Thatcher Maconga and Fanning meet at the net.
By James Kinneen
Hometown Weekly Reporter
At The end of Needham volleyball’s 3-0 (25-17, 25-13, 25-19) win over Wellesley, both teams were looking to the future. For Needham, that meant another trip to the postseason, and hopefully another chance at the state title. For Wellesley, it meant giving the young kids more playing time, and preparing them for next year.
These differing goals showed up in the game, as Wellesley sat their starters for the second and third sets, looking to get a peek at how the team might look next year. While the loss put them at 8-10, coach Fabe Ardila explained that he wasn’t all that concerned about their record, as long as his players were working hard and doing the right things. Five of his senior players had never played volleyball before this year, so it’s not surprising the team wasn’t a juggernaut in the Bay State Conference.
“I think it’s important to know going into this game, that we were not going to the postseason," the coach explained. "So, the one thing I tried to do was make sure that in the first set, we had our normal starters, but then regardless of if we won or lost, we were going to prepare the kids for next year. So, you saw a lot of faces that are going to be here next year. For example, the two setters hardly ever play, and they played in the second and third sets. We tried to give a lot of opportunities to the kids I know want to come back and see what the team is going to look like next year. As far as I’m concerned, it’s not about the win or loss column, it’s about the fact that they competed, even though they’re not normally in the game.”
Ardila must have been pleased with what he saw from his young players (especially against a team as good as Needham), because he made it clear he expects to have a better, more veteran team next year.
“Next year, we will have a lot more experience, so we should do a lot better in the win-loss column. But I really don’t care about the win-loss column, I care about the process. As long as they’re doing the right things, the wins will come."
On the other hand, for the Needham Rockets, the future is now.
The win moved the team to 17-2, and they are heading to the postseason where last year, they made it all the way to the state championship game before coming up short. After the game, Wellesley’s coach Fabe Ardila noted how well the team was playing, at the most opportune time.
“They’re a phenomenal program that has been, traditionally a tough, aggressive, well-oiled machine. At the beginning of the season, I think they had a lot of young, new people playing, and I can see that they’ve become a force throughout the year and are playing a much more cohesive game than they were before.”
Their coach, Dave Powell, played it far cooler in describing his team. “Jack Klein did a nice job offensively," he noted. "Owen Fanning did a nice job offensively, and I thought our defenders played pretty well. Scrappy.”
That’s a bit of an understatement.
Owen Fanning dominated this game thoroughly, consistently finding the angle on the right side, being too tall, too long and too good to be denied. Joey Knight and Thatcher Maconga had a couple of nice blocks on him, but they couldn’t consistently get the better of him, unless he was fatigued from long rallies.
Jack Klein feasted on the young Wellesley setters in the third set, at one point hitting three hard serves that they couldn’t return, over the course of four points.
But Powell wasn’t ready to praise his team quite yet. Instead, he offered a subdued response to the hugely successful year.
“We’re just kind of taking it one match at a time and expecting to have to earn every win," he said. "Hopefully, we can make a run like we have in years past.”