Based on the messy beginning to Friday night’s Suffolk League VI girls volleyball game, host Kings Park appeared to be at a disadvantage.
The defending Suffolk Class A champion struggled in all areas. Westhampton took control and built a sizable lead as Kings Park continued to miss the mark.
Outside hitter Delaney Miller said Kings Park had to take a step back and reevaluate, and after that happened, everything came together. The Kingsmen battled back to defeat the Westhampton, 25-21, 25-23, 25-18, improving to 3-0 in league.
Miller had 10 kills and three aces, and junior middle hitter Liv Benard had eight kills, four aces and three blocks. Benard and Arzu Duman (11 kills) proved to be forces defensively at the net, helping turn the momentum in Kings Park’s favor.
“When we started getting down, we went back to our roots and we said, ‘We are a good team. We play together. We play as one,’ ” Miller said. “So, that really motivated us and brought everybody together.”
Westhampton (2-1) was firing early. The Hurricanes took an 18-9 lead in the opening set as Belle Smith’s sturdy back-row defense sparked an offense led by setter Olivia Jayne and hitters Emmie Koszalka, Ava Koszalka and Ella Donneson.
But after a net violation gave Kings Park the serve trailing 18-10, the Kingsmen rolled to score 15 of the final 18 points to take the first set. Benard served three consecutive aces during the stretch, and Jackie Wolf chipped in three kills.
Donneson’s kill put Westhampton ahead 20-18 in the second set, but Wolf started another late rally with a powerful swing on the next play. That started a 7-3 burst to finish the set and put Kings Park ahead 2-0. With the momentum seized, the Kingsmen cruised through the third set.
Gabby Genduso and McKenna Knott also contributed offensively, and libero Alyssa Sticco consistently found setters Danielle Gahan and Lexi O’Brien with accurate passes.
“It’s not just one player that takes the team,” said Benard, referencing the multitude of hitting options and enviable depth of the team. “We don’t just win based off of one player. It’s all of us.”
Benard, who fractured her left ankle last fall and missed her team’s run to a county championship, said she’s playing with a chip on her shoulder. With her back in the mix, Kings Park looks to be favored again in a tough Suffolk Class A that includes contenders in Westhampton and Sayville, among others.
“I’m very motivated,” Benard said. “Being out for that long, it killed me inside. The fact that I’m finally able to be back after being out for so long, I just have so much adrenaline.”