Newton North snaps Needham’s 77-game winning streak

NEWTON — It took an epic performance to get the job done, but someone has finally gotten the best of the Needham boys volleyball team.

As part of a five-set instant classic between Bay State Conference titans Thursday night,  No. 1 Newton North (5-0) took the fourth and fifth sets by a hair to end the No. 3 Rockets’ historic 77-game win streak with a 3-2 (20-25, 26-24, 22-25, 25-22, 16-14) win.

The Tigers needed to rally from late deficits in the fourth and fifth sets as Needham looked to close out a 2-1 lead in the match. Neither team led by more than two points in the fifth, providing a sneak preview of what could be a sensational showdown late in this year’s state tournament.

Being the team to hand Needham its first loss since 2019 obviously drew a raucous reaction from Newton North, but the Tigers’ joy is more centered on what this means for their title aspirations.

After losing in the state final last year to the three-time defending champion Rockets, this was big.

“It feels amazing, I knew that we could be good this year,” said senior Adam Christianson. “This sets a high standard for us for the rest of the season.”

“I think it sets a really good tone, winning this game gives us a little bit of momentum,” added Newton North head coach Nile Fox. “We tried not to think about (the streak) when we were coming into this game, obviously the kids were. … But my conversation to them was, ‘Let’s not think about the streak, we want to win this game.’ We’re just thinking about the win and playing hard volleyball, gritty volleyball. That’s it.”

The matchup was every bit of the thriller the final numbers indicate.

Luke Lorence (21 kills), Brian Cloonan (16 kills) and Andrew Kurdziel (seven kills) stood out around Devin Dellamarggio (49 assists) on the Needham attack. Defense withstood arguably the greatest firepower in the state, as Owen Ching and Dylan Carroll led back-row play and Jeremy Bullard-Smith (six blocks) was one of a few to present problems at the net.

Newton North was anchored by another all-around performance from Christianson (21 assists, 15 kills, five aces, three blocks). Sam Huang (seven kills, three blocks) and Peter Reale (five kills, four blocks) were dangerous in the middle, and Simon Vardeh (12 kills) paired with Paul Nelson (eight kills) to help eventually edge it out.

What that meant was coming back with wins after losses in the first and third sets, including a 6-2 run to close out a much-needed fourth.

“It was a lot of strong play, I think we just wanted it,” Fox said. “The biggest thing for them was that they wanted to win. They wanted it, and they went out and played like it … I’m really proud of them for that.”

“I think we didn’t let down, we didn’t drop,” Christianson added. “I think our energy was really good today.”

Needham was close to pulling it off, but it just couldn’t get the points it needed in some big moments that Newton North’s star power took over in.

The Tigers trailed 23-22 in the second set, but got kills from Christianson and Huang to take a lead and the eventual final point, 26-24. The Rockets scored eight of the third set’s final 11 points to win it 25-22, only for Newton North to do the same in the fourth set.

The Rockets rallied from a 14-12 deficit in the deciding fifth set, but couldn’t get enough to come out on top.

“There’s no shame in this loss at all,” said Needham head coach Dave Powell. “They’re a dynamic offensive team. Our defense was good but after a while, they made more plays than we did. I like the way we competed, I like the way we fought.“

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