Athol wins in new coach’s debut

  • Harrison West-Mather (center, white) instructing the Athol volleyball team during a timeout. West-Mather picked up his first win as a varsity coach, Tuesday in Athol.  STAFF PHOTO/ADAM HARGRAVES

Staff Writer
Published: 4/2/2019 7:57:35 PM
Modified: 4/2/2019 7:57:41 PM

ATHOL — Harrison West-Mather launched his varsity coaching career for the Athol boys volleyball team with a victory on Tuesday.

The Red Raiders beat East Longmeadow, 3-0, to open West-Mather’s first season under the helm.

“It’s exciting,” West-Mather said. “My father has been coaching for over 40 years, so I followed in his footsteps.”

Andy Mather coaches at Bourne High School. The Canalmen girls volleyball team is coming off a girls Div. 3 state championship. 

“It is something that I assumed I would continue to grow with it and then end up at this level,” West-Mather said.

West-Mather coached at the club level and was an assistant for the Athol girls’ team before this opportunity.

Set scores against the Spartans were 25-10, 25-14 and 25-20. 

The vocal West-Mather at times had to help out his young team with where to position themselves. But the veterans on the court were there to carry the play.

“I try to run everything through the players with more experience,” West-Mather said. “It’s a learning curve. Volleyball is a complex game to learn.”

Junior setter Colby Soltysik was all over the floor for the Red Raiders with 16 assists, four digs, three kills and eight aces.

Soltysik is getting used to setting some newer teammates. 

“Against our first opponent, we did pretty good,” Soltysik said. “I just have to be smart where I go with the ball and not waste possessions.” 

Soltysik’s jump serve produced an emphatic ace that ended the match. 

The Red Raiders had 29 aces as a team. Owen Willhite had seven aces while Matt Willhite added another six for Athol (1-0). 

“We are a pretty strong serving team,” West-Mather said. 

Soltysik’s main weapon is middle-hitter Zack Aldrich who had six kills for the Red Raiders.

Soltysik set up Aldrich for a violent and high-flying kill that ended some East Longmeadow momentum in the third set.

A similar kill from Aldrich made the score 24-20 in the final set.

The Red Raiders debuted a new weapon in the hitting category with freshman Joey Gray who had never played volleyball prior to the season opener. 

“It’s different than any sport I have ever played before,” Gray said. “I usually only play contact sports. This spring I just wanted to try it out. It still has that aggressive feel that I like in my other sports.”

Gray got his first varsity kill in the first set to give the Red Raiders a 20-8 lead. 

“Colby (Soltysik) set the ball right where it needed to be,” Gray said of his first kill. “I don’t have to do any of the passing. It’s fun but it’s definitely something I have to get used to. Getting my first kill was cool. It felt good that they couldn’t stop it.”

After winning the first two sets in dominant fashion Athol had to call a timeout with the score 17-17 in the final set.

“Defensively, we fell apart,” West-Mather said. “We let some balls drop that we shouldn’t have. We had nine serving errors, too.”

Matt Willhite’s serve helped the Red Raiders build a 8-3 lead in the first set, before Soltysik’s work behind the line increased the lead to 19-7. 

Behind Isaac Dodge’s serve, the Red Raiders led 22-9 in the second set. 

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