One final time

HOLYOKE – The Westfield High School boys’ volleyball team is hoping that the third time really is the charm.
For the second time in three seasons, Westfield will be playing in the final game for the right to be called the best in the state. The three-time defending Western Massachusetts Division 1 champion Bombers knocked off the Central Mass representative Natick Redhawks 3-2 in the state semifinals Monday night at Holyoke Community College.

Shane Kiendzior, center, parts the “Red Sea,” splitting two Natick Redhawks for a successful kill during Monday’s state Division 1 semifinal at Holyoke Community College. (Photo by Bill Deren)

Westfield advanced in a five-set thriller, 25-13, 25-23, 25-13, 25-23, 15-7.
“We’re going to be ready,” Westfield coach Tyler Wingate said. “It’s going to take a complete effort. We’ve had some big matches the last couple of years. … We just have to be on point.”
Westfield directed a near-flawless effort in the first and third sets, fell just short in the second and fourth frames, but rebounded with a dominating effort in the tiebreaker.
In the opening set, Shane Kiendzior (19 kills), Eddie Loboda (16 kills, 12 digs), and Ryan Murray (14 kills) delivered kills to help Westfield overcome an early one-point deficit and build a 4-2 lead. Those three continued to lead the charge for the Bombers and Natick appeared outmatched and overwhelmed.
Westfield looked one step faster and savvier, and was almost always one step ahead of Natick like the Road Runner leading Wile E. Coyote on a wild goose chase in the old cartoon. These characters though, from Central Mass, hung around and hung around and before you knew it, came away with a two-point win.
Westfield dominated the third set. After ties at 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6, Loboda served the Bombers to a 9-6 lead. With John Danahey serving, they scored five straight points to go ahead 14-8. Natick committed more than a dozen unforced errors and fell behind 2-sets-to-1.

Westfield’s Luis Castro blocks a shot. (Photo by Bill Deren)

The fourth set proved to be quite captivating. Both sides traded viscous kills, huge blocks, and impressive digs. Junior outside hitter Max Waltzman (29 kills, 4 digs, 4 blocks) and junior middle blocker Matt Flaherty kept Natick’s hopes alive with electric play at the net. The Redhawks survived, 25-23.
The fifth set – and the match – belonged to Westfield. Northampton scored the final set’s first point and enjoyed ties of 1-all and 2-all, but the Bombers cruised after that.
“Every set is its own little match, and there couldn’t have been any better example of that tonight,” coach Wingate said. “When we are going good and being efficient, we have sets like those first and third sets. …They won three 5-set matches to get here. We knew they were going to be a tough out.”
Tyler Stanton (52 assists, 28 digs), Noah Kappel (14 kills, 7 digs, 6 blocks), and Scott Walsh (13 digs) also were big contributors statistically speaking for the Bombers.
Westfield moves on to face northern champ Wayland (23-2), which enters the state championship game having swept every opponent thus far this postseason.
Said Wingate: “We’re just going to give it our best shot and see if we can make it happen.”

Westfield celebrates after winning a decisive fifth set, 15-7, over Natick in the Division 1 boys’ volleyball state semifinals Monday night at Holyoke Community College. (Photo by Bill Deren)

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