With Tyler Anderson leading the way, Kennedy boys’ volleyball is heading back to the state championships.
Anderson had a school-record 43 kills, including a key point with the Cougars facing elimination, and added 12 digs as Kennedy overcame two blown leads in the final two sets to outlast Eastport-South Manor in an epic five-set Long Island championship match at Brentwood Community College last Saturday.
The Cougars, who claimed their fourth straight Nassau B title earlier in the week, will be competing for the program’s second state championship and first since 2012 when they head to the Albany Capital Center this weekend. Kennedy lost to Eden in last year’s state final at Brentwood.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” Anderson said. “It was so close and that’s the matches I love. Not knowing what’s going to happen and then to come back, it’s just an amazing feeling.”
The teams split the first two sets, but the Cougars jumped out to a 10-3 lead in the third and never looked back as they cruised to a 25-17 victory to take a 2-1 lead in the match. Kennedy seemed destined to close the match in the fourth set after taking nine of the first 11 points and held a seemingly-commanding 15-7 advantage before unforced errors aided the Sharks’ comeback.
Eastport-South Manor cut the deficit to 15-14, but the Cougars rediscovered their game and maintained a 21-19 lead before the Sharks rallied for four straight points to jump ahead. Anderson’s kill brought Kennedy to within 24-23, but Eastport-South Manor’s Justin Riccardelli answered with a kill of his own to tie the match at two sets apiece.
“Eastport played a heck of a match,” Kennedy coach Dennis Ringel said. “They did some things against us that I was really impressed with. They showed a lot of heart.”
The Cougars showed no ill-effects from the loss and took a 10-5 lead in the fifth-set tiebreaker, needing just five more points to claim the championship. But the Sharks again would not got go down quietly and responded by getting nine of the next 12 points to take a shocking 14-13 lead with match point staring them in the face. Then Anderson took over.
The 6-foot-5 senior boomed a kill off a Shark defender to tie the match and gave Kennedy the lead again after converting a setup pass from junior Cooper Moran on the ensuing volley. Eastport-South Manor failed to handle Anderson’s final kill attempt on the next exchange, and the ball slowly arced out of bounds on the Kennedy side of the court to seal the match.
“All I told them in the huddle at the end was that I was a believer the entire time,” said Ringel.
The Cougar players rushed into a big mob on the court seconds after the final point and both school’s crowds gave the teams a standing ovation in appreciation of their efforts.
Senior Tyler Jerzabek had 13 kills and 10 digs and Cooper Moran finished with a whopping 60 assists. Hunter Moran and Justin Steinberg had strong defensive games with a combined 44 digs.
Kennedy improved to 18-1, with its only loss coming at Plainview-Old Bethpage on Oct. 17, and have dropped just eight sets all season. The top-seeded Cougars advanced to the Long Island championship after sweeping No. 6 Jericho in the county final on Nov. 7.
Anderson is confident that the Cougars can bring the state title back to Bellmore.
“One hundred percent,” he said. “After seeing what we can do today, I have full confidence we can win at states.”