When Kings Park was hit with adversity for the first time this season, it rose to the challenge.
Kings Park hosted the first Suffolk Girls Volleyball Showcase on Monday, playing in the afternoon’s final non-league match against Westhampton.
Both teams entered play 10-0, and Kings Park had yet to lose a set to a Long Island opponent outside of tournament play. Despite dropping the third game, the Kingsmen won, 25-22, 25-21, 23-25, 25-21, cementing themselves as the top team in Suffolk Class A.
“It was really important for us to come back because it proves where our mental toughness is at this point in the season, and it’s only going to grow,” said senior Lauren Kloos, who had 22 kills and 15 digs.
The Kingsmen had a mountain to climb early, trailing 18-12 in the first game after the Hurricanes came out swinging. Camryn Bancroft (17 kills) and Sarena Choi (16) made their presences felt early.
But Kings Park (11-0) used a 13-4 run to win the set. In the second game, Kings Park took n 11-10 lead it never relinquished in securing a 2-0 lead.
Closing out the third game was an issue, though. Kings Park led 19-14 before Westhampton’s Emma Marino (33 assists) kept feeding Bancroft and Choi to take the set.
The Kingsmen responded well, taking the first point of a fourth set in which it never trailed.
“I think it definitely helps keep you on your toes against a team we fully expect to see down the road [in the playoffs],” coach Ed Manly said of dropping a set. “When we don’t play our best, we can lose sets.”
Now the only undefeated Class A team on Long Island, Kings Park leaned on reliable defense from Meagan Murphy (29 digs) and Erika Benson (six blocks). Sophomore setter Carly Estherson, playing in place of the injured Haley Holmes, chipped in 14 digs in addition to her 39 assists.
“I have gotten comfortable, but Haley is such a good player,” Estherson said. “At first it was hard to replace her, but I’m not really replacing her. I’m just comfortable.”
The Kingsmen have received contributions from up and down the roster, with Lexi Petraitis, Sam Schultz, Kara Haase, Megan Sticco and others playing key roles. There aren’t many holes in their game, but dropping a set to Westhampton (10-1) was something of a wakeup call.
“Dropping the set was just a lull in energy, and I think that, mentally, that’s where we can improve,” Kloos said.
If that’s the only adjustment needed, then Kings Park is poised to make another trip to the state championship tournament.