Kingston’s next generation is ready to continue the tradition

KINGSTON — Over the last four years, Kingston volleyball has grown into one of the West Sound’s most consistent programs.

Past players such as Ava McCabe, Cece Mercado, Jane Hermanson, Ryley Tellinghuisen, Sam Young and Melanie Borson led the Bucs to two state tournament appearances, four district tournament appearances and four top four finishes in the Olympic League.

With all of those young women now on to the next phase of their lives, the next challenge for the Bucs is clear — can this next generation of players continue the legacy that has been established?

This group certainly seems ready to pick up where last year’s team left off. Morgan Halady, a junior who was a big part of Kingston’s two state tournament teams, was highly encouraged by what she saw from her team during their summer camp at Central Washington.

“We are more capable than we even know right now,” Halady said.

The Bucs do have seven varsity players back this season, but only one, Halady, was a major contributor. But they started the season on the right foot with a three-set victory over 3A Bainbridge at home on Tuesday night, 25-21, 25-21, 25-16.

The formula for success in past years was a mighty offense. While they still have some hitters, they should also be more focused defensively.

“Last year, we were kaboom, kaboom,” said head coach Ed Call. “This year we gotta be rolling around the floor a lot. We have to play a lot more defense.”

Call used the non-league match against the Spartans as an opportunity to tinker with his lineups and move some players around. His team was also missing two players who were not yet eligible, but will be in time for their first league match Thursday against defending league champion North Kitsap.

Players such as senior Gabrielle Johnson, normally a defensive specialist, were given opportunities to play different positions. Johnson was a big factor in Kingston starting the first set on a 9-1 run and she finished the match with eight kills.

“I’m really pleased with where they are,” Call said. “They’ve responded in practice and we’ve had a really good start.”

Halady, the team’s star middle hitter, played just a part-time role in this one, but she was a major factor in the Bucs’ 8-1 run to close the second set as she came off the bench to score four kills and a block. Halady finished the night with eight kills.

Kingston fell behind 7-2 in set three, but took off on a 13-3 run soon after and breezed to a nine-point victory. The Bucs received contributions from the entire lineup — Halady, Johnson, Marion Stejer, Eva Stejer, Abby Steele and Kaylyn Mazeika all recorded points in the final set.

“It’s no one player out there getting it all done,” Halady said. “I think that’s what got us our win tonight — everyone playing their role.”

— Mark Krulish is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @MKrulishKDN.