Agawam High hands Athol 3-0 loss in boys volleyball matchup

  • Athol’s Justin Blake bumps the ball against Agawam, Tuesday. Athol Daily News/Mike Phillips

  • Athol’s Anthony Potenti dives for the ball during Game 2 of his team’s match against Agawam High School in Athol. Athol Daily News/Mike Phillips

  • Athol’s Matt Willhite begins the set during his team’s match against Agawam High School on Tuesday night in Athol. Athol Daily News/Mike Phillips

Sports Writer
Published: 4/24/2018 2:45:42 PM
Modified: 4/24/2018 2:45:44 PM

ATHOL — The Athol boys volleyball team has had steady success to start the season, including wins against tough opponents.

On Tuesday night, the Red Raiders faced their biggest test in powerhouse Agawam High School, which is ranked second in western Massachusetts and led by Joe Hendrickson, a First-Team All-Western Mass player. In that test, the Brownies made short work of the Red Raiders, winning 25-16, 25-21 and 25-16.

“They’ve got a lot of weapons,” Athol coach Sean MacDonald said. “They’re smooth. They’ve got a lot of talent and have been playing together for a long time.”

The Red Raiders fell to 5-2 with the loss.

The Brownies jumped out to a 13-3 lead in Game 1 with the only points for Athol coming in the form of errant serves by Agawam. The first point the team produced came from a Justin Blake spike that pulled Athol within 18-10.

“We knew they were going to be insane,” Blake. “Last year, they were second best in Western Mass. We kind of figured they would be crazy and we just went out and gave it all we could.”

The Brownies used seven kills and five aces from three different players to win the first game 25-16.

“They’re going to be really tough to pass and dig really accurately, so we just needed to put the ball up high,” MacDonald said. “It was an adjustment to the tempo, speed of the serve, speed of the hit and really the tempo of their offense. There’s not a lot of time between the set and the hit. … You could see the wheels turning in my guys’ heads because we don’t see this a lot.”

The Red Raiders faired better in Game 2. They were within 14-10 thanks to a spike from Jordan Carrasquillo. The Red Raiders then pulled to within 17-14 and then 22-21 thanks to consecutive aces by Matt Willhite and a spike from Blake. Agawam then created three straight points on an errant serve by Athol and a couple blocks at the net for points to win.

“At the end of that set, Matt was serving really well,” said Blake. “I think the momentum kept going and we got so excited that we started playing better.”

Agawam opened Game 3 with a 7-1 lead. Athol pulled within 9-5 thanks to a well-placed return that the Brownies could not get over the net. The Brownies increased their lead to 14-7 and 19-10 thanks to several Athol errors and kills from Hendrickson, Anthony Krzykowski and Shaun Mateus.

The teams traded points until the Brownies held a 23-16 lead. An errant serve gave the Brownies a 24-16 advantage and a return tipped by Athol’s Colby Soltysik went out of bounds to give Agawam the 25-16 win.

The Red Raiders face defending state champion Westfield at 12:15 p.m. Thursday in Westfield. The Bombers (5-0) are ranked first in Western Massachusetts. They defeated the Brownies, 3-2, on April 3.

“It’s really tough to prepare for (Westfield),” MacDonald said. “We don’t have, in our own gym, a good simulation of (Westfield’s pace of play). … We can’t really simulate what Westfield, or Agawam, is going to do, you know, the speed of the serve, the speed of the hitting, so that’s going to be hard.”

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