For the second time in school history, the Kennedy boys’ volleyball team has risen to the top of the state.
Led by tournament MVP Tyler Anderson, the Cougars won their first state title since 2012 and avenged a heartbreaking loss in last year’s tournament final by defeating Burnt Hills-Ballstone Lake in four sets to win the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Division 2 championship at the Albany Capital Center last Saturday.
“It was just an amazing day,” coach Dennis Ringel said the next day. “The guys just almost took turns picking each other up and making plays. It’s always a special year when your guys steadily improve and save their very best for the final day of the year.”
Kennedy first beat Eden, the team that defeated them in last year’s five-set final, 25-20, 25-23 in the first match of pool play. But with Kennedy leading 5-2 in the second set, the Cougars received a scare when star setter Cooper Moran injured his ankle after landing on a teammate’s foot while descending from a jump.
Little-used Sam Schwinger replaced Moran and the junior helped the Cougars extend their lead with three key assists before the starter returned.
“There’s our junior second setter, who I don’t think had any inkling that he would get a moment in the state championships, but went in and did a heck of a job,” Ringel said of the “day-defining moment.”
The Cougars clinched a berth in the finals after winning the second of the two sets against Burnt Hills 26-24 in their other pool play match, and the teams would meet again in the finals. In the rematch, the Cougars won the first two sets 25-21 and 25-22 before dropping the third set 25-14. The Spartans even took an early 3-0 lead in the fourth set, but Kennedy rallied and neither team had more than a two-point advantage for most of the set. Leading 19-18, Kennedy took six of the final eight points to seal the title, finalized by Tyler Jarzabek’s 13th kill of the match.
“It’s surreal in the moment,” Ringel said about the winning point. “You can’t believe it’s happening. It’s pretty special.”
Anderson had a team-high 30 kills in the final match and Moran added 38 assists and three blocks. Justin Steinberg had another solid game defensively with 16 digs.