There's not too much sweeter in sports than a three-peat.
The Kennedy boys volleyball team did just that with a straight sets win over Floral Park in the Class B county title game at Hofstra on Thursday night. The second-seeded Cougars (16-1) swept aside the top-seeded Knights (16-2): 25-16, 25-17 and 26-24. Both of the Knights losses this season have come at the hands of the reigning Class B champs.
"I couldn't be prouder for these guys. We came in with a game plan and just executed it, almost flawlessly for the first two games," Kennedy head coach Dennis Ringel said. "In the end we really showed that fortitude and championship experience that put us over the top at the end."
The Knights hurt themselves in the first set with defensive mistakes at the net, which had been one of their strong points for the majority of the season. Kennedy easily took the first set by nine points.
Down one game, the Knights responded quickly, taking a 4-1 lead to open the second set. However a six-point rally spurred by the serving of senior co-captain and tournament MVP Ben Hirschler pushed the match to the two-set advantage.
Floral Park wouldn't go away lightly, again jumping out to an early lead, this time by a score of 6-1. However, Kennedy showed championship resiliency, rallying for five points behind sophomore Jake Sherman. The Knights managed to quickly regain a sizable lead, only to have the Cougars make yet another late run, where they eventually carried on to their 12th sweep of the season.
"We never gave up, but were ready to go into a fourth game," Hirschler said. "Volleyball is a game where there is no time, so you have to finish the last points, so even thought they had 24, they still needed that one more point."
Hirschler finished with a game-high 12 kills.
Brian O'Gorman added 11 kills and four blocks. The 6-foot-10 senior co-captain followed up a semifinal performance against Bethpage where he recorded a career-high 17 kills.
"We knew they had strong middle blockers, so we focused on our outside hitting a little bit more," O'Gorman said. "On defense, I focused on my blocking in transitioning to the outside."
Senior libero Dylan Simonson has been the rock of the back defense and stands as one of the Cougars strongest servers.
"It has been such a great honor to be on this team," Simonson said. "The coaching has been so great since I got here and I've grown as a person because of this team. In that third set, [sophomore Adam] Lowell came in and was just amazing with clutch serves and pulled it through for us."
Floral Park swept Valley Stream South and Jericho, a feat it accomplished in every single win this season, before falling to Kennedy the second time around.
Senior Knights captain David Morris played a strong game at the net against the lengthy Kennedy front line. Junior Patrick Folan, along with juniors Jahan Mirchandani and Jason Cortapasso, led Floral Park in the tough runner up performance.
"We got here with our blocking, but we didn't block too well today, but as the whole season went, we showed heart. Kennedy played well and I give them credit," Floral Park head coach Ryan Obloj said. "I expect us to be back where we are right now. I'm only losing three seniors, one of which is a captain. At least we got a lot of experience this year, so it'll help us out."
Kennedy now has the opportunity to play for the Long Island Class B title, as opposed to the last two seasons where a match between the respective county champions was not put into place.
Kennedy will take on that Suffolk champion Eastport-South Manor (18-1) on Saturday at 10 a.m. at Longwood High School.
"We'd like to practice for another week or so, that would be great," Ringel said. "We have one day to set up for the Long Island championship and we know our opponent from going to see them play, so tonight will be a late night planning for Eastport-South Manor."