All good things must end, and end they did for the Kennedy boys volleyball team Thursday night. The Cougars quest for a fourth straight Nassau County title fell short, as they fell to the top seeded Floral Park Knights in four games at the Class B Finals at Hofstra.
It was a rematch of last year's final, with a much different Cougar squad, having graduated several key seniors. Expectations weren't as high this year, and the team started 0-2. They were almost perfect the rest of the way, and wound up the number two seed. Thursday, they ran into number one.
"Floral Park is awesome, they defended the court ridiculously well, we have all the respect in the world for them," Dennis Ringel, Kennedy coach, said of the new champions.
Ringel said his club was tight early, and it showed. The Cougars fell behind by as many as 12 in the first game. A Matt Migdal spike seemed to rouse Kennedy, but only briefly, as the Knights took the opener 25-16.
"We didn't come out strong enough, we caught on to the game a little too late, [but[ we played our hearts out," Ben Canarick, Kennedy captain, said.
Game two was a much tighter affair as the Cougars settled down. A Jake Sherman ace gave Kennedy an early lead, but moments later a Cougar hit was ruled out, though it appeared to deflect off a Knight player. Kennedy shook it off and a couple of Canarick kills paced his team to an 18-14 lead.
Then, more controversy as a Floral Park hit was ruled out and Kennedy was awarded a point. The call was changed to in and a five point lead suddenly switched to three.
"There were a couple of [controversial] calls," Ringel said. "I don't think it ruined the outcome of the match."
Floral Park rallied, but on game point, they hit one out, and things were tied at 24. Unfortunately, Kennedy's Nick Anderson hit one long, and the Knight's Will Wichart followed with the kill for the 26-24 win.
Game three was a back and forth affair, and a Matt Murphy block capped off a 5-1 run and an 18-14 Kennedy lead. Floral Park rallied to tie the game at 24, and a couple of Nick Anderson kills put the Cougars at match point, but they couldn't seal the deal on more than one occasion. Finally, a Jake Sherman ace gave Kennedy the 28-26 win, keeping the season alive.
Floral Park opened up a five-point lead a couple of times in game four, but Kennedy hung tough. A Murphy ace brought his team within one, and some sloppy Knights play in the form of double hits and over the line calls reduced their lead to 21-20.
Unfortunately that's as close as the Cougars would get, as Floral Park hitter Jason Cortapasso's hit couldn't be chased down in the backcourt and the Cougar's reign was over, 25-22.
"It's immediate frustration, but after a couple minutes, it's reflection on the season," Ringel said. "This is a group that has grown dramatically. I'm ridiculously proud of these guys."
Canarick and Nick Anderson are among those who played their last game in a Kennedy uniform, but the future seems bright for the three-time county champs, and now, one-time runner up.
"I'm frustrated [now], but I think next year's team, they've got a good crew," Canarick said.
Let the quest for four (out of five) begin.