Emily Astarita, Kelli Rizzo help Ward Melville win five-set thriller, 'AA' title

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Ward Melville's Kelli Rizzo and Emily Astarita weren't going to allow Lindenhurst to extend yesterday's Suffolk Class AA girls volleyball championship match another point.

Needing one more point to seal the title, Carly Lombardo absorbed the Lindenhurst serve and passed the ball to Rizzo, who placed a perfect ball to Astarita for the winning kill that split two Lindenhurst blockers. That final point capped a thrilling match as top-seeded Ward Melville rallied past No. 2 Lindenhurst, 25-16, 23-25, 23-25, 25-14, 25-23.

The Patriots earned their seventh Suffolk title and will play Massapequa for the Long Island championship Monday night at 6:30 at Roslyn.

"We passed a good ball to [Rizzo] and I kind of knew it was over when I saw [Astarita] approach it. She ran at that ball like she wanted that thing and she buried it," Ward Melville coach Charlie Fernandes said. "That was probably her hardest shot of the match."

Astarita finished with 38 kills and 20 digs, Rizzo had 55 assists and Lombardo had 18 digs and four aces.

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Ward Melville (15-0) cruised in the first and fourth sets but had trouble in the second and third. Fernandes said the Patriots got down on themselves but rallied as Jackie DeRoza, Lombardo and Astarita stepped up their defense.

"I thought when they won that second tight game , my kids could have checked out, but they showed the proper resolve and proper heart," Fernandes said. "When they started to make that extra dig we were kind of able to get our offense up and going."

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