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Volleyball

Kingsmen have won all six matchups, 3-0, this season

Carly Esterson opened the first set on a service tare, scoring 10 straight points. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

When you think of girls’ volleyball, you think Kings Park.

The Kingsmen have been a powerhouse for years, and despite losing strong seniors each year, the team continues its winning ways. In the still early season, Kings Park has managed to sweep all five of its opponents leading up to the Sept. 19 matchup against Comsewogue, which was no different.

The Kingsmen invaded Warrior territory, and although Comsewogue came close in the second set, the five-time Long Island champions prevailed, defeating their opponent 25-7, 25-17, 25-6.

Kings Park head coach Ed Manly was happy with the result the team put up despite its much different roster.

“We had a little bit of a different [mix] out there today, so that was an adjustment for our girls,” Manly said. “If you haven’t seen us play before, you wouldn’t know we’ve had a serious adjustment to our lineup.”

Sophomore Carly Esterson set the tone early with an unbroken service rally that put Kings Park out front 11-1. It was the setter’s first varsity start, but you wouldn’t know it, as she settled in scoring point after point.

Kings Park's Lauren Kloos tallies a kill. Photo by Bill Landon
Kings Park’s Lauren Kloos tallies a kill. Photo by Bill Landon

“I don’t really play much, but we were together mentally on the floor,” Esterson said. “We had good communication.”

Comsewogue struggled at the net — having a hard time finding a rhythm — as Kings Park demonstrated why they’ve gone to the New York State quarterfinals four out of the last five years.

Momentum shifted in the next, as Comsewogue closed within three points midway through the second set, trailing 17-14. It would be as close as the team would come though, as Kings Park slammed the door, taking the set 25-17.

Manly pushed deep into his roster throughout the game, and each player on the team saw action.

“Everyone from the first kid on the floor to the last kid on the bench got after it tonight,” he said. “They played hard, they were loud and vocal, so there’s a real sense of family on the court. They feed off of that.”

The Kingsmen turned up the heat in the third set, jumping out to a 13-3 advantage, forcing Comsewogue to call a time out. Looking for the first win of the season, Comsewogue head coach Kevin Parker did not doubt Kings Parks’ power.

Comsewogue's Georgia Alexiou battles at the net. Photo by Bill Landon
Comsewogue’s Georgia Alexiou battles at the net. Photo by Bill Landon

“We knew Kings Park was going to be good — we know their reputation,” Parker said. “But our girls have been putting in a lot of work this year. We’re building, and the hope is to turn this program around.”

Senior outside hitter Lauren Kloos said her teams’ preparation was no different from any other game, and Kings Park put the matter to bed, and dominated the final set, claiming a 25-6 set to sweep the match.

“We faced Comsewogue like we prepare for any [team],” she said. “We put in our practice and we get ready. Our sophomore setter [Carly Esterson] — the way she stepped up — she completely killed it, so to be able to communicate and adapt to a new setter on the court, we did it really well. I don’t think we could’ve done it any better.”

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

The Kings Park girls’ volleyball team continues to rule the volleyball scene.

Despite losing several key starters to graduation last year, like standout Amanda Gannon, and head coach Lizz Manly to maternity leave, the team has continued its winning ways. After dropping the first match of the season to Westhampton, 3-1, the girls have gone on a 15-match streak, only dropping the Kings Park Invitational to Wantagh, 2-1.

The No. 2-ranked Kingsmen hosted No. 7 Deer Park in the first round of the Class A playoffs on Tuesday, and shut down the competition, 3-0.

Stephanie Cornwell had 30 assists; Lauren Kloos had 10 kills, three aces, four digs and a block; and Lauren Kehoe had six blocks to lead Kings Park to victory.

With the shutout victory, the girls have now blanked 11 of the 16 teams they have faced.

Kings Park will host No. 3 Eastport-South Manor in the semifinals on Friday at 5 p.m.

This Kingsmen team will have the chance to continue Kings Park’s success streak that began four years ago, when the team won the Long Island Championship, which began a four-year streak of LIC wins. The team also made it to the state tournament as a result of those wins, but has yet to win that elusive title.

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

Despite losing some top competitors to graduation last year, the Kings Park girls’ volleyball team is on track to do it again.

The Kingsmen currently sit atop the League V standings, tied with Westhampton with a 9-1 record.

The team has shut out eight of its opponents so far this season, not including the Wednesday result, and only had one five-set contest in which the team topped Islip, 3-2, Oct. 14.

The Kingsmen were undefeated in league play in the previous three seasons, and won four Long Island championships in a row, making it to the state championship each year as a result.

The team will traveled to Harborfields on Wednesday. They will follow it up with a tournament at Smithtown West Saturday, and wrap up regular season play at Hauppauge on Monday at 6:15 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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Amanda Gannon and head coach LIzz Manly pose for a photo after Gannon reached 1,000 career kills. File photo

By Clayton Collier

Having completed a historic high school volleyball resume at Kings Park, graduate Amanda Gannon will look to extend that resume at the collegiate level, as she heads back to Iona College this fall.

Renee Gannon, Amanda’s mother and former volleyball coach at Bethpage High School, said her daughter’s commitment to Iona is a result of years of hard work.

“I am so happy for her,” she said. “This is something she’s honestly wanted since she was in seventh grade when she started travel volleyball. … She’s just worked so hard for this and I’m so proud of her.”

Amanda Gannon sets up the ball. File photo by Bill Landon
Amanda Gannon sets up the ball. File photo by Bill Landon

The four-time Long Island champion graduated high school in January in order to attend her first semester at Iona early, and practice with its Division I volleyball team. Amanda Gannon said she was happy with the decision to forego her final months of high school classes to get a jump-start on college, as well as acclimating herself to the Gaels’ program.

“I can’t wait to go back,” she said. “Going there in the spring was amazing and I’m so happy I decided to leave high school early. We only trained in the spring and didn’t get to play, but the girls are really nice, I love the coach and I’m looking forward to the season starting.”

Iona head coach Jon Killingbeck said the extra semester has been beneficial for all parties.

“We’re super excited to have Amanda as part of our program,” he said. “With every player we try to get to know how to reach them better and I think in the last six months I have strengthened my relationship with Amanda. For her, I think she has learned what it means to be a college athlete.”

Gannon, Kings Park’s all-time kills leader and reigning Long Island Player of the Year, verbally committed to Iona in the winter of her junior year. The outside hitter said having college already planned out helped ease her mind heading into her senior season.

“I didn’t have to go through the process of filling out a bunch of college applications; I had one,” she said. “I knew what my future was. I just had to worry about becoming better in volleyball and taking my game to the next level. I never used committing as an excuse to relax on my school work or volleyball. I always worked hard and strived to do better.”

Amanda Gannon bumps the ball in a previous contest for Kings Park. File photo by Bill Landon
Amanda Gannon bumps the ball in a previous contest for Kings Park. File photo by Bill Landon

Kingsmen head coach Lizz Manly said Gannon, her only player to have played in all four consecutive championships, only got better as the years progressed.

“She spent all year every off season training to become the player she is today, and has showed that hard work does pay off,” she said. “Her last two seasons in high school she was an all-around phenomenal player. She packed the stat sheets all around and those are the type of players that people notice.”

Gannon has not forgotten the work Manly and her husband put in to make her the player she is today.

“They have helped my volleyball technique grow and become stronger,” she said. “They always sparked the competitive drive in me. They always have believed in me and believed I could always do better pushing me to my limits, and off the court they taught me how to be respectful and how to work with others. They are really huge influential people in my life and without the Manlys I wouldn’t be who I am today.”

Manly said she’ll miss Gannon’s consistent desire to improve but takes comfort in the fact that her star athlete has left a legacy behind in Kings Park athletics that won’t soon be forgotten.

“Her impact on Kings Park volleyball is huge in that the sport has exploded in Kings Park due to her and our program’s success,” she said. “Every little girl in Kings Park wants to be a volleyball player now and it is wonderful to see such desire.”