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Haley Holmes

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Haley Holmes is used to lending a helping hand.

But what was maybe unexpected was six service aces that went along with her 31 assists in Kings Park’s girls volleyball team’s 3-0 sweep of South Side Nov. 11, 25-15, 25-13, 25-16, for the Kingsmen’s seventh straight Long Island championship crown.

Haley Holmes recorded 71 combined assists in the Suffolk County and Long Island title games. Photo by Bill Landon

Head coach Ed Manly said her floating serve has some spin-drop action to it, making it more difficult for defenders to return. She showed that during a 6-0 run in the second set, which she recorded two aces during.

Holmes received many of senior libero Meagan Murphy’s passes throughout the game to set up Erika Benson (10 kills), Lexi Petraitis (eight kills), Kara Haase (three kills) and Samantha Schultz (three kills).

“Hitters like Lexi, Sam, Kara and Erika — I can count on them to put my ball away,” Holmes said.

The aggressive attack action is what Manly said he prefers seeing from his athletes.

“When we’re aggressive on offense is when we play some of our best volleyball,” he said. “But sometimes through the course of a match, there are ebbs and flows.”

Having multiple weapons on offense and defense is what is leading Kings Park to another state tournament appearance.

In the No. 1 Kingsmen’s 25-13, 25-23, 25-15 shutout of Westhampton Beach Nov. 9, the team relied more on its defense to take the title.

“Our defense and our blocking is what won the game for us today,” said Haase after the Suffolk game, who’d finished with seven kills. “We had so many touches on the ball; [Westhampton] didn’t have one outside hit that we didn’t have a touch. It was just a great overall performance.”

Alexa Petraitis slams down one of her 18 kills on the week. Photo by Bill Landon

Holmes, who recorded 40 assists, was also quick to point to the team’s defense across the postseason.

“We always have great defense in the back row,” Holmes said. “We have Megan Sticco and a bunch of people I can always count on to get the ball to me. We’ve also been working on a huge block with Erika, and that’s helped us a lot in the past few games.”

While the offense was there too — Murphy finished with 33 digs; Benson notched 12 kills and three blocks; Schultz added eight kills; and Haase had seven — the serving was sloppy for Kings Park in the second set of the county win, according to Manly.

“In that second set Westhampton picked up its defense and we got into some trouble were we didn’t serve particularly well in certain points,” he said. “We had a hard time putting balls away [because] they’re a solid defensive team. We didn’t hit a very high percentage and that’s a tribute to their defense.”

Schultz said she isn’t concerned about what other teams are doing though.

“I knew that if we played the way we’re supposed to play we would definitely get the job done,” she said. “I wasn’t concerned about what they were doing, but what we can control and how we can play. And if we did that we’d get it done.”

Meagan Murphy returns the ball. Photo by Bill Landon

Kings Park is confident it can continue to use every weapon in its arsenal while chasing the elusive state title. On top of extending their county and Long Island volleyball reign, the Kingsmen have now racked up 20 wins in a perfect season. Kings Park has also been dominant in sweeping all but one team, Half Hollow Hills West in a 3-1 win Oct. 11.

The team will be tested this weekend, as Kings Park enters the state tournament facing undefeated Walter Panas in the first round at Glens Falls Civic Center Nov. 18.

“We’re really excited to go up there, and we know we can actually do it,” Murphy said. “We’ve been looking at Panas, and we really think we can beat them and all the rest of the teams up there.”

While Holmes will be assisting in any way she can, she said her Kingsmen have all the pieces in place for the checkmate this time around.

“It’s our heart,” Holmes said has led her team to seven county and Long Island wins, and what could lead Kings Park to its first state title. “If we just play to our potential — with our dedication — if we bring our ‘A’ game, we’re tough to beat.”

Bill Landon contributed reporting

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Meagan Murphy digs out a serve receive. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Erika Benson slams the ball over the net. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Megan Murphy dug deep to pull out a win — quite literally Monday.

The senior libero threw herself all over the court to record 31 digs in a 3-0 sweep of Hauppauge Oct. 23, 25-14, 25-17, 25-10, to cap off Kings Park girls volleyball’s second straight undefeated League V season.

“Megan Murphy in the back row was strong on defense,” Kings Park head coach Ed Manly said. “Very rarely are you going to catch her off guard or get her to shank a ball during the course of play.”

With Hauppauge as close as 12-10 midway through the first set, three straight Kings Park points — a Hauppauge out-of-bounds hit, an Alexa Petraitis (eight kills) spike and a Kara Haas dump over — forced the Eagles to call timeout. The scoring streak was only briefly interrupted after the break, and Kings Park slammed home four more to make it 19-11. Murphy closed out serving on the last four of five Kings Park points, until an out of bounds serve made it 24-14 and a Hauppauge service error closed out the set.

“I don’t say this selfishly — we’ve been doing this for so long and I’m so honored to play with this team,” said Petraitis, a senior outside hitter. “Everything I do is because of my team, because of how much support I have. Hauppauge was great at getting the ball up, and we did great staying mentally focused, ready for it to come back over the net.”

Kara Haas serves the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Hauppauge was strong serving, and returning it. In the second set, the Eagles were cruising right alongside Kings Park, forcing five ties. A Petraitis kill put the Kingsmen up 6-5, but Hauppauge bounced right back to tie the score at 8-8 and again at 10-10.

“Hauppauge is always extremely scrappy and they make it hard to put balls away,” Manly said. “Every time we tried to tip or do something unconventional they picked it up, but we stayed consistent swinging at the ball and keeping the offense strong.”

Manly said his team worked on defensive drills, like service receives, to prepare for Hauppauge, but he still thinks his team has work to do heading into the postseason.

“That’s my biggest issue with my team — we’re pretty powerful offensively, but we rest on our laurels and let down a little bit on the defensive side,” he said. “But we weathered the storm.”

Senior Erika Benson (12 kills) took the game over, as the middle hitter spiked the ball for a big kill and a 12-10 advantage that gave Kings Park the push it needed.

Haley Holmes sets up a play. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“I thought when times were getting rough — we were in a little bit of a slump — we worked hard to get out of it quickly to move on to the next play,” Benson said. “Coach tells us to get ready for the next point. We’re never thinking ahead, we’re just thinking of what we can do to get that point.”

Right up the middle the team began clicking, with Murphy returning the serve, Haley Holmes (39 assists) setting up the play and Benson driving shots to the ground.

“Haley Holmes did a nice job setting,” Manly said. “She sets a really consistent ball, she didn’t get called for any doubles, lifts or carries, and she spreads the ball on offense really, really well. Erika Benson overpowers people in the middle, and up the middle with our libero, setter and middle is where our bread is buttered and that pretty much carried us tonight.”

Kings Park is the No. 1 seed heading into the playoffs, which begin Oct. 30. The Kingsmen won’t play again until November thanks to a first-round bye.

Meagan Murphy celebrates Kings Park’s undefeated League V season. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“I’m really excited to see what happens with this team,” Murphy said.

Graduating just one senior from last year’s team, Benson said her team’s accomplishments, including helping to win the seventh straight league title for Kings Park, means a lot to the seniors, who are following in the footsteps of those in years past, losing just one regular-season game in their entire careers.

“Being able to keep this League V title is pretty special,” she said. “Every season we have one goal: to win states. It’s always in the back of our minds and it helps us push through to win every game.”

Manly said he doesn’t see the streak weighing too heavily on the girls, because they’re focused on that one goal.

“They’re a pretty relaxed bunch — they’re more focused on their goals than about what’s happened in the past,” he said. “They’re focused on every point, every set and every match. I love my team very much, I think they’re extremely talented and I think the sky is the limit for them as long as they stay humble and hungry and don’t overlook anybody. They have the capability to do some pretty special stuff.”

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By Bill Landon

Lauren Kloos continues to lead the way for Kings Park.

On Nov. 12, the senior outside hitter’s 12 kills put the girls’ volleyball team back in the state semifinal game. The Kingsmen bested Floral Park in straight sets, 25-10, 25-19 and 25-22 for Kings Park’s sixth straight Long Island championship crown.

Kloos said Kings Park (19-0) was ready for Floral Park, practicing defending against the unconventional ways its opponent would end up tipping and dumping the ball.

Junior outside hitter Sam Schultz, who finished with 12 digs and seven kills, and junior middle hitter Kara Haase, who added nine digs and eight kills, were also important contributors.

It’s been familiar stages for the Kings Park, and for the past three years, the Kingsmen have also seen a familiar foe at the county level.

Prior to the Long Island win, the dynasty did it again, as No. 1 Kings Park swept No. 2 Westhampton for the third straight year, 25-10, 25-15 and 25-13 for the Kingsmen’s sixth Suffolk Class A title.

Westhampton was plagued by unforced errors throughout the matchup, committing five of them in the first set alone to fall behind 16-7. Kloos made here presence known early, and spiked a kill shot that put her team out front 18-7, as Westhampton called timeout to try and throw Kings Park off balance.

It didn’t work, and as the team spread the ball around, the powerhouse surged ahead 23-9 looking to end the set early. And it did.

“A lot of hard work goes into it — the amount of practice we have to do to be able to execute [on the court],” Kloos said following the county win. “To be able to win another [championship] for the program is just amazing.”

“As a program, we still have a lot to prove. As time evolves we have a target on our back.”

— Ed Manly

The senior earned her fourth Suffolk and Long Island titles.

Dig after dig the Kingsmen got the ball to the junior Haley Holmes, and the setter spread the wealth. She aided the team in breaking out to a 13-5 advantage in the second set.

“It takes a lot of practice,” said Holmes, who finished with 28 assists and 10 digs against Floral Park. “We come to practice every day and we were ready for this. Our defense was perfect and that made it easy for me; the hitters just killed it.”

Kings Park continued to capitalize on Westhampton’s unforced errors, and surged ahead 23-15. On a bad serve, Westhampton handed Kings Park the break point, and the Kingsmen did what they’ve done all season, and put the set away, 25-15.

“Our energy, our intensive focus — every point we were mentally engaged, we knew where we needed to be, we knew our assignments,” Kings Park head coach Ed Manly said. “It was very hard. Our girls just work tirelessly all year long to play in this game. This is why you play volleyball, and we have the best kids around.”

Junior middle hitter Erika Benson, who had five kills and two blocks in the Long Island championship game, said her group continues to pull through and win as a team.

“Every game is a challenge, ” she said. “Our energy on and off the court never stopped. We never had a dull moment.”

Westhampton managed one last kill shot before Kings Park took the county title.

Having depth and help from all over makes Kings Park a contender for the state title. The team has to get through Glens Falls first, in the state semifinals Nov. 19. The Kingsmen have yet to take home a state title in the last five years.

“As a program, we still have a lot to prove,” Manly said. “As time evolves we have a target on our back. There are times when our kids feel like they’re not given the same credit as other teams around, for one reason or another, so they’re really inspired to play solid volleyball all of the time.”

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