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Needham girls volleyball caps unbeaten season

By Mike Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor

Needham High School varsity girls volleyball entered this unprecedented season with targets on their backs. The reigning Division I state champs, the Rockets entered 2021 having not lost a match since 2018.

With just 12 regular season games and no state tournament to prove themselves, every game was a must-win for the Rockets in 2021. Through 11 games, Needham lived up to the hype, dominating their way to an 11-0 start. Coming off a 3-0 senior night win against Milton that saw 32 kills and 16 aces, the Rockets traveled to face the Wildcats for the latter half of a home-and-home to close out their season on April 8, looking to finish the year unblemished.

The Rockets began the match hot, as back-to-back kills by Lila Carr, along with a pair of aces by Albina Miloshi, helped Needham to a 16-5 lead to begin the opening set. Milton rallied to trim the deficit down to 20-13 and then to at little as four at 22-18. However, Needham responded with three consecutive points, highlighted by an ace by Miloshi to force set point, followed by a set-ending kill by Emma Fallon to give Needham the 25-18 set victory.

An ace by Katelyn Wong helped the Rockets to 4-0 lead to begin the second set. Milton cut the deficit to 5-3 before Needham went on a 6-1 run behind a kill from Meg Allen and two aces by Ellie Streeper to make 11-4. Milton called a timeout and responded with an 10-7 run to cut the deficit to 18-14. A kill by Karen Nie put an end to Milton's rally and started a 4-0 run by the Rockets to make it 22-14. Needham would go on to win the set, 25-18, to grab a 2-0 lead.

A pair of kills by Nie, along with kills by Carr and Evie Lockwood-Mullaney, gave Needham to a 4-0 lead to begin the third set. Milton battled back to make it an 8-7 score before Needham went on a 6-1 run, highlighted by a block at the net by Lockwood-Mullaney, to make it 14-8. The Wildcats were able to get back to within four at 22-18, but a kill by Miloshi pushed the lead back to five at 23-18. Back-to-back points by Milton helped the Wildcats trim Needham's lead to 24-21, but kills by Carr and Nie allowed the Rockets to close out the 25-21 set win and the 3-0 overall victory. Needham finishes the season 12-0 - and 33-0 in their last 33 matches dating back to 2019.

For funny and incisive sports analysis as well as video highlights of games, follow Mike Flanagan on his personal Twitter and Instagram handles @flano0.

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