Liv Benard, Delaney Miller and their Kings Park teammates were familiar with the feeling of watching a two-set lead slip away in a championship match.
A resolute clinching-set performance ensured the Kingsmen would not experience it again Monday afternoon but instead would continue their reign over Suffolk county girls volleyball.
Benard had 12 kills and three blocks and Miller had nine kills and 14 digs to lead No. 1 Kings Park over No. 2 Hauppauge in a four-set victory in the Suffolk A final at Newfield High School, earning a ninth straight county title for the Kingsmen. Kings Park won, 25-22, 27-25, 20-25, 26-24, and will face the winner of Thursday’s South Side-Manhasset match in the Long Island championship 3 p.m. on Saturday at Hauppauge.
After dropping the third set to keep Hauppauge in the match, Kings Park (14-0) fell behind again in the fourth, and Miller said that brought to mind last season’s Long Island title match, when Kings Park won the first two sets but dropped the next three to Wantagh.
“That was a tough loss for us, but that’s not us,” she said. “After we dropped the third set today, it lit a fire under us. Our coach brought us together and said, ‘this isn’t last year, this team fights.’ And we came together.”
“We kind of leaned on what happened last year,” coach Luis Sepulveda said. “We know we just have to stick to the process and realize this game sometimes has ebbs and flows. Sometimes teams get momentum and we wanted to make sure we were able to take the momentum back.”
Hauppauge (12-4) led 17-13 in the fourth set and though the Kingsmen strung together enough points to keep it close, they still needed to fight off a pair of set points to tie the score at 24. After Kings Park won a third consecutive point to go ahead by one, Benard received a pass from Lexie O’Brien and put the ball down to close the match.
“This was definitely a nail-biter but we pulled through,” Benard said. “We just had to rely on each other and play our game.”
Kings Park also got a boost from Alyssa Stico, who had 22 digs. Arzu Duman added seven kills and two blocks and Jackie Wolf had eight kills and 15 digs.
Said Miller: “It wasn’t easy, that’s for sure, but this is the absolute best feeling in the world.”