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Girls Volleyball: SWR finds facing Kings Park can be spooky stuff

Talk about scary stuff.

How about having to play Kings Park, one of the scariest high school girls volleyball teams on Long Island — on Halloween, no less?

That was what Shoreham-Wading River had to contend with in its Suffolk County Class A quarterfinal on Tuesday.

Kings Park’s credentials speak for themselves. The League V champion Kingsmen won their seventh consecutive league title and ninth overall. Last year they captured their sixth straight county crown and seventh overall. They have been Long Island champions the past six years, and were runners-up in last year’s state tournament.

A résumé like that is enough to send a chill down the spine of any opponent. Scary, indeed.

“Very scary,” said Shoreham libero Margo Gordon.

Kings Park is also something else: undefeated. The top-seeded Kingsmen (17-0) made Shoreham’s third straight appearance in the playoffs an abbreviated one, beating the Wildcats, 25-13, 25-12, 25-8.

No. 8 Shoreham (7-8) knew what it was facing. It was hard not to notice those six Long Island championship banners hanging behind the team benches at Kings Park High School.

“We knew that they were going to be the best team we ever played and they were the best team we ever played, so we came into it with the mindset of let’s just play and give it our best shot,” said coach Megan Johnson.

Kings Park just brought too much, and it all started with its defense. The Kingsmen’s court coverage was excellent, and that fed into the attack.

“There aren’t too many balls that Shoreham hit that we didn’t at least get a touch on,” Kings Park coach Ed Manly said. “So, our ability to play solid defense kind of makes our offense flow. We have some nice hitters, but if we don’t play defense, it doesn’t matter what kind of shiny hitters you have.”

And Kings Park does have some shiny hitters like Erika Benson (seven kills, three service aces, three blocks, one assist), Samantha Schultz and Alexa Petraitis, who added four kills each. Setter Haley Holmes had 19 assists to go with five aces, four kills and a block.

What is it like facing firepower like that?

“It’s actually kind of fun knowing that they’re going to come for you, so when you get that dig or you get that pass up, it’s just like a really great feeling,” said Gordon.

Shoreham middle hitter Maegan Letscher said: “We definitely knew we were the underdogs, so we came out and we just had fun, basically. They have amazing players.”

Going up against that sort of talent, Shoreham recalibrated its expectations and celebrated the smaller things, like reaching double figures in each of the first two sets or Brianna Loguercio serving for three successive aces in the first set or taking leads of 3-2 (on a Letscher ace) and 4-2 in the second set.

“No matter what happened in the game, we wanted to play as a hard as we could and just go out of the season knowing we put everything we had on the court,” Gordon said. “I know going into it we were a little — well, a lot of it — nervous, but we really held our ground.”

Being Halloween, Kings Park got into the spirit of things and dressed for the occasion. The Kingsmen wore the black uniforms they usually wear on the road. To that they added orange socks and orange scrunchies.

“I thought it would be nice for the kids to have a little Halloween flair,” said Manly. Of course, he said, “When the ball went up, it was all about business.”

Business will resume for Kings Park Friday when it will play either No. 4 East Hampton or No. 5 East Islip in a semifinal.

Asked to sum up Shoreham’s season, Gordon said, “I’ll give you some words: fun, exciting, crazy.”

She might have added another word: scary. Maybe just a little bit.

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Photo caption: Shoreham-Wading River libero Margo Gordon leads the Wildcats onto the court for their county quarterfinal in Kings Park. (Credit: Bob Liepa)