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Nov 9, 2018 10:59 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Kings Park Proves To Be Difficult Once Again For Westhampton Beach Girls Volleyball In County Final

Westhampton Beach senior Juliette Seeliger leaps to hit the ball. DREW BUDD
Nov 13, 2018 9:09 AM

A pair of programs that consider themselves to be in a rebuilding phase, by their high standards, met in the Suffolk County Class A Girls Volleyball Championship on Thursday, November 8, at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood.

It was the fifth straight season Kings Park and Westhampton Beach faced one another for the county crown, so it was inevitable that at some point in that stretch, each team was going to have to re-load, and this season seemed to be it for both squads. Kings Park graduated 11 players last season and returned just two players with starting experience and it also had a new head coach in Luis Sepulveda. Westhampton Beach may not have lost as much as its opponent did in numbers, but, it lost four quality players at key positions.

As the saying goes, though, tradition never graduates, and despite where both teams are in their rebuild process, they were able to get back to the county final.

Kings Park defeated Westhampton Beach, 3-1, to win its eighth consecutive county title and advanced to the Long Island Championship against Nassau County Champion Wantagh, where it lost in five sets on Sunday. In the county final, Westhampton Beach lost the first two sets, 26-24, 25-22, before winning the third set, 25-21—it marked the first set win over Kings Park for the Lady Hurricanes in the five-year span the teams have met in the county final. The Lady Kingsmen came back strong in the fourth set and won, 25-16, the clinching point coming off an ace from senior Laura Weir (19 kills).

The Lady Kingsmen reached the playoffs after a 10-2 season in League V. After being seeded fifth in the Class A bracket, they went on to defeat No. 4 Islip in the playoff opener, then upset top seed East Hampton on November 5. Opposing players from Westhampton Beach, which was seeded second, gave credit where it was due after the loss.

“Not only do they get here every year but they come ready to play every year,” junior libero Isabelle Smith, who has played in all five of the last county finals, said. “They’re a very good team overall. They make very little mistakes and I’d say they’re just always ready to play to their full potential.”

Juliette Seeliger, one of three seniors graduating this year for the Lady Hurricanes, along with her sister, Annabelle, and Cortina Green, backed up her teammate’s statement. “It’s never a time where they let up so we always have to be on our feet. And I think there were some points where we did give up a little bit. We caught ourselves here and there but it wasn’t enough.”

Westhampton Beach head coach Lenny Zaloga thought his team played the best it ever has at Suffolk-Brentwood, site of the county final the last five years. Green led the offense once again with 13 kills and three aces to go along with 14 digs. Juliette Seeliger had six kills and 16 digs, Smith had 41 digs and junior Amber Troutman had four aces and 18 assists.

Smith said that consistently making the county final and playing at Suffolk over the years has helped.

“We’re a lot closer this year and we’ve been here five years now, so you kind of just get more of a feel of the gym,” she explained. “I think every time we come here we walk in and it’s a giant gym, but we always have to remember, in here the net is the same height, the court is the same size.

“After you’re here a few years you’re sick of losing,” Smith added. “You come and you fight harder. You want it more.”

But it wasn’t a perfect match, Zaloga said, which is what seemed to be needed to beat a team like Kings Park. He noted that the team’s passing wasn’t as crisp as it usually is and agreed that the blocking wasn’t up to par as well. The Lady Canes got to the net and seemed positioned correctly to block the ball, but whether it was bad angles or something else entirely, their blocks went out of bounds the majority of the match, resulting in a number of points for Kings Park.

“We had not spent a lot of time on blocking this year. Clearly we should have spent more time on it,” Zaloga said.

With the Seeligers and Green leaving, it’ll be up to the bevy of this year’s juniors and sophomores returning next season to get the team back to a sixth straight county final. Smith is confident in herself and her teammates that they can accomplish that but it’ll be hard saying good-bye to the seniors.

“It’s tough going out with a loss, but no one really expected us to make it this far,” Juliette Seeliger said. “I’m just incredibly proud that we got here and we put up a good fight. We lost four starters and I feel like we really just stepped up and just played our game and played to our fullest potential.”

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