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Connetquot

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Ward Melville's Victoria Tilley and Alex Stein grab a block at the net in the Patriots' 3-0 loss to Connetquot in the Suffolk County Class AA finals on Nov. 12. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

It was a battle of the undefeated teams, but Ward Melville fell short. The Patriots girls’ volleyball team was able to power past Smithtown East but had trouble doing it again, and fell to No. 1-ranked Connetquot, 27-25, 25-18, and 25-20, Thursday in the Suffolk County Class AA finals.

Ward Melville senior Alex Stein scores a kill shot in the Patriots' 3-0 loss to Connetquot in the Suffolk County Class AA finals on Nov. 12. Photo by Bill Landon
Ward Melville senior Alex Stein scores a kill shot in the Patriots’ 3-0 loss to Connetquot in the Suffolk County Class AA finals on Nov. 12. Photo by Bill Landon

The Thunderbirds broke out to an early 10-4 lead, but the Patriots made it a one-point game later in the set to trail 19-18, forcing a Connetquot time out. Ward Melville scored next to tie the game at 19-19, but Connetquot rattled off five more points to surge ahead 24-21.

It was advantage Ward Melville when the Patriots scored the next four points to take a 25-24 lead, but the Thunderbirds were the No.1 seed for a reason, and dug out two more points to retake the lead, 26-25, and aced the final point to put the set away, 27-25.

“I felt like we got robbed in game one — I thought we had it but got a bad call there,” Ward Melville head coach Charles Fernandes said. “But I’ve got to be honest, I don’t think we played like we normally play. We didn’t pass very well and when we don’t pass well we don’t get into our offensive system.”

In a repeat of the first set, Connetquot broke out to a 10-4 lead and edged ahead 12-5 in the second set, before the team jumped out to a 20-8 lead. Ward Melville battled back to trail 22-14, and both teams traded points as Connetquot took the set to the brink, leading 24-14 before Ward Melville rattled off four unanswered points to trail 24-18. The Thunderbirds scored next though, to claim another set, 25-18.

Ward Melville junior Cierra Low sets the ball in the team's 3-0 loss to Connetquot in the Suffolk County Class AA finals on Nov. 12. Photo by Bill Landon
Ward Melville junior Cierra Low sets the ball in the team’s 3-0 loss to Connetquot in the Suffolk County Class AA finals on Nov. 12. Photo by Bill Landon

Fernandes spoke to his team following the second-set loss about what it took to battle back, being down two games to none.

“This has happened before — teams pull this out,” he told his team. “You’ve got to get the first one and that’s the hard one.”

With their backs against the wall, the Patriots broke out to an 8-2 advantage in the third set as the team tried to avoid elimination, but after a Connetquot time out, Ward Melville struggled to maintain the margin, and the Thunderbirds bounced back to tie the game 10-10.

Connetquot scored next to take its first lead, but the set was retied at 16-16 courtesy of a kill shot by Ward Melville senior outside hitter Alex Stein. The Thunderbirds edged ahead 20-17, then 22-19 and again brought the match to the brink leading 24-20.

Stein said that her team’s performance was not up to par with the level her team usually plays at.

“I don’t know if we were nervous, anxious or just all over the place mentally, but we did not click as a team,” she said. “Our defense was all over the place and it’s just not how we play.”

The Thunderbirds scored next to sweep the Patriots and advance to the Long Island Championship round against Massapequa, where the team beat the Nassau County champs for the Long Island championship title.

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By Bill Landon

In the deciding game of the Suffolk County Class AA baseball championship, Ward Melville hit the road to take on Connetquot and was never able to mount a scoring threat, as the Thunderbirds ended the Patriots’ season with a 6-0 blanking, Thursday.

No. 2-seeded Ward Melville had forced a game three with a 4-3 win over No. 1 Connetquot on Wednesday, and senior third baseman Joseph Flynn continued to make a statement with his bat when he led off the first inning with a stand-up double. The Patriot bats were unable to bring him home, though, and with one out and two runners in scoring position in the bottom of the inning, Connetquot went to work, using a line drive to shallow right field to score both players for the first runs on the board.

Ward Melville threatened again in the top of the third when senior Daniel DeCastro laid down a bunt to advance the runner, junior Frank Merlino, over to second base. With one out, Ward Melville hit a high fly ball to right field and Merlino took off for home plate. The only problem was that Connetquot caught the ball just short of the fence and threw to second base for the double play to retire the side.

In the bottom of the third with runners in scoring position, Connetquot struck again on a Patriots miscue to edge ahead 3-0 on a passed ball to the plate. After a conference at the mound, Ward Melville’s senior Joseph Barbieri took over pitching duties for sophomore Ben Brown.

The damage wasn’t done though, as Connetquot plated two more runners to end the third inning with a five-run advantage.

Ward Melville struggled to challenge its opponent the rest of the way, and Connetquot scored once more in the bottom of the fifth inning on a long drive just inside the third baseline, for the 6-0 lead and the win.

Ward Melville head coach Lou Petrucci was proud of his team’s successful season.

“We’ve had a lot of great memories,” he said. “We had three walk-off wins during the playoffs and we finished the season 22-4. It was a great accomplishment by our seniors, as well as the freshman we brought up, so it’s just a great group of kids. But it’s the friendships this team has cherished the most, and that’s what high school baseball is all about.”

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