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Needham falls short in semifinals

HUDSON — The Needham boys’ volleyball team dropped a five-set thriller, falling, 15-12, to Agawam in the deciding set Friday night in the Division 1 state semifinals at Hudson High School.

Needham (20-4) came out tentative and Agawam (21-2), led by senior Sawyer Frederick’s 19 kills, claimed the first set, 25-9, and the second, 25-13.

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Trailing, 9-6, in third set, Needham sophomore Skyler Kaufman walked to the service line and remained there for the next 8 points, as the Rockets jumped to a 14-9 lead.

Trevor Dow, a 6-foot-9-inch junior who accounted for three kills and a block during the Rockets’ run, aided Kaufman and brought what had been an eerily quiet gymnasium roaring back to life.

“[Dow] played phenomenal,” said Needham coach Dave Powell. “He competed really hard. He and Skyler Kaufman were probably the boost we needed in Set 3 and then other guys built off of that, so I thought that was really key when our middle started hitting and [Agawam] had a tough time defending it.”

Appropriately, Dow sealed the set with a booming kill to give the Rockets the 25-21 win.

Needham senior Samuel Tillotson was the driving force for the Rockets in the fourth set, at one point capping a string of four service points with an ace.

Needham carried the momentum, eventually securing a 25-17 win to force a decisive fifth set.

Asked what he said to spark the team, Powell responded, “I told them that we were capable of playing much better volleyball. I didn’t really want to be too inspirational and I didn’t even yell at them that much because we were playing a little bit nervous and timid. I said, ‘Just go out there and go for it and play our brand of volleyball’, and once we did that the makeup of the match changed.”

Some miscommunication, poor placement, and a serve into the net allowed Agawam to jump out to a 10-7 lead in the fifth set. However, the Rockets rallied to score the next 3 points, tying the score on an Alexander Elman ace, and forcing an Agawam timeout.

The Brownies regained their composure and took a 14-11 lead.

After Needham got a point back on a Dow spike, the Brownies clinched match on Bailey Cecchi’s 18th kill.

“We made a couple uncharacteristic mistakes in the fifth set and they made some plays and that allowed them to win the match,” Powell said. “I was really proud of the way we competed and came back and showed a lot of resolve. We easily could have laid down, they had all the momentum, but we didn’t. We pushed it to a fifth set and fifth sets can go either way.”

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