Tags Posts tagged with "Undefeated"

Undefeated

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Patriots send some wrestlers upstate to compete, rest others in loss to Sachem East

Ward Melville's Chris Little battles for dominance. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Ward Melville’s wrestling team looked to cap off its undefeated regular season with another win Jan. 12, but with key competitors away at Eastern States Classic, it was a tall order for the Patriots to fill, which fell to Sachem East 51-27 on their home mat.

“We knew it was going to be a little tight,” said Ward Melville head coach Garrett Schnettler, noting his five starters away at the tournament. “Once we got [beyond] 138 pounds we knew it was going to be tight.”

Eastern States Classic tournament

Away at Sullivan County Community College in Loch Sheldrake, All-County senior Rafael Lievano notched his 100th career victory at 132 pounds. Junior Tom Fitzsimmons and senior Richie Munoz also competed.

Ward Melville senior 160-pounder Nabeel Ahmed struck first for his team, winning the opening match 10-6. The Patriots gathered additional points with a pair of Sachem East forfeits at 170 and 182 pounds, and senior Kevin Vera won his match 8-2 at 195 pounds to put his team out front 14-0.

From there, the Patriot lead slowly slipped away, with losses in the 220 and 285-pound weights classes before eighth-grader Christian Lievano started off the lighter weights with a pin at 2:39 over Sachem East’s John Tietjan at 99 pounds.

Sachem East got back in the win column at 106, 113 and 120 pounds to give the Flaming Arrows their first lead of the match, 26-24, and never looked back.

Ward Melville senior Ryan Mc Namara said the loss will have no effect on him or his teammates in preparation for the postseason, even if the win would have set a regular season record.

Ward Melville’s Kevin Vera tries to stay on top of his challenger to avoid letting up any points. Photo by Bill Landon

“Tonight’s loss isn’t going to phase us,” said Mc Namara, who was bumped from 170 to 185 so a junior varsity player could compete. Mc Namara won by forfeit. “We didn’t have as much experience, but they gave it their best. We’ll have everyone back in their spots in the lineup and we’ll give it our all [Wednesday].”

Ward Melville competes in the opening round of the newly created Suffolk County dual championship Jan. 17. Bracket information was not readily available for who the Patriots will compete against. Matches are currently scheduled to take place at 4 p.m.

“The guys at Eastern States, they’re doing pretty well,” said sophomore Dan Cassera, who was able to execute a pair of takedowns to pull away with a 9-6 win at 138 pounds. “We’re going to work hard [to get ready for Wednesday], put in a lot of practice, see what we did wrong and correct those things.”

Away at Sullivan County Community College in Loch Sheldrake, All-County senior Rafael Lievano notched his 100th career victory at 132 pounds. Junior Tom Fitzsimmons and senior Richie Munoz were also away.

“We’re already looking forward,” Schnettler said following the loss. “We take it one match at a time, and now we’re getting ready for the next meet. The guys are focused. We could’ve made tonight’s match closer, but we thought long term — gave some guys the rest who needed it — because round one of the dual meet championship is way more important than us going undefeated in the league.”

Ward Melville’s Christian Lievano attempts to keep his challenger on the mat. Photo by Bill Landon

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Landslide victories help Eagles to seventh straight league crown

Rocky Point's Corey Connolly takes down his Amityville opponent. Photo by Jim Ferchland

By Jim Ferchland

These Eagles are flying high.

Like the opportunistic foragers they represent, Rocky Point’s wrestlers saw how close they were to another undefeated league season, and grabbed it by easily outscoring Amityville and Westhampton Beach to finish the season 6-0.

Rocky Point’s Ryan Callahan claims a victory. Photo by Jim Ferchland

“Our team has been grinding throughout the year,” senior captain Ryan Callahan said. “We’ve had a lot of tough matches; we’ve had some tough teams we’ve battled, but every team will get their bumps and bruises.”

Amityville had to bow out of six matches — weight classes 99 to 132 — giving Rocky Point a 36-point lead right out of the gate on the way to a 74-9 victory Jan. 10. Sal Aprile pinned Amityville’s Nestor Rivera in the 182-pound weight class to give Rocky Point 67 consecutive points.

“It’s a rarity, but not so much with Amityville,” Rocky Point head coach Darren Goldstein said of the multiple forfeits.

Callahan (22-4 at 138 pounds) and Don Hammarth (16-1 at 145 pounds) won by technical falls, outscoring their opponents by 15 points for automatic wins.

Callahan said Goldstein has taught him everything he knows about wrestling.

“I’ve been around him since I was 5 years old,” Callahan said. “He taught me everything about the sport; everything about competing. He taught me great sportsmanship and to enjoy sports.”

Rob Pliska gave the Eagles four points with a major decision over Amityville’s Angel Zavala, 8-0, at 152 pounds, and Corey Connolly won 5-0 at 160 pounds.

Rocky Point’s Don Hammarth controls his Amityville challenger. Photo by Jim Ferchland

The Eagles only continued their winning ways at Westhampton Jan. 11 with another dominant win.

Mickey Gold, Justin Amendola, Anthony Sciotto and Darren Ketcham each pinned their challengers, which alone would have handed Rocky Point sole possession of the League VI title. Rocky Point won the dual meet 67-12.

Callahan and Connolly teched their opponents, and Hammarth pulled out an 11-3 major decision.

“We’ve had a share of the league title for the last seven years straight,” Goldstein said. “We are proud, but we set big goals in the beginning. We work year round.”

Rocky Point finishes the regular season 11-1 overall, with the sole loss being to League V’s Eastport-South Manor the first meet of the season. Goldstein is proud to see how his grapplers bounced back, giving it their all at each meet after. He’s looking forward to seeing what his Eagles can do in the Suffolk County brackets.

“We didn’t wrestle our best to Eastport-South Manor, but we’ve been rolling ever since,” Goldstein said. “When the county dual comes, you can’t run away.”

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Allison Burfeindt. Photo by Jim Ferchland

By Jim Ferchland

The Mad Dogs were down after dropping their second game all season, the first of three, 996-863, at home at AMF Centereach Lanes against Sachem Jan. 9.

Nicole Lettich. Photo by Jim Ferchland

But Middle Country’s girls bowling team was not going to let the loss snap their winning ways, and the team got hot scoring 924 in the second and 1,017 in the third for a 2-1 victory to remain undefeated (6-0).

The team was thinking it might have lost its mojo after it was forced to change lanes. When playing games at home, the Mad Dogs play on lanes 29 and 30, but according to the AMF staff the lanes were down, leaving Middle Country and Sachem to compete on 25 and 26. Middle Country head coach Mandy Dominguez said this ruined the girls’ at-home advantage.

“Our top bowlers struggled on lanes 25 and 26 today,” he said. “They didn’t bowl as high as they usually do but it’s just one of those things you can’t control.”

Dominguez, who has been at the helm for nine years, has led the team to eight straight league titles. He has high expectations and was unhappy with how his team performed in the first game.

“It was our worst game of the year,” Dominguez said. “I was a little disappointed
and depressed, but I knew that the girls had the ability to come back and win.”

Amanda Scarfogliero. Photo by Jim Ferchland

Sachem came to play in the first, and even Sachem coach Diane Groneman was really impressed with her girls’ performances. Sophomore All-County bowler Amanda Naujokas scored 246, which really gave Sachem the advantage.

“This is one of the better games we’ve had this season,” Groneman said. “You’re always pumped to go against the first-place team.”

Middle Country senior Nicole Lettich, who is sixth on the team with a 205 average, led Middle Country with a 181 in game one, and then caught fire in the next two. She bowled a 213 and 258, slamming home seven strikes in a row in the third. For Lettich, it was quite a surprise.

“I haven’t bowled over a 200 in my third game in so long,” Lettich said, as she usually bowls around a 170 late in the game. “[It] felt really good … I really haven’t bowled that well lately. It was exciting.”

Senior Allison Burfeindt has been bowling for Middle Country since seventh grade, so she knows the bar is set high every year. She said she and the three other soon-to-be graduates average over 200, along with most of the rest of the Mad Dogs because they know what needs to be put in to get results.

Julie Acosta. Photo by Jim Ferchland

“All of the girls on the team put in so much work,” Burfeindt said. “We practice every single day.”

Middle Country may have won by over 100 pins in game two, but Dominguez said his team still wasn’t at its best with all the spares.

“We are used to getting a lot more strikes than spares,” Dominguez said. “It wasn’t our best day, but we did enough to win.”

Freshman Hannah Skalacki, who bowls the highest average on the team with a 224, did not play because of personal reasons. Senior Julie Acosta fell shy of meeting her 207 average, finishing with a 165, 160 and 191.

“Even though we struggled in the first game, we just came back hard and fought for the win,” she said. “We didn’t give up and came together as a team. We just fought to the end.”

Dominguez said that despite the win, his Mad Dogs can’t play like they did again if they want to beat Longwood Jan. 11. Longwood gave Middle Country their first dropped game back on Dec. 19. The game is set for 3:30 p.m. at Coram Country Bowl.

“If we bowl like we did today, we’ll lose to Longwood on Thursday,” Dominguez said. “They are very good. We have to bowl better.”

Middle Country’s girls bowling team celebrates its win. Photo by Jim Ferchland

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Madison Brady keeps a Deer Park opponent at a distance as she moves the ball up the court. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Erin Tucker and Hallie Simkins combined for three points from the free-throw line in the final seconds of Harborifelds’ girls basketball team’s 39-37 edging of Deer Park at the Northport invitational shootout Dec. 30, helping to cap off 2017 on a 6-0 undefeated streak in League V.

Hallie Simkins muscles her way to the rim with a Deer Park opponent at her hip reaching for the block. Photo by Bill Landon

The Tornadoes haven’t missed a beat despite losing all five starters to graduation last year.

“This is a completely new team,” Harborfields head coach Glenn Lavey said. “And that was a good win for them.”

Early in the game points were hard to come by for both teams, as Deer Park took a 7-6 lead into the second stanza, which is where the Falcons’ 3-point game came alive. Three consecutive trifectas were scored before Harborfields could answer, giving Deer Park an 8-point lead, 16-8, with three minutes left in the first half.

Harborfields junior Celia Argiriou launched a long distance shot to net her first 3-pointer of the game to close the gap to 16-13, but the Falcons outscored the Tornadoes 17-11 in the quarter to take a 24-17 advantage into the locker room.

“At halftime, our coach just told us 7 points is nothing — we’ve just got to keep chipping away at it, we’ve got to play harder than them,” Tucker said. “That’s what went through everyone’s mind — do it for the team, and eventually, it will move in our direction. We played a zone coverage we literally put in three weeks ago, and we caused some turnovers that we were able to turn into points.”

With three minutes left in regulation, the forward battled in the paint and scored to make it a 1-point game. One the next possession, Simkins took matters into her own hands and banked two points of her own to give the Tornadoes their first lead since the first quarter with 2:28 left.

Erin Tucker shoots uncontested. Photo by Bill Landon

“I just kept thinking, ‘We have the effort, we have the drive, but we just kept fighting and pushing them by doing what we know how,” said Simkins, who finished the third quarter with two consecutive buckets that cut the deficit to 31-26. “[We won because of] our mental toughness — we all really stayed headstrong on the court and we never gave in.”

With 12.6 seconds on the clock, Tucker went to the line shooting two and banked both of her free-throw shots to edge ahead by three. After a Falcons score, the Tornadoes kept their cool, and Simkins split the difference during her team’s final showing at the charity stripe to seal the deal.

Tucker and Simkins topped the scoring sheet with 11 points apiece. Freshman forward Madison Brady, who banked seven, said Lavey’s encouragement at halftime resonated with her and her teammates, who know the program’s positive playoff position its in year after year.

“Coach said we can come back, and we all agreed that we’re better than that first half, and we could come back,” Brady said. “We just have to battle it out every game the whole season to win our league, and hopefully make a run at a county championship.”

Harborfields looks to continue its positive trajectory in 2018 when it hosts Hauppauge Jan. 4. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.

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Undefeated Tigers boast strong swimmers, maintaining streak with no divers

Northport freshman Aiden Greenfield, won the 200-meter and 500 freestyle events, and was a member of the first-place 200 freestyle relay quartet. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Not fielding a single diver doesn’t faze the Northport boys swim team.

It hasn’t effected a single meet’s outcome yet either, as the Tigers edged previously undefeated Connetquot on the road Dec. 18, 93-90, for their fourth win of the season.

Being down 13 points before the first gun ever sounds has its challenges though, according Northport head coach Drew Modrov’s athletes though, especially when up against a strong swim team like the Thunderbirds have.

“Connetquot’s always a fierce team — we have kind of a rivalry with them — so we always know that when we come here it’s going to be a close meet,” the coach said. “It’s intense, and every point is going to matter. I’m just happy we came away with the win.”

The Greenfield brothers boasted big point totals for the Tigers.

Northport senior Zach Papsco clocked in with a state-qualifying time in the 100-meter butterfly, and was first to the block in the 100 breaststroke. Photo by Bill Landon

Senior Ethan Greenfield, along with 200-meter medley relay teammates Nick Millkey and Zach Papsco and Dylan Karpf, came in first with a state-qualifying time of 1 minute, 40.25 seconds. He added to Northport’s point total with a state-qualifying times of 22.05 in the 50 freestyle and 48.73 in the 100 freestyle.

“A lot of our guys came up big — Ethan Greenfield had a couple of best times in crucial wins,” Modrov said. “It was Ethan’s personal best in the 50 free.”

Freshman Aidan Greenfield, Ethan’s younger brother, won both the 200 and 500 freestyle events, and was a member of the first-place 200 freestyle relay quartet.

“I thought that the turning point was the 500 free — we went out and finished first and third, which dropped us even,” said Karpf, the only sophomore on the 200 medley relay. “And the last relay is what I thought really cemented it for us.”

Each member of the 200 medley also shined individually.

Papsco clocked in with a state-qualifying time of 53.57 in the 100 butterfly, and was first to hit the pad in the 100 breaststroke. Millkey won the 200 individual medley, and followed it up with a victory in the 100 backstroke, also stopping the clock with his own state championship time: 54.43.

Modrov said he was particularly impressed by the performances of his underclassmen, noting Aidan Greenfield and freshman Austin Neuf’s high placements.

“At the end we had a great swim from Austin Neuf, a freshman who took second place in the 100 breaststroke, and that put us over the edge and helped us win the meet,” the coach said.

After the holiday break Northport is back in action at Ward Melville Jan. 5. The meet is currently slated to begin at 4:30 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.”

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Patriots powerhouse wins two 1-0 games for first state crown since 2008

Kerri Thornton has become a thorn in the side of her opponents.

The senior standout scored Ward Melville’s game-winning goal in overtime to help the Patriots bring home the first Class A state title in field hockey since 2008 with a 1-0 win over Maine-Endwell on their field Nov. 12.

“At first, I honestly did not think it went in,” Thornton said. “When Kate [Mulham] got the back ball, I ran back into the circle and got ready for her to send it in. When she did, I received it, and just turned around and shot it hard hoping that it would go in.”

As Thornton’s teammates surrounded her in celebration, she said she knew what she’d done.

“I let out a huge shout in relief,” she said as she saw the smiling faces racing toward her. “It has been our dream ever since we were kids to win a championship like this. The journey this season — as a senior this year — this was what I wanted. I’m just so proud of my team for putting in the time and effort to get to where we got. It’s incredible that we finally pulled it off.”

The game-winning goal was scored with 4:37 left in overtime. Mulham said despite the team’s perfect 21-0 record, losing in the state final and semifinal games in extra minutes in the last two years lingered in the back of their minds. She said despite coming up just short in recent years, she knew the qualities her surrounding teammates possessed.

“What makes Ward Melville field hockey different is that we field a team where every girl is extremely talented,” she said. “Overtime is a high-pressure situation, but I was confident. That’s what makes us so successful.”

She said when she heard her classmate calling for the ball from the circle, she knew what she had to do.

“All I could see was a swarm of defenders when I passed the ball to Kerri,” Mulham said. “But I heard her calling for it, and I trust her, so I sent it to her. When I saw it go into the net, I broke down — tears of joy, and I rushed to hug her so tightly. I never wanted something so badly, and to accomplish something like this with your best friends is a feeling I can’t even put into words.”

With the intensity up and with a huge target on its back, Ward Melville began its journey upstate Nov. 11. With a second trip to the finals in three years on the line, junior Lexi Reinhardt was the first Patriot to jump for joy. Long Island’s leading goal scorer (33 points on 24 goals and nine assists) found the back of the cage in another pressure-filled situation. With 23 seconds left in the first half of a 0-0 game with Baldwinsville, she scored off an assist from senior Shannon Coughlan to send Ward Melville to the finals.

“The play was on a corner and in these games corners are precious,” Reinhardt said. “It was just a great pass from Shannon Coughlan and I was in the right position to finish it.”

She said the Patriots wanted to make a statement being back in the state semifinal game for the third year in a row.

“Heading in, there was definitely some nerves, but I think we channeled that and we were able to play off of the energy of the situation,” she said. “During the game we didn’t focus on that though, we were just focused on playing our game, and winning. The joy and happiness that we feel has radiated throughout the entire program. I will never forget this team.”

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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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By Bill Landon

Ward Melville’s girls tennis team’s unbeaten, 14-0, regular season record is unmatched by any of the 52 varsity squads in Suffolk County. Add to that four playoff victories, the last one leading to a Suffolk County championship title, and the Patriots are in rarefied air.

Head coach Erick Sussin said the remarkable winning streak is a once-in-a-lifetime achievement.

“No other team in Suffolk County has gone undefeated, in all leagues — all the others have at least one loss,” he said. “Now every team plays different schedules and sometimes you’re comparing apples and oranges, but we did have a tough schedule and not to drop a match.”

The Patriots tasted defeat for the first time when they fell to Port Washington, 5-2, in a rain delayed Long Island championship finale at Half Hollow Hills West Nov. 1.

Ward Melville junior Denise Lai had her hands full at first singles, but ultimately prevailed against seventh-grader Thea Rabman 6-3, 4-6, 6-3. Section XI had a surprise in store for the three-year varsity player after the match. Lai, who was been name All-State the last two seasons, learned she had captured the sportsmanship award for the season, as voted by Suffolk County coaches.

“There’s no doubt about, its humbling,” Lai said, overwhelmed. “I’m just happy I’m acknowledged for how nice I am.”

Sussin was quick to point out what his junior standout has meant to the team.

“Denise is not just our captain, she’s the team leader at the highest position,” the coach said. “She’s been top notch all year and she plays well under pressure. She represents our team at first singles.”

Ward Melville junior Anna Ma, a three-year varsity player who usually competes in first doubles, found herself competing in fourth singles and won her match 7-5, 6-3.

Sussin said his strategy for the match was to get to four wins as soon as possible. To try to do this, he continued to move some of his star doubles players to singles spots, like Keren Collins, who ultimately won the county championship for her team.

The senior, who usually pairs with Ma, competed in third singles throughout the postseason.

“We know that in our [matchups] we can get four points in other ways,” Sussin said. “They prefer doubles, and in doubles their hands get better, their volleys get better, and you can use that in singles play.”

Collins said she had confidence in her team throughout the playoffs no matter where her teammates were slotted.

“It didn’t matter who we were playing, everyone in every position had the ability to get it done —we all did our part we just kept pushing through,” Collins said. “We had confidence going out there each time, knowing we could do it. And every time we won, we’d have a quick 10-second celebration and move on to the next match. We set our goals and we conquered them.”

Julia Hu attributed her team’s remarkable season and its rise to Long Island level to the depth of Ward Melville’s roster.

“Reaching this game says so much about how deeply talented our team is from our first singles to our third doubles,” Hu said. “Our girls are so disciplined with their training throughout the year, and with their effort and support of the entire team — we all contributed to that 18-0 record.”

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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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