From the beginning of the season to the end, there is more growth in volleyball perhaps more than any other sport. That improvement was on full display for the Warriors, who are in the midst of their first season at the varsity level.
Two months ago, the in a season-opening loss to Medfield, King Philip struggled at times to consistently serve in bounds.
Now, the third-seeded Warriors are headed to the MIAA Central Quarterfinals after a 3-0 (25-12, 25-11, 25-13) sweep over #14 South High in the program’s first-ever playoff game.
“They’ve come a long way,” said King Philip head coach Emily Tkowski, “When we started, we were running two simple plays at the beginning of the season, that was it, that was all we could do with our passing and hitting ability. Now we’re running a lot more, back twos, stacks…just that alone, being able to run those plays shows how far we’ve come with our passing, hitting, everything.”
After dropping the opener (3-1) to Medfield, the Warriors rattled off six straight wins and finished with a 14-3 record, only losing to Milford (18-3) and Taunton (defending D1 South Finalists) the rest of the way.
“It shows they love the sport, they want to do well,” Tkowski said. “Anytime we want to introduce something new in practice, their faces light up, they are excited for something different. They’ve been looking at the other teams all season, looking up records, checking out opponents. They are really into it so I hope we can make a good run at it.”
Over those next 16 games, the Warriors improved in all facets of the game, and it showed with one of their best games of the season in the postseason opener against South High.
After committing seven unforced errors in the opening set, King Philip had just seven combined over the next two.
“That’s been tough for us, all season long those unforced errors have really killed us against teams we could have played better against,” Tkowski said. “I thought tonight, this was one of the best games I’ve seen them play as a whole. There were few errors, it was a great game to watch.”
The Warriors spread it around offensively in the opening set as five players recorded a kill. Leading by one early on, King Philip embarked on a 9-2 run that created the necessary separation in the first game. Mike O’Brien (seven kills) had two of his seven total kills in the run while Billy Hughes came up with a key block to put KP ahead 15-7.
King Philip turned to outside hitter Eric Altobello (six kills) to help put the first game to bed. The senior had three kills inside a 5-1 burst that put KP ahead 20-10, and O’Brien added back-to-back kills — the latter a nice tip to find an open spot in the defense — helped give the Warriors a 1-0 lead.
The second set belonged to senior Jimmy Peterson (12 kills, six aces), who got it done both offensively at the net with his attacks and also at the service line with a strong jump serve. With South up 5-2 in the second set, he put down a big kill and then had three aces in the next four points to put the hosts ahead 7-5 — a lead they never relinquished the rest of the set. It also sparked an 11-2 run that forced a timeout from the visitors, down 13-7.
Peterson got back to the net and put down a kill on a quick set from setter Cam Corey (23 assists), O’Brien had back-to-back nice swings, and Peterson shut down an opposing attack with a big kill for a 20-9 lead. King Philip’s Max Armour (four aces, four digs) had two aces late to help punctuate the win and a 2-0 lead.
Two early aces and a block kill from Peterson helped the Warriors jump ahead to a 6-1 lead in the third set. Peterson, Altobello, and Hughes all had multiple kills in the third set, one from Peterson on a set from Aidan Lindmark (eight assists) putting the hosts up 14-7. Peterson once again used a kill and three aces in four points to push King Philip’s lead, and Hughes added a late kill to help seal the win.
“Especially in the tournament, having multiple guys offensively is huge,” Tkowski. “If you have one guy, the other team can just set up a block on him and that’s the game. Having options, like Billy hit great tonight from the right side, having that is going to help us keep teams off balance.”
King Philip boys volleyball (15-3) will host #6 Natick (13-4) on Monday evening at 5:00.