Capturing an eighth Nassau Class B championship in 10 years and third in a row was on the checklist, but ask any member of Kennedy’s boys’ volleyball team and they’ll tell you it was only part of the mission for 2017.
Last Saturday night, the Cougars overcame their first losing set this postseason and defeated Hauppauge, 25-22, 17-25, 25-20, 25-21, for the Long Island Class B title at LIU Post. Junior Tyler Anderson had 19 kills and 17 digs, senior Josh Kaplan had 10 kills and 19 digs, senior Mitch Mass added 24 digs, and sophomore setter Cooper Moran totaled 56 assists as Kennedy won its third L.I. crown under coach Dennis Ringel.
“A lot of these guys won their third county title and they weren’t going to be satisfied if that ended up as the highlight of the season,” Ringel said. “It’s not easy having only one day between the county and Long Island matches. We weren’t at our best tonight, but we found a way to grind it out.”
The Cougars (18-3), who won a state championship in 2012 and were runners-up the following year, will battle for the state crown this Saturday at Suffolk Community College in Brentwood beginning with pool play at 10 a.m.
“Winning three counties is great but with all the work we put in, we definitely want more,” said Steven Carlson, who was part of a balanced effort with nine kills in top-seeded Kennedy’s 25-12, 25-16, 25-19 victory over No. 2 Bethpage in the Nassau Class B final on Nov. 9 at SUNY-Old Westbury. “We have a lot of weapons,” he added.
The Cougars steamrolled through the county playoffs, and not only didn’t they come close to dropping a set, none of their three opponents (Calhoun in quarterfinals; Garden City in semifinals) managed to reach the 20-point mark. Hauppauge ended both streaks within the first two sets last Saturday and had momentum in the third before Anderson’s powerful arm swung the mojo back in Kennedy’s favor.
“Tyler is so difficult to stop when he’s aggressive,” Ringel said of Anderson. “He has all the shots. He had an explosive kill that keyed a four-point run that led us to the win in the third set.”
Moran, Mass, Kaplan and Carlson helped seal the outcome in the fourth as Kennedy rallied from a 19-17 deficit. “Cooper has grown and developed incredibly,” Ringel said of Moran, the team’s lone starter who wasn’t on the varsity roster last season. “He’s athletic and smart, and his decision making improved with every match.”
Mass and junior Justin Steinberg are the defensive catalysts, Ringel said. Seniors Jordan Kappel and Andrew Celauro thrive in the front row and proved a handful at the net for Bethpage, while senior Dylan Judd provides a spark from the service line.
“We didn’t have the same kind of rhythm as usual, but we have great chemistry and do a good job of focusing on one point at a time,” Ringel said. “I’m glad the kids have some time to absorb it.”