If nothing else, both Lindenhurst and Ward Melville played a consistent game Thursday night in the Suffolk Class A girls volleyball championship. Only, Lindenhurst played consistently well – and Ward Melville let consistent mistakes get in the way – as No. 1 Lindenhurst swept No. 2 Ward Melville, 3-0, at St. Joseph's College in Patchogue.
"We just never got into it," Ward Melville coach Charlie Fernandes said. "I think we had a classic case of the yips. Nerves. It shocked me. We were making mistakes that we never made."
Lindenhurst (17-1) jumped out to a 6-3 lead in the first set on a trio of Patriot errors on blocking and hitting attempts. Ward Melville (17-2) had trouble passing the ball and quickly fell into a 20-6 hole, eventually dropping the set 25-11.
Ward Melville grabbed a small advantage as sophomore hitter Emily Astarita landed one of her five total kills for a 9-7 lead in the second set, but the Patriots' next two kill attempts fell into the net. Astarita nailed two kills and junior Meagan Murtagh added another as Ward Melville got as close as 23-19, but Lindenhurst's Emily Clemens spiked for game point, and officials called a lift on the Patriots to end the set at 25-19.
Fernandes couldn't even point to a turning point in the match.
"They pretty much dominated us," he said. "We never got our game going."
Ward Melville had its best chance to take a set from Lindy in the third game, when sophomore Kristin Bendy (8 kills) tied the score at 24 with a decisive hit. Lindenhurst's Rachel Ramirez put one down for a 26-25 lead, and the Patriots' last offensive shot was wide to seal the 27-25 loss.
"[Ward Melville] was bigger and stronger, but we did a great job with ball control," said Lindenhurst coach Kellie Block.
Senior libero Alexa Stonish had 12 kills in the loss for the Patriots.
Lindenhurst advances to the Long Island large schools' championship against Nassau champion Massapequa on Saturday. The Bulldogs enter that match with only one loss – to Smithtown East, a team that Ward Melville had beaten on Oct. 15. Ward Melville headed into Thursday's championship with only one loss, too – to Lindenhurst.
It's safe to say that Fernandes already has this match circled on next year's schedule. The team's core of 10 players included just three seniors, and he is confident the younger players grew remarkably this season.
"This program doesn't graduate," he said. "We reload."