Boys volleyball: Red Raiders grab Rams by horns

  • Colby Soltysik, of Athol High School, makes a play on the ball against Southwick, Tuesday in Athol.  FOR THE RECORDER/MIKE PHILLIPS

  • Parker Deleo, of Athol High School, digs one out against Southwick, Tuesday in Athol. FOR THE RECORDER/MIKE PHILLIPS

  • Colby Soltysik, of Athol High School, turns around to make a return against Southwick with Matt Willhite looking on, Tuesday in Athol.  FOR THE RECORDER/MIKE PHILLIPS

Staff Writer
Published: 4/30/2019 9:39:48 PM
Modified: 4/30/2019 9:39:41 PM

ATHOL — After losing seven of its last eight matches, the Athol boys volleyball team needed a win against Southwick on Tuesday night at Mallet Gymnasium. 

With production coming from all areas of the court the Red Raiders beat the Rams, 3-1.

There was a sense of urgency from Athol from the outset.

“We’ve had a lot of five-set matches that we’ve lost,” Athol coach Harrison West-Mather said. 

Everything went according to plan in the first set for Athol (4-8), but play dipped in the second set and into the third.

“We struggle with communication,” West-Mather said. 

After a timeout in the third set, the Red Raiders settled in to win the third and fourth set to close out the Rams (6-6).

Set scores were 25-14, 16-25, 25-22 and 25-18.

Setter Colby Soltysik had 27 assists for the Red Raiders. But his two biggest plays were on defense and on the serve. 

A Soltysik block closed out the third set and an ace closed out the match.

“Last year, I had a lot of assists, but I didn’t have as many blocks,” Soltysik said. “I think I might have had more in this game than I did all of last year. I worked in the offseason. I worked on getting stronger and being able to jump higher.”

Soltysik had six blocks for Athol. Coupled with Joey Gray (five blocks), the Red Raiders formed a nice line of defense. 

“We’ve lost a lot of hard games over the last two or three weeks,” Soltysik said. “I think we are working on our mental toughness. If we do lose a set, we just need to battle back.”

In a match where service errors were a problem, the Red Raiders got a steady serve from Parker Deleo, who led the team with five aces.

“It’s almost like a free throw,” Deleo said. “I do the same routine.”

Deleo has a different variation on his serve to give the ball a little spin.

“When I hit it, I don’t really follow through,” Deleo said. “It makes the ball wiggle a little bit and it makes it harder for the opponent.”

Deleo took serve with the score 22-22 in the third set.  

“Parker is one of our stronger servers,” West-Mather said. “We were trying to serve aggressive today and get aces. Parker has had only a handful of errors for us all season.”

Outside-hitter Zack Aldrich led Athol with 15 kills while Gray added another nine. 

Deleo’s production wasn’t limited to the service line with nine kills and nine digs.

Libero Matt Willhite had a strong match for the Red Raiders’ defense with 12 digs. Evan Blake chipped in on defense with nine digs. 

For Southwick, Nick Brown had 21 assists and 15 digs while Andy Brown led the team with 11 kills to go along with 14 digs.

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