HOLYOKE – The first championship was the start of something new. The second title brought about a feeling of déjà vu. The third time might have felt a bit charmed. The fourth championship though, according to boys volleyball head coach Tyler Wingate, was a bit of a head-turner.
“It was kind of an unreal feeling there at the end because there’s just a lot of emotion running through you,” Westfield coach Tyler Wingate said, following top-seeded Westfield’s 3-0 sweep of Agawam in the West Division 1 championship Wednesday night at Holyoke Community College. “You get that game point. You’re trying to stay in the moment, but you’re kind of thinking about just all the things that have gotten you here, all the contributions that it took to get here.”
Westfield may not all-out dominated No. 2 Agawam, but at times the Bombers did overpower the Brownies en route to a 25-21, 25-20, 25-17 victory to secure their fourth straight title.
“Obviously it feels amazing keeping the tradition going on for four years,” said Westfield setter Luis Castro, who is considered one of the top setters in all of the state. “Westfield’s kind of small, no one really knows us. We weren’t ranked as high. People just kind of doubted us, but we just had to show them what’s really going on.
Castro, who joined the team as a sophomore, showed steady improvement throughout his three seasons, and after taking over as setter this year, flourished in that role.
Castro got his teammates involved from the outset against Agawam, helping set up Javier Santos, James Pavlyuk, Shane Kiendzior, and Gabe Santos for some first set kills.
Agawam managed to tie the game at 16-all, but never managed to take the lead. The Brownies only lead of the set was 1-0.
The middle frame was even closer with 11 ties and eight lead changes. Agawam landed one of its most devastating hits of the night when Joseph Hendrickson smashed a kill off the court high into the rafters. Roman Yukhimets followed with a sneaky ace that skirted the sideline for a 14-12 Brownies’ lead.
Westfield responded with two points of its own for a 14-14 tie. The teams were tied again at 15 before the Bombers went on a 9-2 run to go up 24-17.
Agawam put together a mini-rally to pull within 24-20, but Kiendzior’s kill capped off the set, 25-20.
Agawam led 2-0 in the final set, but that lead was short-lived. Westfield controlled the tempo the remainder of the way, and Castro had a highlight-reel kill that capped off a great game. He finished with 30 assists.
Javier Santos (9 kills), Pavlyuk (8 kills, 9 digs), Kiendzior (6 kills, 15 digs), Gabe Santos (16 digs), and Ryan Murray (6 kills) contributed for Westfield.
“We’re just thinking on to the next step,” Castro said. “We’re trying to just grow as a team, trying to make it to the state championships.
“We’re just thinking on to the next step,” Castro said. “We’re trying to just grow as a team, trying to make it to the state championships.”
One more obstacle stands in the way of a return trip to the state finals – Northern champ Chelmsford (19-5). The two teams will collide Monday at Concord-Carlisle High School at a time to be determined.