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Kings Park

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Kings Park's Sam Schultz led all scorers with 33 points and nine rebounds in a win over Rocky Point Feb. 1. Photo by Jim Ferchland

By Jim Ferchland

Sam Schultz continues to be an unstoppable force.

The sensational senior scorer recorded 33 points for the Kingsmen Feb. 1, leading Kings Park to a 68-41 blowout victory over visiting Rocky Point. Kings Park improves to 17-2 on the year and 13-2 in League V, having won 14 consecutive games.

Kings Park’s Sam Hogan moves the ball downcourt. Photo by Jim Ferchland

Schultz, who scored 22 points in the first half, hauled in nine rebounds and four assists in the win. Kings Park had a 12-point lead over Rocky Point at the break, but outscored the Eagles 30-15 in the second half.

“We can score at will,” Kings Park head coach Tom Edmundson said. “We really have an offensive-minded team. We talk about it a lot trying to step up our defensive game. We struggled a little bit in the first half, but we definitely came together in the second.”

Schultz said she likes to shoot from 3-point range, but said she felt she had to attack the basket more against Rocky Point.

“I tried to get to the lane and draw some fouls,” Schultz said. “The refs were calling them, so for me personally, I attacked the lane more.”

In her fifth varsity year with the Kingsmen, Schultz recently surpassed 1,500 career points, hitting the milestone marker Jan. 23 against Hauppauge, where she finished with a double-double on 34 points and 18 rebounds. Two days later, she broke the scoring record for both boys and girls basketball at 1,515 points in a home game against Sayville. The record stood since 2004.

Schultz said but her main focus remains competing hard every game to help her Kings Park team get to where it wants to go.

“It’s crazy,” Schultz said of her achievements. “I’m happy I get to leave my mark on Kings Park, but I just want to win. I just want to make it as far as we can. I want to get a county championship so bad. I feel this year, we have a really good shot. I’m excited.”

Edmundson, who has coached the varsity team for nine years, said it’s remarkable to have a player like Schultz.

Kings Park’s Sam Schultz shoots from outside while Rocky Point’s Abby Bellport reaches for the block. Photo by Jim Ferchland

“We’ve had some talented teams over the years, but she makes a big difference,” Edmundson said. “She broke 1,000 points last year. She was a little over 1,000 going into this year. She did what she did last year to have a chance to get to 1,500, but she’s blowing it away. She can get up to 1,600 before the season ends, which is not something we really expected.”

Rocky Point’s Clare Levy lead the Eagles with 20 points, all scored in the first half. She accounted for almost half of Rocky Point’s 41 points. The Eagles fall to 7-10 on the year and 4-10 in League V.

Junior guard Sam Hogan contributed 10 points and four assists for Kings Park. She played with multiple injuries, bruising bruised her elbow and hand in the previous game against Westhampton, and breaking her pinky in a win over Harborfields Jan.18. She said she feels pain physically, but that doesn’t stop her from doing what she can to help secure a win.

Edmundson said Hogan is freak of nature.

“She’s the toughest kid I’ve probably ever coached,” Edmundson said. “She’s a competitor. She’s actually a phenomenal soccer player. She’s an outstanding basketball player as well.”

Kings Park will face East Islip on the road Feb. 8 at 3:30 p.m. It’s King Park’s final regular season game before playoffs.

“It’s been a really intense year,” Hogan said. “Since last year, I felt we should have won the league. This year is the year for revenge.”

Kings Park head coach Tom Edmundson celebrates the win with his team. Photo by Jim Ferchland

Downtown study results suggest improving existing parking, better storefront signage and promotion

Larisa Ortiz, planner and principal of Larisa Ortiz Associates, presents the study results Jan. 25. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh.

Kings Park’s downtown is going to need more efficient parking, better walkways and a facelift if it wants to experience a revitalization, according to the latest studies.

Larisa Ortiz, urban planner and principal of downtown planning firm Larisa Ortiz Associates, presented the results of a market analysis study focused on what’s needed to revitalize downtown Kings Park at a Jan. 25 Smithtown town board meeting. While getting funding to sewer downtown Main Street has been a long-term priority, there are several key points business owners and the town could begin working on, according to Ortiz.

“What we found is that you don’t have just one downtown,” Ortiz said. “Kings Park is actually three distinct areas.”

The study broke down King Park’s downtown into the three areas: “restaurant row,” including Park Bake Shop, Cafe Red, Relish and Ciro’s; “the civic heart,” the area near Kings Park library and the Long Island Rail Road station; and “car-centric retail,” which revolves around Tanzi Plaza and Kings Park Plaza shopping centers.

In a survey of residents and business owners, Ortiz said one of the most common complaints was the lack of parking for customers in the downtown areas.

“There’s more than enough parking at the civic node where we have a municipal lot,” she said, with similar findings in the other two areas slated for revitilization. “It feels like it’s tight, but when we look at the parking ratio there’s sufficient parking there.”

Rather, Ortiz said the study suggested the municipal lot is inconveniently located far from restaurants and stores, and that several parking lots could be restriped to fit more vehicles for better efficiency.

“If I had one surprise, I thought there would be a lot more parking required than what was recommended by the market survey,” Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said. “ We need some, but not as much. In that analysis, there were some parking areas, municipal and commuter parking lots not being 100 percent utilized.”

Ortiz said her firm’s analysis showed Kings Park shoppers have a difficult time crossing Main Street, particularly at the intersection with Church Street near the Kings Park branch of The Smithtown Library.
“If people can’t cross from the library to Main Street, you have lost customers,” the urban planner said.
Ortiz’s other suggestions were to improve sidewalks and pedestrian crossings, and consider relocating the farmer’s market held in the municipal parking lot — 60 percent of whose customers are from out of town — to a new location on the south side of Main Street.

“It was exciting to see that the Kings Park farmers market creates stronger economic spillovers and benefits our local businesses,” said Linda Henninger, president of Kings Park Civic Association and founder of the farmer’s market.

Other suggestions for downtown improvement included encouraging business owners to upgrade the look of their facade, changes to town code to allow for better signage for businesses and creation of a restaurant group for group marketing and greater exposure.

“This market study is another tool which will be useful in our continued effort to revitalize Kings Park’s downtown,” Henninger said.

Next, Wehrheim said Kings Park Chamber of Commerce and civic association will work to combine the market study results with the revitalization plan previously made by LI Vision to come up with a final conceptual plan.

The full presentation made before Smithtown Town Board can be viewed on the Kings Park Civic Associations website at http://www.kingsparkcivic.com.

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Kings park residents and their elected officials stand opposed to any plans to build a bridge or tunnel across Long Island Sound. File photo

Kings Park residents and their elected officials find the idea of building a bridge or tunnel from their backyard to Connecticut illogical and nearly comical.

State Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick (R-St. James) has come out as a strong opponent to Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) statement that it’s time to pursue building a bridge or tunnel to connect Long Island to Connecticut to help reduce traffic — with an eye on Kings Park as a potential site.

“I find it inconceivable that you would destroy Sunken Meadow State Park and put truck traffic on the Sagtikos [State Parkway] to get over to Connecticut,” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s one of these things that everybody in theory thinks is a good idea but no one wants the disruption.”

 “I find it inconceivable that you would destroy Sunken Meadow State Park and put truck traffic on the Sagtikos [State Parkway] to get over to Connecticut.”
— Mike Fitzpatrick

Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) called the governor’s suggestion of building a tunnel “outlandish” given the state is facing a budgetary deficit. He echoed Fitzpatrick in “it’s not going through the center of a state park.”

In his State of the State address Jan. 3, Cuomo revived the decades-old idea of building a bridge or tunnel that would connect Long Island to New England.

“We should continue to pursue a tunnel from Long Island to Westchester or Connecticut,” Cuomo said. “DOT has determined it’s feasible, it would be under water, it would be invisible, it would reduce traffic on the impossibly congested Long Island Expressway and would offer significant potential private investment.”

The concept of a bridge across the Long Island Sound was proposed by Sen. Royal Copeland (D-NY) in the 1930s and has been tossed around for decades. A 1957 Oyster Bay-Rye Bridge study was conducted but never moved to fruition.

In December 2017, New York State Department of Transportation released a final draft of a Long Island Sound Crossing Feasibility Study that examined the potential of building a bridge or bridge-tunnel combination at five different sites. The 87-page study concluded that a bridge or bridge-tunnel combination could be economically feasible at three different locations: Oyster Bay to Port Chester/Rye; Kings Park to Bridgeport, Connecticut; and Kings Park to Devon, Connecticut.

The study concluded that the DOT should move forward with the next step: A five-year environmental evaluation process looking at the impact construction and the bridge would have on the three proposed locations.

Historically, when you see a bridge, tunnel or major interstate built you wind up with blight.”
— Tony Tanzi

“Gov. Cuomo has directed DOT to conduct additional engineering, environmental and financial analysis to determine the best path forward for this transformative project, which could reduce traffic on Long Island,” said DOT spokesman Joseph Morrissey in a statement. “DOT will closely examine any potential impacts as well as benefits to the local communities as part of the process.”

Tony Tanzi, president of the Kings Park Chamber of Commerce, said that he is not in favor of the project. He doesn’t see any benefit for Kings Park.

“I think physically these generally wind up with a blighted area,” Tanzi said. “Historically, when you see a bridge, tunnel or major interstate built you wind up with blight.”

Fitzpatrick agreed, citing that the construction of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge forever changed the character of Staten Island. The assemblyman said he’d rather see Cuomo focus on the $5.6 billion Long Island Rail Road transformation plan to electrify the Port Jefferson line and build a third rail to improve traffic conditions.

Trotta suggested the state consider road widening to add lanes and reduce congestion, or start by fixing potholes on Route 25A.

If the state moves forward with construction plans for a bridge or tunnel in Kings Park, it is sure to face opposition.

“If the state tries to jam it down our throats, they’re in for one hell of a fight,” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s not the right place for it.”

Presentations to be held on Kings Park market analysis, Smithtown United's Main Street proposal

Smithtown United Civic Association will publicly present its proposal to revitalize western Main Street Jan. 25, 7 p.m. at town hall. Rendering courtesy of Smithtown United Civic Association.

Smithtown’s new town administration is pushing forward with a strong emphasis on downtown revitalization for 2018.

A special report and final marketing analysis of downtown Kings Park will be unveiled at the Jan. 25 town board meeting set for 7 p.m. at town hall.

Larisa Ortiz Associates, a Jackson Heights-based market analysis and community-based planning firm that put together the report, gave an initial presentation to Kings Park community members in November 2017, but has since updated it with further input and recommendations from residents.

“As a result of this preliminary research, we have a greater understanding of the key elements, marketing opportunities and how to implement a plan that will deliver a thriving downtown business district,” said Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R), who resides in Kings Park.

Key findings expected to be discussed include how there’s sufficient demand to support additional retail spaces, the critical role of restaurants and bars, and improvements to walkability. The market analysis findings also suggest adding new residential buildings to Kings Park, if sewer improvements can be made, to increase the spending power of its local economy.

Tony Tanzi, president of Kings Park Chamber of Commerce, said the preliminary report in November was encouraging news for Kings Park.

“It’s actually quite eye-opening some of the things it found, some of what we had suspected it proved out,” Tanzi said. “It’s educational in that you’ll learn a good bit about what the potential can be for Kings Park and other hamlets in Smithtown overall.”

The hamlet of St. James and its residents may take a particular interest in the Kings Park analysis, as they push forward with their own downtown revitalization project. The Community Association of Greater St. James invited Eric Alexander, director of Vision Long Island, as a guest speaker at its Jan. 22 general meeting.

“You will have to have some hard discussions on what you want your business district to look like,” Alexander said to St. James residents. “You need to create clarity on what you want your downtown to be.”

Smithtown Town Board approved a $2.3 million bond at its Jan. 9 board of water commissioners meeting to replace water mains along Lake Avenue, the first step toward reconstruction of the Lake Avenue business district. Councilwoman Lynne Nowick (R) said the water main installation is slated to start May 1, with the goal of installation by June 30 and road reconstruction starting in July.

“I think everyone has the same idea about St. James downtown,” Nowick said. “It’s not multilevel housing but an active, vibrant downtown.”

Breathing new life into a downtown business district is also the aim of Smithtown United Civic Association. President Timothy Small will also publicly present the civic group’s proposed plan for the New York
Avenue Smithtown school district property and western Smithtown Main Street to the town board Jan. 25.

Smithtown United’s plan for the downtown area focuses on key points including consolidation of the town offices into the New York Avenue school building, retaining the sports fields for public use, road improvements and construction of transit-oriented housing. The group is seeking public feedback on the
proposed plans.

Kings Park closed out the week with seventh straight Suffolk County and Long Island crowns. Photo by Bill Landon

By Desirée Keegan

Securing seven years of bad luck is as simple as breaking a mirror or walking under a ladder, but earning seven years of good luck is much more complicated.

After taking over a losing program, Kings Park varsity volleyball coaches Lizz and Ed Manly have steered the Kingsmen to seven straight Suffolk County and Long Island championship titles.

“They’re straightforward — if you’re not doing something correctly, or doing something you shouldn’t be doing, they’re going to let you know,” said senior Erika Benson. “But I think everybody needs someone like that in their life. They don’t sugar coat things for you.”

The middle hitter said her married mentors not only care about their Kingsmen as players, but as people. This is chiefly due to Ed Manly’s job as a guidance counselor within the high school.

“Mr. Manly is always asking us if everything is OK, and if he can help us in any way to let him know,” Benson said. “As a guidance counselor, he’s helped us seniors a lot with anything we went to him with regarding college.”

Senior Kara Haase said the girls have improved on and off the court because of the values of friendship and family fostered within the program by the Manlys. She said she has seen it firsthand for the last six years.

“Our success has to do a lot with our coaches — they pushed us every day,” she said. “They not only taught us to strive to be better as players and teammates, but as individuals. Their coaching style can be strict, but all they want is for us to have fun while competing at a high level. It has truly been an honor playing for them.”

Head coach Ed Manly talks to his athletes between sets. Photo by Bill Landon

Lexi Petraitis said she first met Lizz Manly when she was in fourth grade during a volleyball clinic, where the coach pulled her aside to teach her how to use her height to hit in the middle of the front row. She played for Manly when she was on the middle school team. The coach was pregnant at the time, and remained at the helm up until the day she gave birth.

“I think that Lizz and Ed were two of the most dedicated coaches I’ve ever seen in any sport,” the senior said, noting how Lizz Manly also attended the state championship finals to watch her husband and her girls compete when she was nine months pregnant with the second of her two children. “If that isn’t dedication, I don’t know what is.”

This past fall Kings Park finished with its second straight undefeated League V season, going 14-0, and snatched its seventh straight county and LIC crowns. The seven seniors in a rotation of eight secured a fourth consecutive appearance in the state tournament, finishing third after the group came in second in 2016.

“On the court, although they push us to our physical and sometimes emotional limits, the team and they know that it’s a prime example of ‘If it doesn’t kill you, it will only make you stronger,’ and they most definitely made us stronger,” Petraitis said. “If they didn’t push us as hard as they did I doubt the legacy they created would’ve existed. They are the type of coaches that do everything in their power to make us successful.”

Current Iona College standout Amanda Gannon, a 2015 Kings Park graduate, was the first volleyball player to win four straight Long Island titles in school history. She said she first met Lizz Manly when she was in sixth grade. Manly was her physical education teacher, and persuaded her to join the volleyball team. Gannon went on to become the all-time kills leader in Kings Park school history.

“She was always so caring and kindhearted,” Gannon said. “I love going to her office even just to talk to her. I was super excited when I joined the team to be led by such an understanding, loving person.”

Gannon was called up to the varsity team as a freshman, playing under Manly until she graduated, which was when her coach’s husband grabbed the reins so his wife could focus on raising their family.

“Luckily, my husband took over for me so I can still feel a little involved, and he did a great job,” Manly said. “With confidence and determination, they continued the Kings Park volleyball tradition.”

Kings Park player Amanda Gannon with coach Lizz Manly. File photo from Bill Denniston

Gannon said it’s because the Kingsmen always wanted to make them proud.

“We were all so motivated to play for them,” she said. “We wanted to prove to them how good we can be. It started by having good culture, being who you are, respecting yourself and respecting the program. All four of my years we really embraced that.”

Petraitis shared a similar sentiment about her coaches’ accessibility and warmth.

“I’ve never had a coach other than Lizz and Ed that I have felt so comfortable asking them anything,” she said. “If I ever had a question about a free ball play or footwork, etc., I’ve never been scared to ask. There aren’t words to describe how much I appreciate them and how much they have influenced my life. They have been with me throughout and supported every single part of my volleyball career.”

Ed Manly wrote in a letter to family, friends and fans that he and his wife will be retiring, stating that stepping down was the hardest thing he has done, but said it’s been difficult to put in the time needed with a growing family.

“Today was by far the hardest day we have had as coaches,” he said. “We have stated time and time again to our athletes that family comes first, and at the present time giving our program the time it deserves no longer was possible. We are so incredibly thankful to every player we coached, every coach we have become friends with and competed against, and all of our volleyball friends we have met along the way. We are so grateful to have had the opportunity to work with so many amazing families in such an amazingly supportive community.”

Their departure will undoubtedly leave a hole at one of the most successful athletic
programs in any sport in Suffolk County.

“It’s sad to see them leaving,” Gannon said. “They took a failing program and turned it around to be one of the most successful on Long Island. They have changed so many people’s lives and have established a community that will never be torn down. They will be greatly missed, but I’m truly grateful for all that they’d done for me, my teammates and Kings Park. I know that what they have
created will last forever.”

Real estate attorney J. Timothy Shea Jr. gives a presentation on The Society of St. Johnland's proposed assisted living facility to Smithtown Town Board.

The Society of St. Johnland in Kings Park hopes to continue its mission to help seniors in need by constructing a new assisted living facility aimed at Medicaid-eligible residents.

The nonprofit nursing center has submitted an application to construct a two-story facility with 82 units and 100 beds in the footprint of an existing, dilapidated building on the north side of Sunken Meadow Road — a separate tax map parcel on the same property as St. Johnland nursing home.

The proposed building will fulfill a need in the community for alternate living options for low-income seniors, according to a real estate attorney speaking on behalf of the project at the Nov. 30 Smithtown Town board meeting.

J. Timothy Shea Jr., of Certilman Balin Adler & Hyman in Hauppauge, asked the board to consider granting  the St. Johnland facility a special exception as its concept plan meets that zoning criteria. This approval would give the nonprofit the ability to use land in a district for a purpose other than what is generally permitted there, in this case an assisted living program on the same property as a nursing home.

“Allowing for this special exception to take place, we would be able to service up to 100 local persons most likely for the assisted living and it’s possible that many of those residents will eventually move to the nursing home at some point in the future,” Shea said.

St. Johnland is also making efforts to implement ideas from staff members and residents into its design of the building’s facade to comply with local waterfront revitalization program standards, he added.

“When we provided elevations of the proposed building to our staff, we received comments indicating they would like to have more of a historic type of architecture,” Shea said. “We are willing to do that and will adjust our elevations accordingly.”

Based on the feedback from the Kings Park Civic Association, the nonprofit has agreed to reduce square footage of the 76,696-square-foot site by approximately 8,000-square-feet to lessen its footprint; preserve an old chapel located to the east of where the facility will be; and provide the group with any building revisions moving forward for further review and comment.

Shea said the site will be “a low traffic generator” because although the facility would employ 70 new employees, they will work in three shifts, so there will be no more than 20 to 25 employees on site at a given time.

Linda Henninger, the president of the Kings Park Civic Association said she and other members were in favor of it.

“We think it’s a good project,” Henninger said. “A lot of residents from Kings Park and our vicinity — like Commack and Northport — utilize St. Johnland and this seems to be within their wheelhouse. We also liked that they’re not clear cutting woods for it. It seems like a win-win for the community and St. Johnland.”

Mary Jean Weber, the chief executive officer of St. Johnland Nursing Center, which has been caring for Kings Parks’ needy since 1870, said the facility has been in planning for nearly two years.

“I think this is the type of service that is really needed in Kings Park,” Weber said. “This is for the population that doesn’t require the [around-the-clock] medical care needed in a nursing facility but maybe cannot remain living at home any longer or have limited funds. For us, it’s a positive program that really helps with our care for the senior community.”

St. Johnland is still awaiting determination on its application for special exception. The project’s construction costs have not been finalized yet.

Kings Park’s boys basketball tournament won its fifth chamber of commerce tipoff tournament title with a win over Huntington. Photo from Chris Rube

By Jim Ferchland

Gene DeGraw was a fixture in the youth basketball scene in Kings Park, cultivating talented players and poised young men. Now in its fifth year, the Kingsmen hosted an annual tipoff tournament in memory of their former coach. Four schools — Kings Park, Huntington, Plainedge and Commack — played two games each over the two-day event Dec 1. and 2.

Gene DeGraw worked with current Huntington head coach Brian Carey who coached at Kings Park and grew up with DeGraw. Photo by Jim Ferchland

King Park head coach Chris Rube met DeGraw when he was 22 years old in his first year teaching in the district. He volunteered as an assistant coach on the varsity boys basketball team, where got to know the seasoned coach. Rube remembers him as much more than a well-versed instructor.

“He was always the epitome of class,” Rube said of DeGraw. “I admired how he was a devoted husband, father and grandfather. I’m a basketball coach after a teacher,and I’m a teacher after father and a husband. His grandson Michael McSloy was on the team. I remember talking to him and really understanding how special that moment was for him. Not only was he a great coach, but a better person.”

Huntington head coach Brian Carey is a Kings Park alumnus who said he practically grew up with the former head coach. Carey said he admired how much DeGraw loved his players.

“Pop was the perfect assistant — he knew the kids,”Carey said. “He knew me; we were both Kings Park guys. No one could have been more perfect for Kings Park basketball.”

The Kingsmen won the Long Island championship title in 2007 when DeGraw was the assistant coach. Carey coached Kings Park for 10 years, from 1997 to 2006, leaving just before the Kingsmen put up their magical season.

The tournament is in memory of former Kings Park coach Gene DeGraw who coached current Kings Park varsity leader Chris Rube. Photo by Jim Ferchland

“When I got here at Kings Park, the team wasn’t doing so good,” said Carey, who has been coaching for 20 years and was inducted into the Kings Park athletics department hall of fame in 2003. “A few years before I was at Kings Park, the team won four or five games, but the players have been through a system by Gene DeGraw. He was a gentleman and he was the best at getting the kids to come together.”

The now Huntington head coach gave DeGraw the unpaid assistant coach position at Kings Park, having known and graduated from high school with DeGraw’s cousin.

The former assistant coach’s life was cut short due to a heart condition. Aside from being a coach, DeGraw was also a detective in the Suffolk County Police Department.

Bill Denniston, a four-year Kings Park athletic director who was the Shoreham-Wading River athletic director back in 2013 said although he didn’t know DeGraw, he’s heard plenty of good stories.

“From what I’ve heard, he was a well-respected coach,” Denniston said. “It’s always nice to have this tournament to kick off the season in his honor.”


Since 2013, Kings Park has an annual chamber of commerce-sponsored tipoff tournament. This year, the Kingsmen, Commack, Huntington and Plainedge competed over the two-day event.

Huntington’s Mekhi Harvey passes the ball. Photo by Jim Ferchland

Game 1

Huntington beat Commack 62-58 Dec. 1. Blue Devils senior Mehki Harvey led with 17 points, while classmate Nat Amato added 16.

Commack’s top players were
senior Nick Guaglione and junior Aidan Keenan, who scored 24 and 21 points, respectively. They were the only players in double figures for the Cougars.

Game 2

Kings Park easily outscored Plainedge 69-35. Senior Jason Hartglass and freshman Jack Garside each tallied 11 points for the Kingsmen. Senior Andrew Bianco added seven and grabbed 10 rebounds.

Game 3

Commack took down Plainedge 60-41 in the consolation match.
Game 4

Kings Park’s Andrew Bianco looks to the rim. Photo by Jim Ferchland

Kings Park edged out Huntington 57-53, winning the tournament title for the third time in five years.

Andrew Bianco, who was named tournament MVP, recorded 23 points and 12 rebounds.

“He’s just tough as nails,” Kings Park head coach Chris Rube said of Bianco.

With eight seconds left, Kings Park was up by two, 55-53, when freshman Jack Garside buried both free-throw attempts to seal the victory.

Kings Park senior guard Zach Wolf scored 15 of his 18 points in the second half. He had three three-pointers in the third quarter.

“It was hard fought,” Rube said of the win over Huntington. “Huntington is pretty talented. Beating them was an achievement.”

Up next

Kings Park travels to Islip Dec. 7 for the first game of their regular season. Tipoff is scheduled for 5:45 p.m.

The Kings Park girls volleyball team, above, takes its annual team photo before heading to states, which has become a tradition within the successful program. Photo from Erika Benson

The Kings Park girls volleyball team has been there seven straight times, but this time, the result was different.

The 20-0 Kingsmen were confident as they headed upstate, blasting Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the USA” to get excited to compete in the state championship at Glens Falls Civic Center Nov. 18 and 19.

The Kings Park girls volleyball team celebrates on the
court after winning a state set. Photo from Erika
Benson

“We knew that we had all the tools to be successful, and we were anxious to get on the court and execute,” senior Lexi Petraitis said. “We’re such a tight-knit team, but what hurt us a little bit was that our nerves didn’t kick in until the first serve of our first set.”

After splitting pool play sets 3-3, Kings Park was eliminated from contention for Sunday’s state championship, but outscored Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake to salvage a third-place finish. Last year, the Kingsmen made it to the final match where they fell to Walter Panas in straight sets.

“There were sets where everything just clicked,” Petraitis said. “We had Meagan Murphy getting sick digs, which made it easy for Haley [Holmes] to set perfect sets, which our big hitters, me, seniors Kara Haase, Erika Benson, Sam Schultz and freshman Liv Benard, slammed into the ground. I think we played to our absolute fullest potential. Out on the court our energy was electric. There were just a few sets that didn’t really go our way.”

Kings Park faced Williamsville East first, dropping set one 26-24 before coming back to win the second 25-12.

“We gelled more during that second set and then throughout the day we just had to realize what worked and what didn’t and change things up,” senior Benson said. “Our ultimate goal is to place first, but third is still something very special, something that we’re proud of. It’s been a great season with my team and I really loved every minute of it.”

Haley Holmes reaches for a save with Meagan Murphy
and Megan Sticco alongside her to back her up.
Photo from Haley Holmes

Benson said she appreciated how supportive everyone in the district community was. The team was sent off to states escorted by the Kings Park Fire Department and led by the high school’s marching band, with members of the high school and elementary school marching, too. The positive mindset carried through the weekend even as the team stumbled in trying to capture a state championship.

“We practiced hard all year with states in the back of our minds — entering the tournament, our mindset was to take it one set at a time and to not look too far ahead,” senior setter  Holmes said. “We ended up not executing the way we had hoped, but we stayed positive and worked as a team. We performed great, but it’s the state tournament, every team there is elite.”

The Kingsmen amped up the intensity in the semifinals, battling for every point in a 25-19, 25-22 win.

“I feel like we had moments where we weren’t so sharp, but as the day went on we straightened it out,” senior Haase said. “Being a Kingsman has been the greatest honor and I look forward to seeing the
program grow.”

Benson agreed, adding how much she wishes others could share in the seasoned legacy her team has experienced.

“Being a Kingsman is something most people will never experience and I wish they could,” she said. “It’s really an amazing thing, especially with this team, knowing I have 17 best friends and sisters that I can depend on. It’s really special to me and I don’t take it for granted. I just wish I had more time with them.”

File photo

Suffolk County Police have arrested two people as a result of a month long investigation at businesses located within the 4th Precinct. Fourth Precinct Crime Section officers conducted an investigation into the sale of alcohol to minors during which nine businesses were checked for compliance with the law in Commack, Smithtown, Kings Park and East Northport, according to police.

The following clerks were arrested and charged with first-degree unlawfully dealing with a minor after they sold alcohol to a minor.

  • Thomas Watson, 22, of Northport, employed at Speedway gas station, located at 152 East Northport Road, Kings Park
  • A 16 year-old male juvenile, employed at BP gas station located at 94 Pulaski Road, Kings Park.

The following establishments were in compliance:

  • Shell gas station, located at 700 Commack Road, Commack
  • BP gas station, located at 621 Commack Road, Commack
  • Citgo gas station, located at 100 Crooked Hill Road, Commack
  • Speedway gas station, located at 2104 Jericho Turnpike, Commack
  • Speedway gas station, located at 38 Indian Head Road, Kings Park
  • Mobil gas station, located at 819 W. Jericho Turnpike, Smithtown
  • BP gas station, located at 1007 W. Jericho Turnpike, Smithtown

Watson and the juvenile were issued Field Appearance Tickets and are scheduled to appear in First District Court in Central Islip Jan. 2, 2018. The State Liquor Authority is conducting a follow up investigation.

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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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