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By James Kinneen
Hometown Weekly Reporter
The Needham girls volleyball team moved to 15-0 with a four-set victory over Braintree on Thursday afternoon. Though it’s tough not to suspect they could have ended the game in three sets, if they really wanted to.
In the first set, the Rockets jumped out to a 16-10 lead, and never let the Wamps come close to closing the gap, ultimately taking the set 25-15.
The second set saw Braintree jump out to a 5-2 lead, but after a quick comeback, an unreturnable serve from Karen Nie put Needham ahead, 6-5. A kill, then a block from Lila Carr pushed Needham’s lead, until Braintree took a timeout down 15-10. A string of kills from Nie and an unreturnable serve from Olivia Kierstead gave Needham the second set, 25-18.
In the third set, early on, a few basic points from Needham earned riotous applause from the bench and crowd - a telltale sign that the coach has put in some players that don’t usually get a lot of playing time. More tellingly, Braintree dominated and took a 21-13 lead before quelling a comeback from Needham and taking the set, 25-19.
The time for experimentation and giving younger players some experience was apparently over in the fourth set, as more Nie kills, Carr blocks and unreturnable serves from Kierstead saw the Rockets take a 20-13 lead. Ultimately, Needham won the set, 25-16, and ended the match in four sets.
Coach Courtney Chaloff applauded her team’s composure, as well as the individual efforts from some of her players. “We’ve been really working on maintaining a nice composed attitude, no matter the circumstances, no matter what the score is, and I think they did a really nice job with their composure today,” she said. “That was definitely a big goal for us, so it was nice to see. Karen Nie had fifteen kills on the match, which was nice - she did a really good job offensively. Daly Johnson had a lot of great offense with 34 assists. Ellie Streeper, our libero, had a great passing day. She passed 2.26, which was awesome, too. So I think it was a nice hybrid of the defense and the offense connecting really well together.”
But what about that weird third set? Coach Chaloff claimed the team was experimenting with some different lineups, since she considers depth to be a huge asset for her squad.
“We were experimenting a little bit in the third set,” said the coach. “It’s fun to see different opportunities in different situations because I think a big strength of our team is our depth, and it’s fun to see different combinations of kids. So, yeah, there was definitely a little experimentation in the third set.”
Refusing to look too far ahead, after the game, Chaloff noted that “We’re excited for the postseason, but we just try and take it day by day.”
So far, every game day has been good. We’ll see if that trend continues.