NEWTON – It took the Westfield High School boys’ volleyball team decades to coral its first championship trophy. Now, the Bombers will be seeking their second piece of hardware in a span of 11 days.
Reigning Western Massachusetts champion Westfield knocked off North champ Chelmsford in a high-octane four-set thriller, 3-1, in a state semifinal Monday night at Newton North High School. The Bombers advanced to the finals by defeating the Lions, 21-25, 30-28, 25-15, 25-22.
“It’s hard to put into words right now,” said Westfield coach Tyler Wingate, just moments after clinching a trip to the state finals. “Thank goodness we won that second set.”
Westfield got off to a shaky start in the state tournament opener, losing the first set by four points and blowing a 23-18 lead in an epic second game.
In the second set, Chelmsford reeled off six straight points late to take a 24-23 lead. The Lions served for game point and a commanding 2-0 set lead, but Westfield managed to side out. The Bombers fell behind by game-point two more times before managing to tie it up and finally taking a late lead, and eventual victory.
“I think we played the first game scared,” said Westfield senior Manny Golob (30 kills, 16 digs). “We were a little nervous, but we got our jitters out.”
Shaken out of its doldrums, Westfield seized control in the third set. The Bombers struck with might and power, sprinkled in a touch as light as a feather, and improvised on shots deflected high into the rafters or seemingly well out of arms-reach out-of-bounds. They blocked the path of the ball every time Chelmsford gave its best shot.
Chelmsford flirted with any early advantage until Westfield went on an 8-0 run with Dmitriy Doroshenko serving to take a 10-7 lead. The Bombers soared from that point on.
If Chelmsford thought it had a chance – squeaking out a 2-0 lead in the fourth set -that ended when Westfield’s John Bucko (9 kills, 5 blocks) sent a reminder. Bucko delivered a wicked kill shot that sent a Lion buckling to his knees.
The opposition had no prayer.
At times, Chelmsford players looked more interested in orchestrating a timed hand clap which reverberated throughout the packed student cheering section of its Lion faithful. Westfield exploited every Chelmsford mistake, and laid the smack down.
A nip and tuck affair throughout the final set finally turned when Manny Golob battered the Lions, scoring four of his team’s final five points.
Doroshenko finished with 37 digs. Eric Shilyuk (45 assists, 10 digs, 2 blocks) and Isaiah Headley (8 kills, 10 digs, block) were also instrumental in Westfield’s success. Bombers’ Ruslan Kontsimal also had 13 digs, including several key ones late.
Westfield advances to the state championship where it will face either Central champ Lincoln-Sudbury or South champ Needham Thursday at Babson College at 7 p.m.