BY JOSH PERRY (@Josh_Perry10)
Thu, Oct 01, 2015
Two seasons ago, the Needham High girls’ volleyball team struggled through a winless season, but last year new head coach Courtney Chaloff helped turn things around and the Rockets improved to 8-12, narrowly missing out on the playoffs.
This year, Needham has jumped out to a 4-2 start after edging Weymouth 3-2 and Braintree 3-1 in the last week. The Rockets are almost halfway to a tournament spot with just six games played.
“It’s a really motivated group,” said Chaloff after the Braintree win. “In a lot of the games, we’ve been behind and they just stay very determined.”
“They don’t get down on themselves, they stay positive, and they think they’re going to win.”
That is a huge shift from where the team was just a few seasons ago and Chaloff credited the many players who were winless in 2013 for sticking with the program and working hard in the off-season.
“They’re getting more touches in the off-season,” she explained, “and a better understanding of the strategy of the game and the balance between aggressiveness and patience.”
“They believe they’re a good team,” Chaloff continued. “They walk into the gym with confidence.”
At the start of the season, outside hitter Julia Ritcey has emerged for the Rockets as a key offensive weapon, despite playing on the opposite side and only having a few chances each game. Chaloff credits her control as a big reason for Ritcey’s success.
Also, Chaloff noted starting libero Kaitlyn Lew as a leader for the Rockets on the defensive side of the game and as a primary setter on offense. “She gets balls up that you wouldn’t expect,” said Chaloff.
Two sophomores are in the regular rotation for Needham this season, including starting middle blocker Jane Fanning, whose brother Tim won a state title with the boys’ team in the spring. Fanning adds size at the net and Chaloff said that she is very coachable and willing to learn.
Over the past two years, the new coach has tied the program together with the same terminology and strategies being incorporated from the freshmen level through varsity. While there are individual goals for the players to meet, the one goal that remains for the program as a whole is to be playing in the postseason.
“Playoffs are the big goal,” said Chaloff. “We were pretty close last year and it’s a pretty cool accomplishment.”
See more photos from the Braintree game at https://hometownweekly.smugmug.com/Needham-2/Needham-School-Sports/Needham-Girls-Volleyball-92415.
Hometown Weekly Staff