On Sunday, November 3, The King’s College women’s volleyball team made history—the Lady Lions are the first King’s athletics team in the New York City era to win a Hudson Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Championship. King’s defeated Five Towns in straight sets to cap off a 12-6 season. The Lady Lions finished the season on an eight-game winning streak and won ten of their last eleven games.
Reflecting on the win, first-year head coach Grace Croley said, “The girls deserve it. They have worked so hard and overcome so many injuries. . . . I am beyond proud of them and I believe they played their best game of the entire season on Sunday.”
Captain Samantha Klozik (Business ’22) added, “It was exhilarating. I just remember finding Renae [her co-captain] immediately after the match and bear-hugging her at midcourt.”
The Championship trophy was not the only hardware the team took home on Sunday. Alex Kemsley (PPE ’23) received the HVIAC Rookie of the Year award, recording a league-leading 147 kills, as well as 15 blocks this season. She was also awarded HVIAC All-Conference Team honors alongside teammate Avery Johnson (MCA ’23) before the game. Abby Roth (MCA ’23) was awarded Championship Game Most Valuable Player for her performance on Sunday.
Croley and her assistant coaches, Richard Christensen (PPE ’20) and Draven Haefs (MCA ’22), received HVIAC Coaching Staff of the Year honors. When asked about the award, Croley responded, “That was a shock! I had absolutely no idea. I have great assistant coaches and I definitely could not have gotten through this season without them. We felt very honored.” Croley described how Christensen typically helped the team with game-situations, attended every morning practice, and helped with running drills. Haefs worked mostly with recording player statistics at the games, which he would send to the team after each game.
Although the Lady Lions found great success in the second half of their season, the year’s start was challenging. After the first two weeks, three of the six starters were out with injuries: both Avery Johnson and Abby Roth suffered concussions, and Samantha Klozik sustained an ankle injury, which left her out for the first six weeks of the season.
Renae Maganza (Finance ’21), the team’s co-captain, said of the early-season struggles, “At one point, we only had six healthy players, and those six were not even fully healthy. I think our success this season can be attributed to the fact that early on we had to learn how to be really adaptable.”
The team found their footing after conference play began at the end of September. Klozik said, “It took a minute to find our balance on the court with such a new team, but the season turned around after we got into conference play.” After losing to conference rival Pratt Institute on September 22, the Lady Lions began dominating.
Despite the Conference win, the King’s women’s volleyball team did not receive a bid to the USCAA National Championship, which begins this weekend. Croley said, “We were seventh in the USCAA standings, and were not chosen. That was disappointing and frustrating for our team.”
Athletic Director Bryan Finley added,
We finished in seventh place in the USCAA standings, second place in the HVIAC Conference, and we won the HVIAC Conference championship, but these accomplishments are not the sole criteria for going to Nationals. The selection committee looks at all of those and other criteria including strength of opponents and ranking in the national poll, and we were ranked 16th in the USCAA in D2 Volleyball. While it’s disappointing not to receive a bid to Nationals, it does not in any way diminish what an incredible, historic season this group of young women had. I could not be more happy for and proud of them and their coaching staff.
Maganza said that missing a chance to compete at Nationals just gives the team more energy to come back even stronger next season. She said, “We’re going to make Nationals next year. That’s the goal. I think recruiting this year is going to be really exciting. It’s much easier to recruit when you can say you’re a winning, championship team.”
The King’s College congratulates the women’s volleyball team and coaches for all their hard work this season, and commends them on being the first King’s athletics team to win an HVIAC Conference Championship in the “20 Years Renewed” era.