NATICK – heads or tails?
That 50-50 nature was the feel of a crucial fifth set for Natick boys’ volleyball coach Peter Suxho after he saw 10th-seeded Newton North charge back against his team in a div from two sets down. 1 second-round affair Tuesday night.
But even after the Tigers’ stars fueled a vicious comeback to suck much of the home crowd’s energy out of the building, the No. 7 RedHawks rallied enough of the clean play that held the big lead to a grueling final frame to endure a 3-2 win (25-23, 25-13, 18-25, 17-25, 15-13) in an instant classic.
On the downside of the momentum, Natick didn’t fail to beat his Bay State Conference opponent after dividing the regular-season series and advanced to take on Westford Academy winners New Bedford in the quarterfinals.
“It’s like flipping a coin, what happened in the fifth set,” said Suxho. “Newton North are a good team. Everyone is playing (hard) at this stage of the season. It’s not like the season, you have one game left. You go home now or you stay, so it’s really hard. … We’re getting there. … I feel strong for (the) next game.”
Natick went 2-0 up despite three key players returning to the squad last week due to COVID, and utilized quality defense at all stages as Newton North struggled to create consistently good attacking opportunities. Kendall Jackson (12 kills), Nicholas Bonavire (seven kills) and Luke Rossi (three kills, two blocks) used Harrison Landry (18 assists) and Branch Barnes (10 assists) to fill in the gaps in a series of errors from Newton North early, seemingly running for victory.
But after Kaz Veitas (15 kills, four aces), Adam Christianson (10 kills), Sam Huang (eight blocks) and Tyler Randall (29 assists, three blocks) started clicking on all cylinders, the Tigers had all the buzz on the way to the fifth frame. Natick had just three runs with three straight points in that span, after generating six points in the first two frames.
However, Natick grabbed a quick lead early in the fifth through a couple more errors from Newton North and that set the tone for the rest of the way. Veitas and Christianson teamed with Michael Barnette to keep the score within two points with big blocks and kills until the end, but the team had 11 errors compared to the RedHawks’ five.
That included a serve error that broke a 13-13 tie and failed to get it over the net in the final game to help Natick progress.
“You can’t make mistakes in games like this. Newton North was 2-0 down and came back strong,” said Suxho. “We didn’t do anything to win the game, they gave it to us…they had mistakes (on the last two points), we didn’t. … We were lucky.”