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Nov 6, 2018 3:33 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

East Hampton Girls Volleyball Falls To Kings Park In County Semifinals

East Hampton senior Madyson Neff punches a ball over the net. KYRIL BROMLEY
Nov 6, 2018 3:44 PM

Although the Kings Park girls volleyball team graduated 11 players after last season, the perennial powerhouse has such an extensive postseason resume—which includes winning the past seven straight Long Island Championships—that its underclassmen have loads of playoff experience that can still make a difference in a match.

It did on Monday evening, when the fifth-seeded Lady Kingsmen traveled to top-seeded and previously unbeaten East Hampton. Kings Park won, 25-23, 25-17, 19-25, 23-25, 25-13, to upset the Lady Bonackers. Kings Park will face Westhampton Beach for the county final for the fifth consecutive season this Thursday at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood.

East Hampton head coach Kathy McGeehan said that having a first-round bye may have ultimately hurt her team, not allowing it to get a playoff match under its belt before facing such a team as Kings Park in what was the county semifinal.

“I think we would have had playoff pop if we had a win under our belt coming into last night’s match. No one on our squad had really played in a match of that intensity,” she explained. “But I’m super proud of the way they battled to push it to five. When the sting goes away, we’ll be able to let the light of that league championship shine through.”

McGeehan gave credit to Kings Park for putting service pressure on her team throughout the match. And even when her team played better in the third and fourth sets to force a fifth and final set, she could still see her team wasn’t the same team she’d seen through the first two months of the season.

“We played good defense to stay in the match but our offense could never really get going,” she said. “Both of my middles had a negative hitting percentage and we couldn’t really pass well enough to set effectively.

“That, in a nutshell, is what happened. At this level, it’s all about serving and passing, and Kings Park won that hands down.”

East Hampton junior Mikela Junemann—whom McGeehan referred to as the team’s “terminator” on offense—had a very good match with 15 kills on 35 attempts and just six errors. But as McGeehan noted, Junemann needed to have somewhere around 55 attempts if the team was going to win.

Despite the heart-breaking loss, McGeehan still held her tradition of addressing the team at the very end of the season, no matter when that happens to be. After she addressed the team, the seniors then addressed the underclassmen. It was a very emotional experience, to say the least, not just because of the situation with the loss but because this year’s team may have been the tightest McGeehan has had in her 38-year career, she said.

“They have developed such a tremendous bond that it’s special. It’s a special group of senior leadership with a super-talented group of underclassmen that will go down as one of the tightest teams I have ever coached. The friendships are so solid and there is no doubt that they have made relationships that will last long beyond their high school years. Sometimes seeing that as a coach is even better than wins.”

East Hampton will lose nine seniors to graduation, including four players that played on varsity for four years—Ella Gurney, Elle Johnson, Madyson Neff and Nicole Realmuto. Claire Hopkins, Erin Decker, Julia Kearney, Mary McDonald and Connie Chan, who McGeehan noted served “magnificently” on Monday, are all graduating as well. With those departures, the team will lose its starting setter and the majority of its offense.

“Those type of players float your boat because they all came out and gave it their all regardless of the playing time they got,” McGeehan said. “It’s really a unique and special group and I think the underclassmen feel blessed as a first-year squad that those seniors welcomed them where they felt comfortable enough to get better as the season progressed.”

Junemann, along with fellow juniors Molly Mamay and Zoe Rae Leach, will now take the torch passed down from the outgoing seniors, and how far the team goes next season is up to them, McGeehan said. Junemann—who is currently in the top five in the 38-year history of McGeehan’s tenure as one of the school’s best hitters and is about 250 kills away from being the best ever hitter in that time span—will most likely have to be the offensive focus for the team next season, something she didn’t have to be this season with so many different options.

“Once they decide what their goals are,” McGeehan said, referring to Junemann, Mamay and Leach, “I have no doubt that with the talent that East Hampton has coming back and coming up that it will be another successful season.”

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