There were plenty of reasons to not like Kings Park’s chances.
The Kingsmen returned just two players with starting experience. A host of young players made the climb from junior varsity. The team lost two matches in the regular season for the first time in several years.
A new coach, Luis Sepulveda, inherited a team with a near-decade run of dominance over Long Island Class A girls volleyball, and under his guidance, Kings Park maintained its perch atop the county.
Lauren Weir’s 19 kills and two aces paced No. 5 Kings Park over No. 2 Westhampton, 26-24, 25-22, 21-25, 25-16, Thursday night at SCCC-Brentwood in the Suffolk Class A championship, giving the Kingsmen eight straight titles.
Kings Park will play the winner of Wantagh and Lynbrook on Sunday at 5 p.m. in the Long Island Class A championship at Farmingdale State.
“It was an unknown,” said Sepulveda, who previously coached at Baldwin. “I’ve built programs, but I’ve never taken over one as successful as this one, seven-time Long Island champs. They were young and a little inexperienced in that a lot of them never played varsity level.”
Weir, a senior, spent time on varsity in the past but never cracked the starting lineup. Carly Estherson who had 42 assists, and Liv Benard, the middle hitter who didn’t play Thursday because of an ankle injury, were the only returning starters. That didn’t matter.
Kings Park took a 2-0 lead, but Westhampton didn’t fold. Juliette Seeliger and Cortina Green kept the high-powered Westhampton (12-4) offense alive with a third-set win, but Kings Park responded.
Junior Arzu Duman, who played on junior varsity last season, had 10 kills and extended the fourth-set lead to 17-8.
“I didn’t expect I’d be here right now,” she said. “But I’m happy to get a chance.”
Fittingly, it was Weir’s ace that clinched the match. Although she was confident heading into this season, even she expressed her doubts.
“I wasn’t sure how far we would make it,” she said. “I thought we’d make it far, but I didn’t know. I think as we progressed through the season, we got closer and we’ve bonded. I’m very happy because we’ve come out and done what we needed to do.”
Kings Park (15-3) utilized a large portion of its roster, receiving key contributions from Alyssa Sticco, Delaney Miller, Jenna Hayes, Amanda Alongi, Shaye Benard and Alyssa Gillen. It was Weir who rose above the rest.
“She was our best player today,” Sepulveda said. “Serving, hitting, defense, everything. She’s been a leader since the day I got here, the first day they introduced me as coach. She showed me around, showed me how they did things.”
Weir’s voice was hoarse after the match, and not from all the yelling. She said she was feeling under weather — “Maybe I was a little bit sick, I don’t know,” she said — but it all came together.
What’s another question mark?