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Meagan Murphy

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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

Just call it the fabulous fifth.

The No. 2 Kings Park girls’ volleyball team defeated No. 1 Westhampton Beach in three straight sets Thursday, 25-23, 25-20 and 25-17, to claim the school’s fifth straight Suffolk County Class A title.

The Kingsmen took seven straight points in the first set, and broke out to a 10-6 lead as both teams continued to trade points until Kings Park was ahead 17-12 at the first time out.

The Hurricanes battled back with several long volleys to close the gap to 20-18, but the Kingsmen rattled off four more points to take a 24-20 advantage. Kings Park looked to put the game away, and did, but not before Kings Park took three more points, to win the first set, 25-23.

“Our team is about coming out and doing what we have to do,” Kings Park junior outside hitter Lauren Kloos said. “We come out with so much excitement, so this win is just amazing for us.”

With the teams tied 7-7 in the second set, Kings Park surged ahead 24-17, but Westhampton Beach scored the next three points to trail 24-20. Again, the Kingsmen found a way to dig out the last point, to win the second set 25-20.

Kings Park sophomore middle hitter Erika Benson said her team has a winning formula.

“I think it’s the passion we have for each other,” she said. “All three matches were close, and they played really well, but in the end we came out stronger.”

Westhampton Beach struggled, and fell behind in the third set 8-2 in a must-win set to stay alive. The Hurricanes would not go quietly though, and battled back to close within four points late in the match.

Kloos finished with 14 kills; senior middle hitter Lauren Kehoe added 12 kills and 16 digs; senior outside hitter Jaclyn Wilton had 12 kills and 16 digs; sophomore libero Meagan Murphy had 25 digs; and senior setter Stephanie Cornwell added 31 assists.

“We communicate really well; Meagan Murphy, Lauren Baxter and Kayla Buell played really great defense,” Kehoe said. “Lauren Kloos and Jaclyn Wilton were swinging great and Stephanie Cornwell was serving really well, so it was just a good performance all around.”

It was the third time the teams faced each other this year, and although Kings Park won the second meeting between the two, the Hurricanes handed Kings Park their only loss in the season in the first game of the year.

Wilton said Westhampton Beach is a much stronger team this season compared to last.

“We lost to them in our first game, we’ve been undefeated in my high school career and that first lost hurt,” Wilton said. “I never knew what that felt like, but since then, I knew that I never wanted to experience that again.”

And so far, they haven’t.

With the win, Kings Park advances to the Long Island championship round.  The team will return to Suffolk County Community College’s Brentwood campus tomorrow, Nov. 14, to face Wantagh at 3 p.m.

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Lauren Kehoe leaps up for the spike in a game last season. File photo by Bill Landon

By Clayton Collier

Coming off a year in which they boasted a 32-2-5 record and took home a Long Island Championship, the Kings Park girls’ volleyball program has kicked off their 2015 season with a number of new faces.

The most recent addition to the Kingsmen family came on Sept. 7 — Labor Day — when head coach Lizz Manly gave birth to her second son, Braden. Manly’s husband and the team’s assistant coach, Ed, has taken over the head coaching duties for this season in her absence.

Though she said the team misses Lizz, senior middle/right side Lauren Kehoe said she and her teammates have not had to adjust to Ed, who in addition to being an assistant, is also the junior varsity coach.

Lauren Kehoe leaps up for the spike in a game last season. File photo by Bill Landon
Lauren Kehoe leaps up for the spike in a game last season. File photo by Bill Landon

“We really haven’t had to adjust much at all,” she said. “We know what he expects from us, which is just giving it everything we have at all times on the court. He pushes us to be better athletes and people; always asking us how our days are and making sure we’re staying on top of our school work.”

Lizz Manly said it isn’t easy not to be coaching this season, but has full confidence in her husband’s abilities.

“It is sad for me not to be there,” she said. “Luckily, my husband took over for me, so I can still feel a little involved, and he is doing a great job so far. I think with confidence and determination, they will continue the Kings Park volleyball tradition.”

Ed Manly said his players and their families have helped make for an easy transition.

“It’s been a bit crazy, but the team and families have actually been very supportive — sending food home and stuff, asking to babysit my older guy,” he said. “It’s been crazy, but so much fun, too.”

In addition to their coach, Kings Park is also without several of their key cogs from last season, including Amanda Gannon, the program’s all-time kills leader and reigning Long Island Player of the Year.

“Any time you graduate a player like Amanda, there is an adjustment period,” Ed Manly said. “We also lost another All Long Island player in Kat Benson, who is now at Pace, and Emily Stephens, who was a four-year starter and a Second-Team All-Long Island player.”

Jaclyn Wilton bumps the ball in a game last season. File photo by Bill Landon
Jaclyn Wilton bumps the ball in a game last season. File photo by Bill Landon

Seven of the 16 on this year’s squad are first-year members, while another seven are seniors.

Leading this transitional time for the Kingsmen will be senior captains Kehoe, Jaclyn Wilton and Steph Cornwell. Manly said each of his captains will play a vital role in all aspects of the game.

“Steph will be the leader on the court,” he said of the setter. “As a senior setter and two-year starter, she knows the expectations and the way we want to run things offensively.”

He believes Wilton will be key in his team’s success this year.

“She steps into the role as one of our main hitters, alongside junior Lauren Kloos,” Manly said. “Kehoe in the middle and junior Tara Carlin on the right side will anchor our front line.”

Wilton, an outside hitter, said while there is still room for improvement, she is pleased by the progress that has been made thus far.

Amanda Gannon and Lizz Manly are both absent from this season’s squad. File photo from Bill Denniston
Amanda Gannon and Lizz Manly are both absent from this season’s squad. File photo from Bill Denniston

“This season is definitely an adjustment, because we have a lot of young and new faces on the team,” she said. “Luckily, we all get along very well and are starting to understand better how to play with each other. It’s still early in the season and we still need a lot of work, but I definitely see us going far.”

Other key contributors include senior libero Lauren Baxter, sophomore defensive specialist Meagan Murphy and sophomore middle Erika Benson.

Kings Park lost its opening match to Westhampton Beach, but have since responded with four straight wins against Comsewogue, Sayville, Islip and Rocky Point.

While there is plenty of turnover from last season, Manly said the expectations remain high for his squad.

“We are confident that we have a great group of girls that will continue to get better and do great things,” he said. “There is a great sense of team chemistry already and the play on the court will only continue to get better.”

 

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