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Sam Schultz

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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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Tiffany Slicklein leaps up to the rim. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The Kingsmen are a powerhouse full of offensive threats — and as has been the case all season, senior Tiffany Slicklein and junior Sam Schultz stole the show this week.

The dynamic duo scored 20 points each in a 74-54 win over East Islip Jan. 24. Kings Park girls’ basketball head coach Tom Edmundson said the victory was just what the team needed after a pause in performance last week.

Sam Schultz carries the ball into East Islip’s zone. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“It was tough,” the coach said of the two games against Hauppauge and Bellport, the first resulting in a loss and the second a close-call win. “We were talking about picking up the intensity, picking up the pace and coming out and playing well, and I think we did. I was telling the girls they need to build off this. We’re kind of right there on the doorsteps, so we need to start playing our best basketball. This was a pretty good example of that.”

The team has five more games before playoffs start. The next matchup will be a home contest against a tough Half Hollow Hills West team. When the Kingsmen saw their opponent last, Jan. 3, they pulled away with a close 63-60 win.

“This is definitely a confidence booster” Schultz said, who added eight rebounds and four assists. “Everyone got on the board today, everyone was taking shots, so hopefully that translates to the game against Half Hollow Hills West — we had a tough game against them last time — and to the rest of the season.”

Slicklein and fellow senior Selena Ubriaco traded baskets for the first few Kings Park scores, Slicklein scoring six points and Ubriaco tallying five, before Schultz got the ball rolling. After grabbing a put-back on Slicklein’s missed extra-point attempt at a three-point play, she scored the next two field goals for Kings Park. At the end of the first quarter, the team had a 10-point lead, 21-11.

Taylor Slicklein moves the ball around a defender. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Schultz continued her scoring streak in the second, adding a field goal, three-pointer and free throw, all the first points for Kings Park in the next eight minutes.

“She can knock down the three, she can get to the rim, she makes free throws, she has a complete game,” Edmundson said of his athlete. “She’s the kind of player that will definitely play at the next level, and she’s only a junior. She’s just fantastic.”

But Schultz credits her teammates for her scoring.

“This is my fourth year on the team and I can always count on them to get me the ball if I’m open or communicating on offense, seeing the extra pass, being unselfish — and I think that helped me personally get my shots,” she said. “But it really helps us all as a team.”

Schultz had 17 first-half points, and Slicklein added 14. The pair played in the third quarter, but Edmundson continued to get his bench players time on the court, and had all starters except sophomore Sam Hogan sit in the fourth.

“I’m not looking for one girl to score all the time — although it does happen to work out that way — but our offense is geared toward everybody,” the head coach said. “I think we have a very good team, I think we have one of the best teams in the county and I think we’ll be right there with a chance to win a county championship. I think we have the ability to and I think we have the talent to.”

Slicklein, who scored her 1,000th career point last week, had a double-double in the game with 10 rebounds and also had seven blocks.

Sam Hogan drives to the basket. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“We call her LeBron James because she can do everything,” Edmundson said. “She’s leading the team in rebounds, steals, assists, points, although Sam [Schultz] might have just taken over because they’ve been neck and neck all year, but she does it all. It’s very rare that you have a girl that has the ability to score on every possession, but is also willing to give it up and distribute the way she does.”

Shultz also shares the wealth. Slicklein said she’s enjoyed working alongside her teammate.

“We know exactly where each other are, we’ve been playing together for a while and it’s good to play with a girl who knows how to play like that,” she said. “It’s always fun.”

Slicklein’s twin sister Taylor finished with 11 points and eight rebounds. Hogan had eight points.

Schultz said she’s hoping the total team success can propel the team further into the postseason this year. Tiffany Slicklein said she thinks if any Kings Park team can do it, it’s this one.

“We’re getting ready,” Schultz said of the team preparing for playoffs. “Each and every practice we’re working hard, getting better, working on the little things and it’s all coming full circle — with good timing, too.”

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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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No Suffolk County team averaged more than Kings Park’s 69.5 points per game this season.

That offensive success paid off in dividends as the No. 3-seeded Kingsmen finished the regular season 16-2 overall and took a 12-game winning streak into the postseason, where the undefeated League IV champions took down No. 14 Hauppauge and No. 6 Huntington, making their way to the Suffolk County Class AA semifinals at Stony Brook University Sunday afternoon.

Although challenger Commack, the No. 2 seed, was also 18-2 heading into the game, the usual onslaught that had been expected with Kings Park was non-existent on the Seawolves’ home court.

This was because the Cougars valued defense above all else — something that Kings Park head coach Tom Edmundson said was lacking from his team’s game Sunday.

“Our help defense was not what it needed to be and we talked about that all year, really,” he said. “We’ve come a long way from the beginning of the season, and it’s been something we’ve focused on and we’ve focused on, and today we just didn’t put it all together on the defensive side of the ball.”

Commack scored the first six points of the semifinal game before sophomore guard Sam Schultz swished a 3-pointer to cut the lead in half. The Cougars countered with a field goal and two free-throw points to re-extend the lead. Despite a free-throw point by junior guard and forward Taylor Slicklein, Commack grabbed an offensive rebound to pull ahead 12-4, forcing Edmundson to use one of his timeouts to try and regroup.

The pep-talk proved successful, as Schultz scored a layup and a field goal, Slicklein tacked on a 3-pointer and junior guard Selena Ubriaco tallied a trifecta of her own with 3.6 left in the first quarter to help her team pull within five, 19-14, heading into the second stanza.

“I think we definitely didn’t start as strong as we needed to today, and Commack made the most of it — they started as strong as they could and that allowed them to take the lead in the end,” Schultz said. “We fought back, but it wasn’t enough.”

The deficit only grew from there, with Commack taking a 35-23 advantage into the locker room.

“You’ve gotta take your hat off to Commack they played great defense,” Edmundson said. “Jackie DelliSanti dominated. She’s a phenomenal player. We knew we needed to try and slow her down and we were unable to do that, and that was the big difference.”

DelliSanti was the difference-maker, scoring a game-high 22 points.

In the second half, though, Kings Park mounted a strong comeback effort, outscoring its opponent 15-9 in the third quarter, with help from Schultz, Ubriaco, senior guard Kiera Ahern and Taylor Slicklein’s twin sister Tiffany.

Tiffany Slicklein, who averaged 17 points per game, was held to 13, which helped open the lane for Schultz, who finished with a team-high 17 points herself. Still, the sophomore said the team’s junior co-captain is such a dominant player that despite the heavy guarding, Slicklein was able to excel.

“They have to key on her,” Schultz said of Slicklein. “That allowed me to be more open to the point where it’s hard for them to key on two girls, so I think that helped open up some lanes for everybody. But she definitely made really smart choices and passes and never forced any shots, which helped.”

Despite Kings Park’s strong season coming to a close, the head coach said he’s proud of his girls’ accomplishments.

“They battled all year and they came together as a team,” he said. “We have some freshmen and some seniors and the dynamics don’t always work out well, and with this group, it did. They all came together.”

Schultz said she thinks the outcome may have been different had the team learned from its mistakes early on in the game, but is excited about the future of her team, although the loss of senior starter Kiera Ahern will prove difficult.
“If a couple of shots would’ve fell or if we made that extra pass one or two extra times, I think the outcome could’ve been a little different,” Schultz said. “Now that this season is over all you can worry about is next year, so I’m excited. We’ll have probably a little freshman come up and be a starter, and I think only good things for us next year.”

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