Westfield rallies from two-set deficit to defeat Wayland for Div. 2 state volleyball title


WORCESTER – Whether you call it revenge for losing in last year’s state title game, or vengeance for their Western Mass. neighbor after Wayland stunned Agawam in the state semifinals earlier in the week, the No. 1 Westfield boys volleyball team thrust itself back on top Thursday night by pulling off an epic 3-2 reverse sweep over the third-seeded Warriors in the Div. 2 state final at Worcester State.

Senior Miles Shepard (19 kills, six blocks), junior Zach Kukharchuk (17 kills, two blocks) and a tenacious resiliency from the whole group reversed an overmatched start to rally for a 11-25, 14-25, 25-22, 25-19, 15-13 win, and the Bombers’ second Div. 2 state championship in three years.

Wayland beat reigning champion Agawam via a reverse sweep to get to its first state final since 2017, but Westfield returned the favor for its fifth state title in program history.

“I’m in kind of disbelief that that happened,” said Bombers head coach Tyler Wingate. “I’m really proud of the guys. It would’ve been very easy to just say it’s not our night because it certainly looked like it. … What a quality team to play against.”

Down 2-0 in the match, Wingate took a play out of Boston Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla’s book of quotes by referencing his comments about maintaining hunger and focus – whether winning or losing a set – for the rest of the way.

“We just saw our neighbors from Agawam go five sets with them,” he said. “We just said, ‘Hey, anything can happen.’ … Thanks Joe for the material, but it’s so true. It’s never over.”

Shepard erupted in the third set, burying seven of his kills and a block to anchor a gutsy, 25-22 win. Westfield was down 21-17, but an Aidan Kingsley (nine kills) ace and a Kukharchuk kill fueled an 8-1 run to keep title hopes alive.

Wayland’s Finn Bell (22 kills, two aces), Joey Burke (36 assist) and Joe Kelly (seven kills, five blocks) led a challenging fourth set, as the Warriors led 15-14 at one point. But setter Ryder Finnie (43 assists) then helped Kukharchuk erupt for six kills, a block and an ace for the rest of the frame to power the 25-19 win.

All three Westfield standouts, as well as Kingsley, were featured in an all-time back-and-forth that saw neither team lead by more than two points with the title on the line. Bell had back-to-back kills to give Wayland an 11-9 lead, before Wingate took another timeout.

Shepard anchored a 6-2 run to seal the comeback with two blocks and two kills, while Kukharchuk also posted two kills.

“The joke aside was, ‘It’s about time, guys,’ ” Wingate said. “Great players come through at big moments, and I think (Shepard) was huge in that comeback. And (Kukharchuk) really got going. … What an amazing job by us to just will ourselves back into the match.”

The Warriors had otherwise dominated the first two sets, winning by wide margins of 25-11 and 25-14.

“I’m immensely proud of our team,” said Wayland head coach Phil George. “I’m gutted right now. But I’m gutted because we lost, not because I’m regretful. … I’m very proud of the work they put in, the effort they put in, the fight they put in.”

Westfield's Aidan Kingsley rips the ball at Wayland players, from left, Joseph Burke. Gianluca Wey and Finn Bell during the state boys volleyball title match. (Staff Photo/Stuart Cahill/Boston Herald)
Westfield’s Aidan Kingsley rips the ball at Wayland players, from left, Joseph Burke. Gianluca Wey and Finn Bell during the state boys volleyball title match. (Staff Photo/Stuart Cahill/Boston Herald)



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