Natick mounts comeback to down Winchester, reach state final
WESTBOROUGH — There was a hump the Natick boys’ volleyball team needed to get over.
Consider it done.
After losing in the state semifinals in the past two seasons, the Central champion Redhawks earned their first D1 state title berth since 2010 when they came from two sets down to defeat North champion Winchester — 22-25, 24-26, 25-20, 25-14, 15-4 — in the state semifinals at Westborough High.
Natick (17-4) will play West champion Westfield in the state final Thursday at Worcester State University at 7 p.m. The Redhawks faced Westfield in the 2017 state semis.
“The beginning of the game was as low as possible,’ said senior Connor Reardon. “Third set, I was honestly walking out there on the verge of tears. And I just said to the guys, ‘Do we really want this to end?’”
Natick got momentum in the third set on a Reardon kill to go up 9-8, a lead it didn’t relinquish and that energy carried the Redhawks to the fourth and fifth-set wins. Natick jumped out to a 6-1 lead in the fifth and didn’t look back.
Natick’s defense, led by junior libero Sam Waltzman (20 digs) locked down in the final three sets, almost telepathically knowing where Winchester (22-2) hitters targeted their attacks.
“That’s all coaching,” Reardon said. “Earlier in the week, our coach [Peter Suxho] had sent us some film. They just said ‘Watch these habits, they hit to these same spots every time.’ We practiced it every day this week.”
Reardon had 20 kills and 16 digs. Natick setter Brett Olen tallied 46 assists, 11 kills, and four blocks.
Division 1 State
Westfield 3, Newton North 0 —
The South sectional champion Tigers couldn’t handle Westfield’s precision blocking and the power attacks of outside hitter James Pavlyuk as the Tigers fell in three straight sets — 28-30, 16-25, and 20-25 — to the two-time defending state champions on Monday night in the state semifinals at Westborough High School.
The Tigers (17-5) rarely faltered during a back-and-forth first set that featured 17 ties. They held a 24-21 lead on a kill by Gavin Emenaker (31 assists, 6 kills), but Westfield (21-3) took a 25-24 before the teams traded points up to 28-28.
“We were swinging from everywhere, but they were digging,” said Newton North coach Richard Barton.
Westfield put on a blocking clinic in the second and third sets and finished with 13½ total blocks, complementing Pavlyuk’s 17 kills. In the third set, Newton North led 5-4 before Westfield took over. The Tigers came within three points at 23-20 on a Westfield hitting error, but the Bombers clinched their third consecutive state final appearance on another block.
“There’s a lot of repetition in volleyball,’’ said Westfield coach Tyler Wingate. “But they stepped up against a really good team and I’m really proud of the guys for a really great effort.”