EvinGiglio, the men’s volleyball coach at Wentworth Institute of Technology, said sophomore outside hitter Ross Burdett has the demeanor and leadership qualities of a captain.
“We graduated a lot of seniors and now we’re a very young team, and Ross is a lead-by-example type of player,’’ Giglio said of the former Globe All-Scholastic selection from Needham High. “He’s great offensively, technically sound, and extremely athletic. And when Ross has something to say, the rest of the team listens.’’
As a freshman at Wentworth, Burdett registered a team-high 319 kills for a 20-10 squad that set a program record for wins, and qualified for the ECAC North tournament.
The Leopards were 10-6 entering this weekend’s tournament at Springfield College, thanks in large part to Burdett’s team-high 211 kills, along with 113 digs and 16 aces. He ranks ninth nationally in Division 3 with 3.72 kills per game.
The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Burdett had recorded double figures in kills in 14 of his team’s first 16 matches, including a season-high 18 on Feb. 22 against Lasell. He was also named the Great Northeast Athletic Conference player of the week on Feb. 13.
“I never really played much volleyball until my freshman year at Needham High,’’ said Burdett, who was a four-year starter. His older brother, Josh, also played volleyball for the Rockets.
A three-time Bay State Conference all-star, Burdett was a two-year captain who helped power the Rockets to the MIAA South semifinals his senior year. He hammered home 30 kills in a quarterfinal upset of host New Bedford.
“I have never seen anyone dominate a match like Ross did against New Bedford,’’ said Needham coach David Powell, who has a unique perspective on Burdett’s development.
He was the varsity coach at Norwood when Burdett was a freshman, then coached him his senior year at Needham.
“Even as a freshman, I saw a gifted player with natural ability. He was just a special player who got better and better and who was never outworked in the weight room,’’ said Powell. “As a high school player, I’d call him a man among boys.’’
Powell thought so highly of Burdett’s skills that he invited him to play on his Yankee Volleyball League team, Thunder Road, and as an occasional beach volleyball partner in Newport, R.I.
His senior season, Burdett gained notoriety when a YouTube video showcasing one of his crunching kills attracted 75,000 hits within a few days. He also started at tight end for the Needham football team, which advanced to the Division 1A playoffs.
Last summer, he played in all divisions in Newport, and he keeps sharp at Northeastern University’s outdoor sand court with his friends. “I’m definitely not as good on the beach, but it’s great competition,’’ said Burdett.
His athletic family includes his mother, Noreen, a champion swimmer at West Springfield High, and father, David, a Bay State League all-star basketball forward at Milton High School.
As he finished up at Needham High, Burdett was focused on architecture and volleyball.
“Wentworth offered both,’’ he said, “and it’s been a really good fit because I’m playing with a bunch of good guys. What hasn’t changed since high school is that it still feels really good to hit a ball straight down.’’
Burdett said he is always working on his jumping ability because he is often double- and triple-teamed. “When you can jump above everyone else,’’ he said, “you’ve already won most of the battle.’’
Local runners shine in medley event
Middlebury College juniors Juliet Ryan-Davis of Newton and Patrick Hebble of Sudbury earned All-America honors at the recent NCAA Division 3 indoor track & field championships.
Ryan-Davis was part of the Panthers’ distance medley relay team that won its second straight NCAA title with a school-record time of 11:37.35. Ryan-Davis also competed for last winter’s championship quartet.
Hebble helped the men’s distance medley relay team post a fourth-place finish in 10:01.38.
Bridgewater State University freshman Wesley Esthimer of Franklin was named the Little East Conference’s player of the week, as well as its rookie of the week, in men’s tennis after debuting with a straight-set win at first singles in a match against Anna Maria College. The former Hockomock League all-star also won his match at first doubles. . . Another Franklin native, Saint Michael’s College senior Eliza Scoba, was named to the Northeast-10 Conference’s honor roll for women’s lacrosse for the second straight week after scoring 8 goals in a pair of wins. . . Newton’s Dan Stein, a sophomore at Clark University, was honored as the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference’s singles player of the week in men’s tennis, after his straight-set win at No. 2 singles against Emerson.