WRENTHAM, Mass. — The King Philip volleyball team looked poised to run away with the first set, and possibly the match, against visiting Woburn when they staked a nine-point advantage and were just mere points away from an early lead.
But the Tanners refused to go quietly, scrapping and clawing their way back to make it a two-point game.
The Warriors got a huge momentum double block from Emily Sawyer and Molly O’Brien against Woburn’s top hitter Sophia Furxhi, and Ahunna James put down an emphatic kill two plays later and KP survived the opening set
King Philip clearly learned its lesson.
The second-seeded Warriors went on to dominate the next two sets and didn’t give the visiting Tanners a chance to get back into it, earning a 3-0 sweep (25-21, 25-11, 25-12) over Woburn to book a trip in the Division 2 Final Four.
“I think at first we just needed to settle down and play our game,” said King Philip head coach Kristen Geuss. “I think they were just a little apprehensive about what they were going to see, what’s going to happen, how (Woburn) plays. Once they found their groove, and our serve receive became a little bit better in the back row, that settled everything down. And then we were able to play our game, play on our side of the court.”
King Philip was strong from the service line throughout with just seven errors on 74 attempts (including three in the first set). In particular, both Samantha Asprelli (17 service points, one ace) and Stella Bailey (14 service points, three aces) kept the Woburn defense off balance.
With the Warriors holding a 6-5 edge in the middle set, Asprelli stepped to the line and helped guide the hosts on an 8-0 with Woburn spending both of its timeouts during the stretch.
Asprelli’s strong serves led to a big block from Sami Shore and then a kill from Shore, followed by back-to-back errors from the visiting carey/”>Liv Carey delicately dropped a push attack over the block for a point.
After an ace, another strong serve from Asprelli couldn’t be sent back over and KP suddenly held a 14-5 lead.
James added two kills and Sawyer denied Woburn on back-to-back big blocks. Sawyer added a kill and Shore froze the defense with a tip around a double block to get the 25-11 win and a 2-0 lead.
“We had to move our feet and we had to cover more,” Geuss said of adjustments made between the first and second sets. “We had to get used to that pace and once we did that, we were able to play our game.”
The third set played out similarly to the second set. The visitors were able to keep pace early on despite a kill from Shore on the first point and an ace from Bailey two plays later. A tip kill got Woburn within one at 9-8 but a service error brought Asprelli back to the service line for the hosts.
This time, Asprelli and King Philip rattled off seven straight points as the Warriors’ strong serves made it difficult to Woburn to get any clean swings, and when they did, KP’s big block forced the visitors into hitting errors.
Shore had a kill and a block sandwiched in between four straight plays in which the Tanners couldn’t cleanly get Asprelli’s serve back over and the lead grew to 17-8.
“Our serves are pretty strong so if we can get the other team out of system, that just helps us all around,” Geuss said. “That’s what we work on, we want to try and get the other team out of system and get a free ball back over and then we can try and do something with it.”
Carey recorded two late kills in the set and one from Shore made it 22-10, prompting the Tanners to take a timeout. Out of the timeout, the Tanners had a pair of errors and Shore finished the match off with a kill.
“This is awesome,” Geuss said. “It’s awesome for them, they just want to keep on playing and play the best that they can.”
#2 King Philip will take on #3 Hopkinton in one of the state’s Division 2 State Semifinals with the date, time, and venue still to be announced.