WORCESTER — Volleyball fans had a feeling Saturday’s championship match between Newton North and Barnstable would go right down to the wire.
They were proven right.
Propelled by junior outside hitter Devon Burke and rising freshman Sasha Selivan, the Tigers were able to resume their dynasty. The duo were catalysts all night, as Newton North won its second straight Div. 1 girls volleyball title with an unforgettable 3-2 heartstopper over the Red Hawks at Worcester State.
“That energy was the most energy I’ve felt in a long time,” said Newton North coach Nile Fox. “Just being in an atmosphere like this, and to win another one is a blessing. Just having these girls that worked hard all year play like this in this game was really big.”
It was the fifth championship for Newton North (25-1) since the 2014 season, but attaining it proved anything but straightforward. Most were expecting a classic between the two vaunted programs, with both having decorated coaching staffs coupled with unlimited talent. The matchup delivered as the Tigers jumped out to an early 1-0 lead after winning the initial set off a spike by Burke, 25-20.
However, Barnstable (21-4) didn’t fade into the night. The Red Hawks countered with a 5-1 run to open the second frame. While Newton North challenged as it progressed, Barnstable held on to win the set, tying things at 1-all. From then on, the teams continued to exchange punches until late in the fourth set, when Newton North jumped ahead, 10-5. Then Red Hawks coach Tom Turco burned a timeout, looking for one final charge.
Whatever he said in his huddle clearly worked, as the Red Hawks stormed back to win the set in dramatic fashion, 25-23, forcing a do-or-die fifth round with the score deadlocked at 2-2.
Suddenly, Newton North was in very unfamiliar territory – on the verge of a collapse.
“It’s definitely mentally exhausting,” said Selivan. “Because this could go 50-50. You’re not confident about the win. You can’t assume anything. So we just have to play our hardest, can’t let up. But it is definitely exciting.”
With his team still nursing a 10-8 lead in the fifth set, Fox called his group over during a timeout.
“This is a high-intensity game,” said Fox. “There’s a lot of nerves in it, so during those timeouts, we just want to make sure we’re regrouping. Just going, trying to be ready to get back out on the floor.”
With match point on the line, the jam-packed crowd began to buzz with anticipation as the ball volleyed from one side of the court to the next. Senior middle hitter JoJo Wang jumped to try and spike it, and was met at the net. Her attempt ricocheted off a defender and into the sidelines, clinching the title for Newton North.
Barnstable was carried all night by Charlotte Sullivan (17 kills, five aces), Sadie Wellbeloved (36 assists) and Logan Hurwitz (21 digs).
Newton North will graduate five players from its roster, each with a pair of Div. 1 rings to their credit.
“I’ll remember this game,” Fox said. “I’ll remember this game, their courageousness, and all the hard work they put in during the offseason, and for this season this year. We are going to miss these five seniors who are going to be leaving.”