Needham Boys Volleyball: Rocket Road Trip (Part III)

WESTFIELD – Tyler Wingate was forthright and thoughtful in his responses after his team lost for the first time all season. He talked about the talent on the other side of the net and how a third-set letdown seemed inevitable.

When asked about the opponent’s talent level – a standard rarely seen in the part of the state – Westfield’s coach let out a concealed laugh and took a few seconds to find an answer.

What does Needham do so well?

“Uh, ummm…”

Translation: Where do I start?

“Just about everything,” Wingate eventually replied, “to be honest with you.”

Ten days after Needham defeated Westfield, the teams are still ranked 1-2 in the state, according to Mass High School Volleyball. The defending state champion Rockets are 14-0 heading into their match with Natick; the Bombers have started a new winning streak and are 16-1.

But on May 7, Needham fought off a second-set scare to win another match in three sets.

“They’ve got a really good roster,” Wingate continued. “The quality of play is the biggest thing. We don’t see it all the time, but that’s what we strive to get.”

The middle set is what the many spectators expected to see at Westfield High’s gym.

Needham junior Raymond Weng gets the ball over the Brookline net May 10, 2022. To the right is his junior teammate Alex Gundaker.

Trailing by a point on three separate occasions as the score reached the 20s is a scenario repeated frequently for Needham.

In practice.

More:Needham boys volleyball: Rocket road trip (Part I) – ‘It’s helped me grow’

The Rockets had just won their 100th consecutive set when Westfield threatened to stop the streak that goes back to 2019. The Bombers led 21-20, then 22-21, then 23-22. The usually-consistent Ben Putnam and Ethan McCarron were struggling.

But setter Raymond Weng and middle/outside hitter Derek Yang picked up their play – displaying Needham’s unmatched depth. Five points later, after senior Kevin Coppinger’s block at the net fell to the court on the Westfield side, Needham celebrated a 26-24 victory.

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