Olu Ajayi’s spike is challenged by Ali Fair.
By James Kinneen
Hometown Weekly Reporter
At the end of the day, the Needham girls’ volleyball team was simply too good for a young Walpole squad that’s still learning and experimenting. While Walpole put up a good fight, the Rebels would ultimately lose, three sets to none, against the rockets.
In the first set, Needham ran out to an early lead and never let it go. Up 14-4, the Rockets stretched the lead to 20-9 before closing the set out at 25-13.
The second set went the same way, but worse for the Rebels. Needham jumped out to a 16-5 lead, with Karen Nie leading a run in which her often unreturnable serves played a huge role. From there, despite the best efforts of Ali Fair to rally the team, Needham closed the set, 25-8.
In the third, Walpole held tight as Needham appeared to be giving some younger players playing time, already holding a two-set lead. As the end of the set neared, Needham brought back in Lila Carr, who ended the game on a spike at 25-19.
However, there was a delayed celebration from the Rockets, as a Walpole player appeared to get injured on the play. Needham’s kids were classy enough to not cheer as she stayed down.
The combination of Karen Nie on the left side and Lila Carr on the right gave the Rebels all sorts of issues throughout the match. So, when coach Courtney Chaloff was asked whose performances stuck out to her, it wasn’t surprising to hear their names.
“Karen Nie had nine aces at 95 percent in, so pretty nice. She also had 10 kills, which was nice. Lila Carr had 12 kills, as well, so I think it was a good combination of tough serving and effective passing. We were able to be in system and run a bunch of different hitters, which worked out really well for us.”
Looking ahead, Chaloff noted that they’re using every game as a learning experience and trying to get better every day.
“We just want to get better every single game,” she said. “We just want to learn every single game. We had a nice game yesterday, but some of our out of system stuff was not as clean as I wanted it to be. So that was really the focus going into today. How can we learn from yesterday to take that into today’s game, and I think they did it.”
It was a less pleasant learning experience for the Walpole Rebels, but coach Karen Clemons noted that her young team wasn’t just learning - they were actively tinkering with a new system to see if it works for her team.
“We’re doing better each game, but we have a very young team,” said Coach Clemons. “We only have four seniors that came back from last year, so we’re trying to rebuild. We’ve got two young sophomore setters on varsity right now, so we’re trying to make adjustments. We tried a 6-2. Tonight we tried a 5-1, so we’re just taking each game as a learning curve and going from there.”
While the team didn’t get the win, Clemons did feel there were some good things to build on, particularly the play of Morgan Dority.
“We had some good defense; we had some blocks. They had some really good hitters, so we had to get up and block. My setter adjusted to the 5-1 very well. Morgan Dority, our setter, did a really good job tonight.”
Both teams used Tuesday’s game as a learning experience. But Needham’s learning experience was far less painful than Walpole’s.