SPORTS

Undefeated seasons for middle-school athletes

Two coaches lead the lacrosse and tennis teams to spectacular spring seasons

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The spring season for James Wilson Young Middle School, serving Bayport-Blue Point, was filled with triumph, and Suffolk County News sat down with two coaches of undefeated teams.

Cassandra Stucklen (a BBP High School alum) led the girls lacrosse team to a perfect season.

Playing every season in both middle school and high school, Stucklen said, “Growing up, I have always had a strong passion for sports. I have always loved being a part of a team atmosphere and building new relationships with my teammates.”

Graduating from BBP High School in 2014, Stucklen went on to play in Division II women’s lacrosse at Lindenwood University, where the team competed in three consecutive final fours.

Earning her bachelor’s degree in exercise science, she decided to become National Academy of Sports Medicine-certified personal trainer.

“This is where I began my Orangetheory Fitness career. While coaching Orangetheory, I found my true passion for teaching/coaching others and decided to go back to school and pursue my master’s in physical education at Adelphi University,” said Stucklen.

Throughout her education and sports career, Stucklen cites multiple teachers and coaches who “truly shaped who I am today, which is what led me to pursue my master’s in physical education and my coaching career.”

She returned to her roots and began coaching at BBP High School this fall, when she began her permanent substitute position and now has coached three seasons, including JV volleyball, MS volleyball, and MS women’s lacrosse.

“I have learned so much in the past few months and am truly excited for the years to come!” said Stucklen of her experience.

Doug Iadanza, the head coach for middle school tennis, had a blazingly successful season with the boys team.

Growing up, Iadanza was a multi-sport athlete who played football, baseball, and wrestled.

After high school, Iadanza went to SUNY Cortland, where he wrestled at the collegiate level until an injury cut his career short.

Following the injury, Iadanza picked up a tennis racket and “fell in love with the sport.”

For the past five years, Iadanza has coached varsity wrestling, and for the past three years coached tennis with 2021-2022 being his first time at the middle-school level.

“I love that I am now involved with some of the teams at this level. This was the start of JWY’s first middle-school tennis program, which made this accomplishment that much more rewarding,” said Iadanza.

Suffolk County News sat down with the two stellar coaches and asked about the inner-workings and behind-the-scenes moments of their undefeated seasons:

SCN: If you could single out a motto for your coaching style, what would it be and why?

Stucklen: E+R=O:

Event + Response = Outcome

E+R=O represents that every outcome one experiences in life, whether it is success or failure, is the result of how one has responded to an earlier event.

This is a motto I learned from my college coaches and will continue to pass on to my student athletes. It is great to use in sports and in day-to-day living.

Iadanza:

My coaching philosophy is to create a family-like atmosphere where each athlete is accountable for themselves as well as their teammates. I told my team on Day One, “You do not have to be the best player, but you have to try your best.” If they try their best and respect their teammates and opponents, then I will be proud. Winning did not matter to me; what mattered to me was that each young man was becoming the best version of themselves and had fun doing it through sport.

SCN: What were your team’s greatest strengths and weaknesses at the start of the season? How did these advantages/paucities transform as the season continued?

Stucklen:

With lacrosse becoming such a well-known and played sport over the years, I would consider myself lucky to be able to coach a middle-school team with such amazing knowledge and skill coming into the season.

Many coaches have influenced the team’s success this season, so I would have to say one of the greatest strengths coming in is that many of my athletes have been playing for a couple years now.

One weakness would be the different skill level of each student-athlete. Some of my girls have played for five-plus years, while others just picked up a stick this spring. It was challenging to make sure that each player was being pushed to their best efforts, while ensuring growth and success individually.

Iadanza:

As a first-year program, most of the team had never picked up a racket before. Many players did not understand the basic rules and strategies of tennis. Our strength was our work ethic on and off the court. The team really bought into the program and listened to the coaching staff. Whether it was conditioning with assistant coach Garrett Murphy, or technique drills with myself, the athletes tried their best and listened to instruction without hesitation. That is what I believe made us such a successful team. 

SCN: What school district/team was your biggest competition? How did you strategize and practice to overcome their strengths over your team’s?

Stucklen:

I would say that our biggest competition this year was Sayville and East Islip. Both of these teams gave us a run for our money and challenged us to play our personal best. I would say that these two teams truly helped us find our weaknesses, such as rides on offense and our clearing percentage; which we were able to focus on later on in practice; but overall, we were able to work as a team to ensure the victories. 

Iadanza:

Our toughest competition this season was East Islip Middle School. We ended up winning the match 5-2, but had two of the matches go into the final tie break. It could’ve been anyone’s game. They were very consistent with their strokes and knew how to rally well. Our strategy going in was an attack-first mindset by making them move around the court. We did not want to wait for them to make mistakes in a long rally because they were that good. To prepare, we preached all week making the other team move by hitting to the corners of the court, not the center. This strategy ended up working in our favor and the team pulled off the win. 

SCN: Please describe the most victorious, nail-biting and/or dramatic play or moment of the season.

Stucklen:

I would say the most victorious moment for me as a coach was watching the team support one another. We had many “firsts” this season. Some girls had their first assist, scored their first goal, or saved their first goal. This was all with the help, support, and trust from their teammates. I would say that nothing gets better than watching the team support and encourage one another.

Iadanza:

One of the most dramatic moments we had this season was during our match with Ronkonkoma Middle School. Our one singles player, Luke, was undefeated, taking on another undefeated athlete who had much more training and tennis experience than him. They went back and forth all match and it ended up coming down to the tie-breaking set. Luke ended up winning the tiebreaker 7-5 and giving the Ronkonkoma athlete his first loss of the year. It was Luke’s most challenging match and he battled through adversity to prevail. At the time, he was the fourth court to win, so his efforts clinched the match for our team.

Both Stucklen and Iadanza cite the community, family and friends of players as being incredibly supportive and integral to the teams’ winning seasons.

“The BBP community has been super supportive of our team. We had a roster size of 29, which is unheard of in the sport at this level. I want to thank the parents for their endless support throughout the season,” said Iadanza.

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