Newton North nips Needham in marathon volleyball match to claim Div. 1 state title – Boston Herald

WORCESTER – It took just about every ounce of willpower and resilience they had, but the Newton North boys volleyball team can finally call itself a state champion.

By gutting out a marathon of a fourth set and running away with the match in the fifth, the second-seeded Tigers rallied in the Div. 1 state final Thursday night to dethrone three-time defending champion No. 1 Needham, 3-2 (23-25, 25-12, 17-25, 25-22, 15-8), in a rematch of last year’s state final.

Adam Christianson (15 assists, 13 kills, two blocks) and Simon Vardeh (17 kills, two blocks) were right in the middle of a charge that saw several complementary figures step up big for Newton North, answering big nights from the Rockets’ Luke Lorence (23 kills) and Devin Dellamarggio (37 assists).

“Through ups and downs, they played hard and they played like they really wanted it,” said Newton North head coach Nile Fox. “It feels good. It feels good that this group is a part of history. The first group to ever win a state championship here. They wanted it, they worked for it the last two years being upset like they were here last year. … We had a goal in mind the whole season and we really worked for it.”

“I’m just proud,” added senior captain Joaquin Cuevas-Torres, who had 18 assists in the win. “In previous years, we’ve come far, but we haven’t been able to deliver in the end. … I think we came in knowing we just had to get the job done, and I’m just really proud of us for finally being able to do it.”

Maintaining a level head through the ups and downs of the season has been a major focus for Newton North, which likened its snapping of Needham’s 77-game win streak earlier to just another building block toward finally raising a banner.

That maturity to stay in the moment showed on Monday by pulling off a reverse sweep of Natick in the state semifinal, before shining through again at Worcester State to win the whole thing.

Needham edged out the first set 25-23 behind Lorence’s seven kills, only for a collection of Newton North players to contribute toward a 25-12 response in the second. The Rockets saw Dellamarggio, Jeremy Bullard-Smith (10 kills, six blocks) and Brian Cloonan (12 kills, two blocks) then lead a 25-17 third set for a 2-1 match lead, and both teams traded blows through much of a side-out infused fourth set that could have ended the Tigers’ title hopes.

But the Tigers eventually broke out of a back-and-forth that knotted the score at 18-18, taking advantage of a trio of Christianson kills and a barrage of forced Needham errors. Senior middle Colin Mutter (two kills, four blocks), Huang (four kills, three blocks) and Peter Reale (five kills, three blocks) each played big roles in that. Libero Brady Dwyer also performed well.

Newton North outscored the Rockets 8-4 from there to force a fifth set, and used two 5-0 runs to separate for the win.

“They brought their all out there today,” Fox said. “We just made a lot of plays. I don’t think we hit the best or we blocked the best at points. We just made plays to make sure we didn’t lose.”

“We knew we had it in us,” Huang added. “We kind of just brought together the team. We kind of all just yelled in unison. We all just started screaming, ‘We got this, this is our game.’”

The team has been answering questions all year about the many milestones it accomplished, like being the only team to beat Needham in the last four years and its position to exact revenge on the Rockets for last year’s title.

Captains made an exerted effort not to get too ahead of themselves in order to accomplish exactly this.

“This is the accumulation of everything,” Huang said.

“This was everything we’ve worked for,” Christianson said. “This was the goal. It’s an awesome feeling to slowly work towards it, achieving this goal.”

Needham outside hitter Will McDonald dives for the ball as Needham takes on Newton North in a state title volleyball match. (Staff Photo/Stuart Cahill/Boston Herald)
Needham outside hitter Will McDonald dives for the ball as Needham takes on Newton North in a state title volleyball match. (Staff Photo/Stuart Cahill/Boston Herald)

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