King’s Fork defeats Cavs in volleyball

Published 10:33 pm Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The King’s Fork varsity boys volleyball team won its second district match of the season on Tuesday, defeating host Lakeland in straight sets, 26-24, 25-17, 25-22.

Bulldogs head coach Joseph Burns said his team needs to improve on properly covering their positions so that opposing teams cannot hit into gaps. Tuesday showed progress.

“We really covered a lot better,” he said. “Our energy was up. It was a good match on both sides.”

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Bulldogs senior middle blocker/hitter AJ Jenkins had 12 kills, three blocks, four digs and three aces.

Burns feels the Bulldogs, 2-8 in the district, have benefited from a fear factor this season.

“Every team in the district is intimidated by AJ,” he said.

He credits the strong performance on Tuesday to the work of the 6-foot-2-inch Jenkins and the front line.

“Last night they did a tremendous job of covering and a lot of that, I think, stemmed from the play we were doing up front,” he said. “We were keeping the pressure on them. If they’re afraid to hit, it makes it a whole lot easier to play defense.”

Sophomore setter Cal Bailey had eight assists and five kills and sophomore Aireon Leary, who has been playing up front, had seven kills and two aces.

The Bulldogs team came together later than anyone likely could have anticipated. For their first match, they had seven players on the roster, only six of whom were actually available.

Jenkins was the only senior to start with, but he was joined on the court last week by Alfonso Lechugo-Isaac from Brazil. Aaron Myers joined about the same time. The roster now includes 12 names.

Coming into the season, Burns knew graduation would make things difficult, but he feels that 2-8 does not reflect the team’s ability.

“I knew we lost some really good players, and I was hoping to be better than we were and we should have been,” he said. “There are some matches we lost that we should have won. We should have beat Lakeland the first time we played them and we should have beaten Deep Creek when we played them, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.”

The Bulldogs’ victories have come against Hickory and now Lakeland. They also played in a tournament that does not count toward their district record. They went 1-4 in the tourney, avenging a prior district loss to Deep Creek.

Burns alluded to co-captains Jenkins and junior middle blocker/hitter Mark Kluck as two of his key contributors. Kluck had five kills on Tuesday.

Hugh Long is a sophomore middle blocker/hitter that Burns describes as being a hair taller than Jenkins, only adding to the intimidation that opposing teams feel. Long may lack the experience on the varsity level of Jenkins and Kluck, but he completes an imposing trio of blocker/hitters.

Burns listed Aireon Leary as a standout who was originally slated to be the libero this year.

“He’s been doing so well in the front, he doesn’t want to (switch to libero),” Burns said. “He’s been getting a number of kills, and so it’s hard to argue against what he’s doing.”

Jenkins enjoys many of his kill opportunities thanks to fellow standout Bailey.

“When you see the statistics,” Burns said, “AJ usually has the most kills and Cal, of course, gets all the assists because he’s the main setter.”

Last year, the Bulldogs had only two victories, both against Deep Creek.

“I definitely want to improve upon that and I’d like to, if we can, get up to at least six victories,” Burns said. “And I think we can definitely do that. If we can do better than that, we may qualify for the district tournament.”

King’s Fork hosts Hickory Thursday night.