Cohesive Newton North volleyball team tops Needham again, 3-1

NEEDHAM – After ending Needham’s 77-game win streak in a five-set instant classic about a month ago, the Newton North boys volleyball team felt they were allowing too many matches to turn into losses in the following weeks.

Snapping the No. 1 Rockets’ 11-game win streak Tuesday night with a 3-1 (22-25, 25-15, 25-22, 25-19) road win isn’t nearly as flashy for the No. 3 Tigers, but rings a louder implication as part of a regular-season sweep of the three-time reigning Div. 1 state champions.

Newton North (13-2) extends its win streak to seven games and is the only team in the last four years to beat Needham (15-2).

“I just hope it gives us momentum because I felt like after we beat Needham the first time,” said Newton North head coach Nile Fox. “we had hangover matches and we were kind of too cocky. … I think (we showed) just a bunch of togetherness. This is the first time I’ve seen them really make sure they’re playing as a team.”

“(This win) really comes from our losses, (Fox) really pushed us to not have hangover matches anymore,” added senior captain Sam Huang. “He made it a point that we have to play with heart, and if we want it, we’re going to win.”

Needham started off the match strong, using depth to piece together a 25-22 win and a 1-0 match lead. Rockets blockers effectively limited Newton North star senior Adam Christianson and the Tigers’ attack by the pins.

As middles Huang (six kills, seven blocks) and Peter Reale (seven kills, three blocks) continued to heat up for Newton North, though, so did the rest of the team for wins over the next three sets.

Christianson followed two kills and zero assists in the first set with seven assists and a kill in a 25-15 win in the second set. Huang and Reale combined for six kills in the frame, while Simon Vardeh posted three of his 10 kills.

Paul Nelson’s ace was a string of four over the last 11 points of the frame to drastically flip momentum, started by the play out of the middle.

“Having middles who are on top of it, and who can really get going, allows us to really open up our options,” Huang said. “It makes it really hard for them to get a double-block on (Christianson).”

“The biggest thing for us was able to get our middles to score today,” added Fox. “(Reale) and (Huang) were going off from the beginning … and I think that opened up our outside and our pins to really be able to do something.”

Needham overcame an 8-2 early deficit in the third set by clawing back in a competitive frame, but Newton North took it 25-21 win. Christianson (10 kills, 15 assists, two blocks) took off with six kills, five assists and a block. Nelson (eight kills, two blocks) added three in the frame as setter Joaquin Cuevas-Torres’ (24 assists, three aces) played well.

Devin Dellamarggio (29 assists) got Luke Lorence (10 kills), Brian Cloonan (seven kills) and Will McDonald (four kills) going in the fourth set, while liberos Owen Ching (Needham) and Brady Dwyer (Newton North) maintained stellar play to battle out a 15-15 tie.

Huang kept up the momentum with two more blocks and a kill to help separate for a 22-16 lead, and Nelson’s two kills anchored the close-out for a 25-19 win. Amaris Cotto (three kills, two blocks) also played well in the win.

“It definitely gives us more confidence but we’re not done yet,” Huang said. “We’ve got another month to play. We’re not done yet. We’re going to keep pushing, we’re going to keep working hard.”

Needham, MA - May 14, 2024: Newton North's Peter Reale tries to block a shot by Needham's Jeremy Smith. (Chris Christo/Boston Herald)
Needham, MA – May 14, 2024: Newton North’s Peter Reale tries to block a shot by Needham’s Jeremy Smith. (Chris Christo/Boston Herald)

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