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Knights top Eagles for first win

KENNETT’S CASEY BLAKELY and Kingswood’s Ellen Dunn battle at the net on Friday night in Wolfeboro. Joshua Spaulding. (click for larger version)
October 25, 2010
WOLFEBORO — When Kingswood volleyball coach Mike Christy got in his car to head home on Friday night, there was probably a little more room, being as he was no longer carrying the proverbial monkey on his back.

The Kingswood girls played their best game of the season against their Carroll County rivals from Kennett and in doing so, earned their first win of the season and got Christy his first win at Kingswood.

"The seniors really stepped up," Christy said. "The emotions of senior night really made it. They refused to let the energy drain out of them."

The Knights took a 3-1 decision from the Eagles, winning the first two games before falling in the third and rallying for a win in the fourth.

"I told my girls (before the match), this is their senior night, their last chances to get one in the win column, they're going to want it," Kennett coach Jocelyn Judge noted. "And you need to want it more."

In the end, it appeared it was the Knights who wanted it more, as they pushed their new head coach to his 93rd career win and won for the first time in 30 matches.

"It's a huge learning curve for our volleyball program tonight," Christy said, noting that the middle school, freshmen and JV players were in the stands watching and the JV and freshmen teams also picked up wins. "I'm excited about the future."

The two teams came out of the gate in the first game with neither team able to grab much momentum.

The Knights got the first point, but the Eagles answered with two. Brittney Newlin followed with a couple of big hits for the Knights to push them to a 4-2 lead, but Kennett's Kaitlin Taylor answered back with a hit to close the gap. Kingswood upped the lead to 10-3, as Newlin and Jenna Sharrow both turned in strong performances at the net. However, Kennett's Casey Blakely made a good play at the net and then recorded a service ace to help pull the Eagles back to within three at 10-7. A Newlin tip helped the Knights open the lead back up to 13-7, but Kennett crawled right back in, with Paige Mahoney and Alyssa Chick landing aces and Tasha Jost playing strong at the net.

The Eagles tied the game at 13, but Kingswood took the lead again, only to see the visitors rally to tie the game at 15 and eventually take the lead at 17-15. Kingswood again rallied and tied the game at 17, but the Knights slowly pulled ahead and closed out the game with a 25-20 victory.

The Knights came out with a quick lead in the second game, as Newlin and Sharrow played well at the net and Sarah Saltzman netted an ace, pushing the Knights to a 5-1 lead.

Taylor and Newlin had a good battle at the net, a battle that the Eagles prevailed on and Taylor netted two aces to help cut the gap to 5-4. Chick then cut it to one again at 6-5 and behind a Blakely ace and more strong play, the Eagles rolled out to a 13-6 lead before the Knights got back on the board on a hit by Sharrow.

Christine Malchiodi helped push the Eagles to a 15-7 lead and a Tori Burns hit made it 16-8 before the Knights began their comeback.

Newlin and Taylor Benjamin helped draw the Knights a bit closer and a Saltzman ace cut the lead to 17-15. The Knights tied the game at 17, but a Taylor block gave Kennett the lead back. Newlin helped bring Kingswood back to a 19-18 lead a few points later and Saltzman and Felicia Wilber pushed the lead to 23-19. Kennett rallied to cut the gap to 24-23, but the Knights got the final point and the 2-0 lead.

"If we don't win that first game, I don't think that comeback happens in the second game," Christy said. "That was a huge comeback for us."

Kennett grabbed some of the momentum back to open the third game, as a good service run by Burns and a nice block by Taylor helped open a 4-0 lead. However, Newlin and Benjamin made strong plays at the net and Saltzman netted another ace to bring Kingswood back for a 6-4 lead. Malchiodi and Kingswood's Meegan Ellis helped keep their respective teams in a back and forth battle, but the Eagles slowly began pulling away, with Blakely, Jost, Kendall Donaldson and Taylor picking up key points to push the lead to 16-12.

A nice play from Malchiodi at the net and an ace from Taylor opened the lead to 19-13, but Kingswood battled back, with Newlin, Sharrow and Ellen Dunn leading the way, cutting the lead to 22-20. However, Blakely and Taylor earned key points for Kennett and the Eagles took the 25-20 win.

The fourth game was another back and forth battle, as Taylor picked up big points for Kennett and Saltzman and Sharrow did the same for Kingswood. Newlin and Blakely exchanged aces and the Eagles hung tight, but the Knights never relinquished the lead after taking a 3-2 lead early. Chick, Malchiodi, Blakely and Taylor made big plays for the Eagles, but Newlin, Sharrow and Dunn did the same for Kingswood. Kennett cut the lead to 18-17 following a Blakely ace, but Knights didn't cave and Newlin picked up two big points down the stretch and the Knights had the 25-19 win and their first win of the season, 3-1.

Judge certainly wasn't pleased with losing the final match of the season, but she has been in the position that Christy and the Knights were in, looking for that first win in the season's final week.

"If it's anybody, I'm glad it's Kingswood," she said. "They got their win."

However, the loss also dropped the Eagles in the playoff position.

"But we start a new season on Monday," Judge said.

"It's a huge game of momentum and it was key that we got momentum early and kept it," Christy said. "We had a game plan and we executed it well."

The Knight coach noted that the team certainly could've quit at any point during the season, but they never walked away.

"They could've rolled over a long time ago and they didn't," he said. "I am so proud of them."

The Knights finish at 1-15, while the Eagles finish at 4-12. Kennett will begin the playoffs today, Oct. 28, at 6 p.m. at Hanover.

Littleton Chmber
Varney Smith
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