The machine that is Kings Park girls volleyball continues to roll.
The Lady Kingsmen won their seventh straight Suffolk County Class A Championship in a 3-0 victory over Westhampton Beach on Thursday, November 9, at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood, then followed with another 3-0 victory over South Side to win their seventh straight Long Island Championship on Saturday.
Kings Park defeated the Lady Hurricanes 25-12, 25-23, 25-15. It was the fourth year in a row that Westhampton Beach lost to Kings Park in the county final.
“They’re very good. They’re big and strong, athletic, and well coached. They’re better than we are,” Westhampton Beach head coach Lenny Zaloga stated after the loss.
“The last four years we’ve been here—I can’t make excuses because it’s the same for everyone—but our serve/receive is terrible in this gym,” he added. “The way we’ve been playing the past couple of weeks, it was really good. And then today it broke down. That’s the name of the game, whoever controls the ball first has the advantage, and they did a better job than we did.”
The Lady Canes put a bit of a scare in the Lady Kingsmen—who haven’t lost a set to fellow Suffolk Class A schools this season—in the second set. A kill by senior Julie Zemmour tied the score at 21-21, then two unforced errors gave Westhampton Beach a 23-21 lead, forcing Kings Park to call its second timeout within a matter of minutes. The Lady Kingsmen went on a 4-0 run, though, out of the timeout break to come back and win the set off a kill from senior Alexa Petraitis.
Had the Lady Canes won the second set it could have changed the entire match, but it at least gave them the confidence that they could play with the powerhouse that is Kings Park.
“It felt nice to scare them a little,” Westhampton Beach senior setter Emma Marino said with a laugh. “It was a huge confidence booster. We’re so proud of how we played. This is the best we’ve ever played against them. For it to be our senior year, playing that well, it’s just really good.”
Kings Park got off to a 9-0 start in the third set before closing things out. When asked if the energy expelled in the second set had an adverse effect in the third, Marino said it was quite the opposite.
“I think it motivated us more, because we knew if we had done what we did at the end of that set, then we could have a chance in the third, but we didn’t carry through in the third,” she explained.
Marino finished with 14 assists and 15 digs, while sophomore Isabelle Smith recorded 41 digs. Zemmour had 15 digs, senior Shannon Hewlett and junior Cortina Green each had six kills, and senior Smiltene Jankunaite had four blocks.
Marino, Zemmour, Hewlett, Jankunaite, and fellow senior Emilee Downs will graduate in June, with the distinction of being the most successful class in program history by reaching the county final in four straight years and only losing a handful of league matches within that time frame.
“We’ve all been so close and such a family, especially compared to past years, I think we all played really well together,” Zemmour said. “Even though we lost we had a great game.”
While he wasn’t sure if Kings Park will return as the powerhouse it’s been next year, since it’s losing five seniors to graduation, Zaloga is confident his team will reload with a number of returning players and players who will make the jump to varsity. His outgoing seniors seem to feel the same way.
“[I am] excited for the future because we know that we’re helping the younger kids and being good examples,” Marino said. “So I’m excited to see how the other setter grows and develops, and I’m sure Julie is excited to see how the other passer is going to do. It’s exciting to see the legacy that we leave.”
That’s not to say that Zaloga won’t miss his seniors. Never one to mince words, Zaloga said he would much rather have a team that’s centered around enjoying its time together, with winning being a byproduct of that. He’s not sure that’s the situation in Kings Park.
“I would much rather have what we had as a team, in terms of liking each other, being happy to be around each other, spending time together, than winning,” he explained. “I’m guessing it’s different in Kings Park, where there’s more of a focus on winning the game, whereas with us, we’re with each other, we’re playing a sport we all love, what could be better?
“And that’s why when you see these kids cry—[Kings Park] won so they won’t be crying—but if they cry, they’re going to cry because they lose,” Zaloga added.”We’re going to cry because we’re not going to be together in practice tomorrow. And that’s so much better.”