around in Riverhead’s end for about two minutes. Then, on Riverhead’s first possession, it scored when Dan Czelatka put in the first of his two goals 2 minutes 25 seconds into the game.

It was an encouraging start for the Blue Waves.

Perhaps Smithtown East was dealing with some playoff butterflies in the early going. A pair of goals by Saggese gave the Bulls a 2-1 lead by the end of the first quarter. Those strikes proved to be the first of nine straight goals by Smithtown East.

Even so, Riverhead didn’t fold, responding with a three-goal surge by Czelatka, Bitzer and Ryan Hubbard to cut Smithtown East’s lead to 9-4 at 1:47 of the fourth quarter.

But Rooney’s two goals and a goal by Willetts (game-high 10 shots) closed out the scoring along with Roger Foster’s goal for Riverhead.

Smithtown East’s offense can be lethal, as it showed with a 43-29 shots advantage and the pressure it put on the Riverhead defense. The Bulls scored on four of seven man-up situations. Riverhead goalie Alex Panagakos was kept busy with 12 saves.

Panagakos, one of Riverhead’s nine seniors, said the team came out flat in its two previous games. That wasn’t the case on Thursday, though.

“This is a playoff game,” he said. “Our coaches prepared us for it, and they’re right, it’s a whole another level.”

Smithtown’s only county title came in 2003 when it was one school. Since then, it split into Smithtown East and Smithtown West, and neither has won a county crown. West Islip has won the last nine Suffolk Class A titles.

Lambert compares this year’s team to the 2007 Smithtown East squad that reached the county semifinals. “This is one of our better East teams we’ve had here,” he said. “This is definitely the best team I’ve had offensively.”

Considering who they were facing, the Blue Waves did not do badly.

“I thought that even though we lost, we stepped up big,” said Riverhead senior midfielder Paul Harron, who will play for Dowling College next year. “Oh, they were good. I give them respect. They look like they’re going to go far this year.”

Bitzer said that even after Riverhead fell behind, “We still played hard. We never quit. We played all the way until the end.”

Guadagnino said he remembers every game he has coached, so he undoubtedly will not forget this one, Riverhead’s first playoff game “and not the last.”

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02/10/11 8:22pm
02/10/2011 8:22 PM

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Ben Edmund, Riverhead's top scorer with 14 points, attacked the basket while Smithtown East arms tried to stop him.

Prior to the Riverhead Blue Waves’ final home game of the regular season, the boys basketball team’s eight seniors were escorted onto the court by family and friends. The players received applause, flowers and a big thank you from fans for their years of service to the program.

Then those seniors showed their appreciation for the recognition by helping the Blue Waves to a result all the Riverheaders could be thankful for — a coveted place in the playoffs.

After a one-year hiatus, the Blue Waves are returning to the postseason. They secured a playoff berth for the third time in four years on Thursday night when they won, 57-41, over the Smithtown East Bulls.

“This is big,” Riverhead senior guard Elwood Lamb III said. “We’re going out with a win, and this is going to be a great memory when we look back 10, 20 years from now. We had to play our hearts out, and that’s what we did tonight in order to come out victorious.”

From Ryan Bitzer’s three-point shot in the opening seconds, Riverhead looked sharp and turned in a complete performance as it brought its record to 8-9, 7-6 in Suffolk County League III. Nine Blue Waves made the scoresheet in the team’s third straight win. One of the seniors, Ben Edmund, led the way with 14 points. Bitzer, a sophomore, had 12 points, and another senior, Alex Sakhno, put in eight. Yet another senior, Rodney Rollins, had eight assists to go with five points.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Tim Clement of Riverhead hit the boards during Thursday night's game against Smithtown East.

“I’m sure you felt it yourself,” Riverhead Coach John Rossetti said. “There was a buzz in the air tonight. It wasn’t only from the kids. It was the fans. There was a whole different vibe in the gym tonight, and I think the fans are starting to believe in the product that’s on the floor.”

Riverhead trailed only briefly in the first quarter before pulling away. Back-to-back three-pointers by Edmund, as well as treys dropped by Bitzer and Trevon Ward, highlighted a 16-0 run that closed out the third quarter, with Riverhead leading, 49-26. The game was essentially over.

“I think we played perfect,” said Edmund.

Edmund called it the most signficant regular-season game he ever played for Riverhead. “It’s everything you worked for, countless hours,” he said. “Nobody would know, except if you were there, how hard you worked. It feels amazing.”

Smithtown East could relate. After all, a win over the North Babylon Bulldogs two nights earlier had given the Bulls their fourth playoff berth in six years.

“It’s one of the primary goals besides going for a league championship, everybody’s dream,” said Smithtown East Coach Lou Gambeski, whose team saw its record drop to 8-9, 7-6. “Obviously, the secondary goal is to make the playoffs. It establishes you as an upper-echelon [team], within your league at least.”

But Smithtown East faced a determined foe in Riverhead, which must not have relished the thought of a loss. That would have put the Blue Waves in a difficult must-win situation in its final regular-season game on Tuesday night in East Islip.

If the Blue Waves felt pressure, it didn’t show. They turned the ball over 14 times, eight less than Smithtown East, and did not allow the Bulls’ 6-foot-7 center, John Feiler, to take the game over. Feiler was undoubtedly a force under the boards, however, plucking down 15 rebounds to go with 11 points and four blocks — all team-leading figures. Dan Thixton added eight points.

But it wasn’t enough. It was Riverhead’s night.

“They just outplayed us, outworked us,” said Feiler.

Riverhead has had its rough patches this season, but Rossetti said the Blue Waves have played like a playoff team over the second half of the season.

“I would say we looked pretty impressive tonight,” Rossetti said. “We had multiple guys getting scores. We made the extra pass, and we knocked down shots. It wasn’t one guy or two guys. We had a bunch of guys knocking down open shots, and that’s the sign of an unselfish team. It’s the sign of a team that’s looking for each other.”

It’s also the sign of a playoff team.

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