Newton North turns boys volleyball tables on Natick in 3-0 win

NATICK – Shortly after the Newton North boys volleyball team handed Needham its first loss in over four years on April 11, it lost its own undefeated season to Natick in its poorest showing of the year to that point.

Just two days removed from beating Needham a second time on Thursday night, though, the Tigers locked in on avoiding the same fate.

Junior Simon Vardeh posted a game-high 17 kills, sophomore middle Peter Reale notched a career-best night with 11 kills and two blocks, and the entire team around them was sound from start to finish to help No. 3 Newton North (14-2) win Round 2 over No. 2 Natick, 3-0 (26-24, 25-22, 25-21).

It was a completely different look from the first time the two played, powering the Tigers’ eighth straight win while snapping the RedHawks’ 11-game win streak.

“We weren’t thinking about revenge,” said Newton North head coach Nile Fox. “The biggest thought was to not let what happened the last time we beat Needham happen again, after having such a high and then coming down and not playing like ourselves, and just not playing good. … I think we could have played a little bit better, but we – for the most part – we came out and we kind of handled business.”

“It just motivates us,” Reale added.

Each of the first two sets showed a caliber of match fitting for the Div. 1 state final. Natick answered every Newton North punch and was at set-point in a tight opening frame, but the Tigers proved too determined.

Setter Joaquin Cuevas-Torres (24 assists, ace) had 11 assists in the first set, including three after Newton North trailed 23-22. Two of Reale’s kills came in the set’s closing eight points, while Vardeh’s eighth kill of the frame gave the Tigers a 25-24 lead. Adam Christianson (nine kills, 14 assists) notched the set-sealing kill.

Cuevas-Torres, Vardeh, Reale, Christianson and Sam Huang (seven kills, two blocks) played well in their roles to edge out the set despite Natick’s 21-19 lead at one point. But libero Brady Dwyer was instrumental in the closing stretch.

“(Dwyer) has been stepping up,” Fox said. “He’s been playing like the best libero in the state right now. He has been, in my opinion. He’s been playing really good, playing really good defense. Serve receiving has been really good, I have no complaints about him right now.”

Natick led for the majority of the second set, anchored by seniors Harrison Landry (30 assists), Nicholas Bonavire (nine kills) and Matt Salerno (seven kills). But not even its 13-8 or 20-17 leads were safe.

Reale posted five kills and Huang added two kills in the frame, continuing Newton North’s work to take advantage of its middles. Christianson chipped in three kills and seven assists as a result, while Vardeh kept rolling with five more kills.

“We’ve been practicing running middles a lot,” Reale said. “I got a lot of sets today. Our setters are really balling out, and our passes are really good. That just allowed me to get a lot of kills.”

“(Reale) had the best game of his life, probably,” Fox added. “We talk about getting the middles established and he was killing it, so we said we’re going at him the whole game. We just gave him the ball anytime we could and he showed up.”

The third set was competitive through most of the frame as star junior Branch Barnes heated up for six of his 12 kills, but Newton North earned seven of the frame’s final 11 points to close out a signature win in the home stretch of the regular season.

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