Defusing situation

WESTFIELD – It has been a near flawless follow-up for the defending Division 1 state champion Westfield High School boys volleyball team. The only blemish on the Bombers’ 2018 season is a 3-1 loss to Needham on May 21, but that black mark can easily (well maybe not that easily) be erased.
The two teams will meet again Thursday with much more at stake when the Westfield Bombers (22-1) and Needham Rockets (25-1) collide in the state final at Worcester State at 7 p.m.

Westfield’s Ryan Murray, right, sets up for a block against Needham in the 2016 boys volleyball state semifinals. The Bombers and Rockets will meet for the fifth time in five seasons Thursday night in the Division 1 state finals at Worcester State at 7 p.m. (Staff File Photo)

Needham swept through the southern division bracket as the second seed with three straight 3-0 wins, including a sweeping victory over unbeaten, top-seeded Taunton in the title game. The Rockets went on to topple Central Mass champ Natick, also its region’s No. 1 seed, 3-1.
“Sometimes the sweep doesn’t always tell the story – sets can go either way – but any time you’re going through the tournament (with sweeps) it is especially impressive,” Westfield coach Tyler Wingate said.
Westfield and Needham are not strangers on the court with both teams having met five straight years. The Rockets ended the Bombers’ tournament runs in the 2015 state finals and the 2016 state semifinals.
“In this run that we’ve had, if there’s anything we haven’t accomplished, it’s defeating these guys in the state tournament,” coach Wingate said.
Westfield may have figured out a thing or two since then though.
When the two teams met during a regular season contest earlier this season, Westfield won the first set 25-16.
“We came out clicking,” Wingate explained. “Our serving was a big factor, but they started receiving the serve a little better. They started to position their blockers to slow us down, slowing up our attacks.”
Needham recovered to win the next three sets, including two by the slimmest of margins, 28-26, 25-16, 25-22.

The defending Division 1 boys volleyball state champion Westfield Bombers have come together as one for another title run. They will collide with familiar foe, the Needham Rockets, Thursday night at Worcester State at 7 p.m. (Staff File Photo)

“Maybe we became a little predictable in where we were going with the ball,” said Wingate. “Not too much separated our teams. …They just outperformed us with their blocking and floor defense.
“Defensively, they were a little step ahead of us.”
After that loss, Westfield went back to work with the potential rematch looming in the backs of their minds. The Bombers have not lost since then.
“We’ve been working hard in that area since then to up our defensive level,” Wingate said. “First and foremost, we are going to keep doing what we’re doing to get past them. We need to execute at the highest of levels. They don’t back down. They make you earn points. We have to execute at a high level. At times during this tournament we have been. That should give us confidence. They’re pretty balanced, but we can get kills against them across the entirety of net. …If we have both offense and defense working for us that makes us even better. We bring out the best in each other.”

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