by Kristian Lundberg
Last year, in-city rival Newton South humiliated boys’ volleyball 3-0 in the South sectional finals, ending the Tigers’ hopes of winning the State championship.
Facing a similar scenario exactly one year later, the Tigers made sure that, this time, the outcome would be flipped.
The Tigers exacted revenge against the Lions 3-1 June 1 to win the South sectional championship, bringing the squad within inches of the State finals.
“We’re a really well-balanced team, so while South had one or two superstars, we had a balanced attack,” said senior Matt Laredo, a captain with seniors Mikey Barbone, Zach Knotts, and Nick Link.
Up 2-1, the Tigers were able to close out the match because of its aggressiveness and determination, according to Laredo.
“We dug balls out, and we made some in-game adjustments,” he said. “Mostly, we just kept up the intensity level in that set, and we were able to take it.”
With the win, the Tigers advanced to the State semifinals, where they will take on the winner of the North sectional final matchup, either Haverhill or Lawrence.
“Since there are only four teams left, every team is going to be pushing hard to win,” Laredo said. “Our goal is still to win the State Championship, but it’s not going to be easy.
“Haverhill has some solid hitters, while Lawrence has good setters,” he added.
The Tigers advanced to the match against South with a 3-1 win at home against North Quincy in the Sectional semifinals. The win extended the Tigers’ streak.
The Tigers began their postseason run with a dominating 3-0 shutout of Brockton May 24 at home in the second round of the MIAA tournament. The outcome was never in doubt, as the Tigers swept the three games by scores of 25-8, 25-8 and 25-20.
“The first two games were a coach’s dream,” Barton said. “We were fantastic, and if we play like that against any other team, there’s no one that can beat us.”
The Tigers commanded the first two sets, passing the ball with precision and confusing the Boxers defensively. The Tigers acted as a well-oiled machine, while conversely, Brockton was often out of position and lacking communication. The Tigers jumped out to a quick 7-1 lead, thanks to strong setting by senior Zach Knotts and unstoppable kills by junior Luke Westman.
“The players had good teamwork, the hitters hit and blocked well — it was so pleasing as a coach to watch this game,” Barton said.
Senior Nick Link’s rejection of a lazy Brockton tap-over capped the first game, and Link followed his strong net play with a clean ace in the second game. His ace, which dropped in front of the baseline untouched, extended the Tigers’ lead to 19-4 in the second game.
Although the Tigers allowed 20 points in the third game, all suspense was lost after the Tigers took complete control in the first two games.
“It’s hard to keep up the great play we had in the first few games — every team has honor, and it’s tough to beat them all the time by so much,” Barton added.