WELLESLEY, Mass. – After falling behind by a set in Saturday morning’s D1 Central/East final at Wellesley High, King Philip turned the tables on No. 4 seed Boston Latin and won two sets in a row. The Warriors were returning every shot and asserting themselves in the middle, playing to their strengths, but then the match turned again.
KP couldn’t close out the Wolfpack. Boston Latin dominated the fourth set, winning 25-15, and then kept that momentum going into the decisive fifth set as well, winning 15-8 to seal the comeback and the title. This was the second Central final for KP in the past three years and the second time that the Warriors were denied a first-ever sectional title.
“I think definitely their hitters were starting to come on stronger,” said KP coach Kristen Geuss about the Boston Latin comeback. “We had a hard time blocking (Breann Cleary) and blocking (Ashley Rooney). We worked on it in practice, but I just think we weren’t strong enough to keep the ball in. We were getting there, we were getting touches on it, but just hitting it out.”
Geuss added, “I think we played great. They played their hearts out. They worked very, very hard and it was good volleyball.”
The two teams spent most of the first set feeling each other out, trying to find the weak spots to attack. Neither team led by more than three points and the set was tied at 22-22 after an ace by KP libero Emma Brooks. Latin won the final three points of the set, two of them on kills by Cleary.
Boston Latin jumped out to a 4-3 lead early in the second after a Cleary block, but then KP rattled off eight straight points on the serve of Lauren Peterson (four aces) to grab control of the set. The Warriors started spreading the ball around with Nicole Coughlan (15 kills, two blocks) and Kristen Masse (five kills, six digs) each getting hits during that run.
After a hit by Ali McNamara put KP up 18-10, but Latin showed its resiliency by scoring five straight points and getting back within three. Needing a response, Peterson set middle hitter Catherine Waldeck (14 kills, four blocks) and she blasted a hit to regain a four-point lead. Brooks followed with an ace and KP was back in charge.
“They’re huge,” Geuss said about Coughlan and Waldeck. “They generate our offense. They’re our leading point scorers all year long, that’s the way we built our offense. The two outside hitters, Kristen and Ali, if Nicole and Catherine are off they step up to the plate. We had a couple weapons we could use.”
KP won the second set 25-20 to level the match. In the third, the Warriors put themselves in position to bring home the Central title.
Coughlan buried a pair of kills to make it 6-4 early on and then added another to regain the lead at 10-9. Waldeck and Coughlan both had blocks to make it 16-13 and the KP defense continued to excel with Peterson and fellow setter Kiley Sullivan and Lily Carlow keeping everything up and Brooks dominating from the back line.
“She’s all over the place. She throws her body to the ground day-in, day-out at practice. She goes for every single ball,” said Geuss about Brooks. “Lily Carlow as well, they’re like Energizer bunnies, they’re non-stop. They set up our offense. They’re there to pick up every single ball.”
Latin got back within two at 19-17, but a couple of errors and then a precise tip by Waldeck and an ace from Coughlan put KP on the brink of a 2-1 lead. After a long rally, Waldeck blocked another hit and then she closed out the set with a kill.
The Warriors were rolling and the excitement was palpable from the home bench, but then things flipped around in the fourth. Latin jumped out to a 12-5 lead with KP making uncharacteristic mistakes and its serve-receive game struggling for the first time in the match. The Wolfpack was suddenly getting every bounce, as kills were slamming off blockers and serves were hitting the net and landing for points.
KP just never really got going in the fourth, as Latin led throughout. The lead was pushed to 20-12 on a Cleary kill off the block, 21-13 off another hit that went off a KP hand, and then once more off the block to finish the set.
“I felt our passes were too close to the net and our setters were too close to the net and we had a lot of net calls, which we never get those calls like that,” said Geuss.
In the semifinal against Quincy, KP faced similar circumstances and was able to win the fifth set and the match. On Saturday, the energy that Latin built up in the fourth was too much to overcome.
The Wolfpack won five of the first six points in the fifth and never relinquished control. Waldeck had a tip drop in for a point to make it 7-3 and Carlow snuck a shot down the line to get within three, but another run made it 10-5.
Trading points was not going to be enough for the Warriors, who got kills from Waldeck and McNamara, but just never got close enough to put real pressure on Boston Latin. An ace finished off the win for the Wolfpack and sent KP home with its second runner-up trophy in three seasons.
King Philip finished the season with a record of 18-5.