WORCESTER — With the championship on the line and a pass coming her way, Jojo Wang rose, swung, and closed her eyes.
Next came the popping sound of a block, but then the view of the ball tumbling harmlessly to the side.
On the last play of her volleyball career, the Newton North senior won the Division 1 state championship.
“I was like ‘Please let this ball be in,’ crossing my fingers, praying to every God,” she said.
With a career-high 11 kills at Worcester State, the middle hitter was key to a pulsating 25-22, 21-25, 25-20, 23-25, 16-14 victory for top-seeded Newton North (24-1), repeating as champions and earning the fifth title in program history at Worcester State.
“I came into playoffs knowing this was going to be my last time playing volleyball, and I knew I wanted to go out with a bang no matter what round of playoffs it was,” Wang said.
The 16-14 fifth set went in favor of the No. 3 Red Hawks in the regular season, but junior libero Alexa Marucci noticed that Molly Gleason hits deeper and Molly Fredo hits shallower for Barnstable (21-4), adjusting accordingly to change the tide.
“It helps boost us a lot, especially getting digs,” Marucci said. “When they hit hard and we just get it up, it’s motivating for us to keep going and push to our limits to win that game.”
Freshman Sasha Selivan did not shy from the finals spotlight, dishing 37 assists, 5 kills, 8 aces, and a solo block, finding Wang and junior Brianna Milliken (six kills, two blocks) in the middle when junior Devon Burke (13 kills, three aces) and senior Chloe Lee (12 kills) were drawing blockers.
“She’s been great this whole season,” coach Nile Fox said of Selivan. “We’re supposed to be here for a reason, and she’s a big factor in that. Coming into this game . . . and being able to play like she did as a freshman, it was huge.”
Added Selivan: “It was definitely the highlight of my year already… I absolutely loved it, it was amazing.”
Seniors Sadie Wellbeloved (36 assists, four aces) and Charlotte Sullivan (17 kills, 5 aces, 2 digs, 1 block) led Barnstable.
“Well-played match on both sides,” coach Tom Turco said. “I’m really proud of the girls’ for their mental toughness of coming back in two sets.”
AJ Traub can be reached at email@example.com.