Westwood dives on the floor in celebration after a huge win against Hopkinton.
By James Kinneen
Hometown Weekly Reporter
While many high school volleyball teams are already done with their seasons, Westwood is just a bit over 75 percent of the way done with theirs. That’s because they still have three games left on their schedule, which were added after the season had already begun. And while there are no playoffs this year to strive towards, gear up for, or get into a flow heading into, having won back-to-back matches against Holliston after a big victory over Hopkinton, as they wrap up their season, the Wolverines are on a roll.
Now 6-4, coach Jenny Murphy explained how the games were added to the schedule, while noting how excited the girls were to get to play even more. "We had some last minute additions to our schedule - Medway on Monday, Millis Tuesday and Bellingham Thursday; those are our last three. The games were added after the season got underway. I think once it was shown that everything was going well as far as COVID restrictions and rules, the athletic directors felt comfortable increasing the number of games we are allowed to play. Not all teams added games, but our athletic director gave me the option and I was happy to prolong the season as much as possible! The girls were so excited to learn we were able to play for an extra week.”
Last week, the team beat Holliston in four sets (25-23, 22-25, 27-25, 25-15), then in straight sets (25-22, 25-13, 25-15) over the course of their Tuesday, Thursday, home and home matchups. But while Murphy pointed to the play of Shelby McKim, who led the team in serves (28), aces (7), kills (13) and blocks (5), she made it clear she wasn’t happy with how the team performed overall - something she blames on an emotional let-down after the Wolverines' big win over Hopkinton.
“Though we did finish on top, we weren't totally happy with how we got there. I think coming off such a huge win versus Hopkinton the previous week, this match served as a good reminder that we need to continue to push ourselves and put in the work to play to our full potential against any opponent. We had a longer practice on Wednesday and went into Thursday's match in Holliston reinvigorated, and finished with a 3-0 sweep (25-22, 25-13, 25-15). Alexa Kritzer was named Player of the Game. She kept the team's energy high throughout and made fifteen solid attacks and put up ten serves.”
What was so big about the Hopkinton game that made the team so excited after it, and had them struggling to focus going into the Holliston series? Murphy said Hopkinton is a perennial state championship contender in Division I, and to her knowledge, Westwood hadn’t beaten them in thirty years. After they lost in four sets (25-23, 19-25H, 12-25, 20-25) against Hopkinton in the Tuesday matchup, Coach Murphy said the game “gave us the drive to work extra hard in prep for Thursday's home game, and the confidence to know that we could come out on top.”
In a (ahem) marathon five-setter, the Wolverines were able to come back from that loss and get the win Coach Murphy and her team were so proud of.
“Come Thursday, we were excited to have another shot and the team worked really hard throughout the entire five-set match (22-25, 27-25, 25-15, 12-25, 15-11). They were hungry for this win and fought for it together. It was a true team win where everyone was involved, whether they were on the court or on the sidelines. The way they played together to get to this win over such a talented team was a very proud moment for me as a coach. It also makes me really proud to see how far the program has come overall. Captain Katy Dumais was a huge contributor in this match. As a four-year varsity setter, she leads the offense and has to make many quick decisions, which she does so well. In this game in particular, she had 28 assists, 20 serves, two aces, three blocks, 13 digs and 10 attacks. She's a true leader and an all-around player. In a season that we can't compete in the state tournament, this win gave us the same type of feel, and I'm just so happy for my team.”
But if the team already showed a bit of a letdown coming off a huge emotional victory, questions arise about keeping the team motivated for the last couple games of the season, with no playoff seeding to worry about, and no championship to strive for, especially as the season goes on and on and may become a bit of a grind. But Coach Murphy explained that motivation hasn’t been a huge issue, since her team has so many of their own, intra-team goals to focus on.
“Given that there are no playoffs, pre-season, I tasked the captains with coming up with a few team goals that we could focus on to stay motivated. They came up with things like 'never lose to the same team twice' and 'win all of our home games,' both of which the team has gone all-in on and besides our first week, have accomplished so far. The team is also comprised of a group of girls who are competitive and are invested in improving their game. They love the sport and that alone helps motivate them.”
While the Hopkinton win will likely end up Westwood’s most impressive game on the court, off the court, the most impressive game hasn’t happened yet, whether the Wolverines dominate or get blown out in straight sets.
With no “Dig Pink” game this year, the team could have opted to bail on the idea of a charity game in general. Instead, their April 13 game against Millis will benefit Autism Speaks.
“The captains - Katy Dumais, Hermela Haile and Alexa Kritzer - have really stepped up in trying to ensure we have as close to a normal season as possible. It's all been condensed, but they've made sure we got in our yearly fundraising as well as a charity game - typically we do a "Dig Pink" game in October and raise money for breast cancer research. April is Autism Acceptance Month, and since we're playing in the spring this season, they've opted to host a game benefiting Autism Speaks, which will be held this Tuesday, April 13, when Millis comes to town. If anyone would like to take part, we'd love for them to make a donation at autismspeaks.org on behalf of Westwood Volleyball!”
Win, lose or draw, playoffs or no playoffs, that move speaks volumes.