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Athol continues to improve even in loss

  • Matt Willhite, of Athol, playing the ball against Chicopee High School, Monday. FOR THE RECORDER/MIKE PHILLIPS

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

  • Colby Soltysik, of Athol, keeps the ball alive against Chicopee High School, Monday in Athol. FOR THE RECORDER/MIKE PHILLIPS

  • Colby Soltysik, of Athol, attempts keeps the ball alive against Chicopee High School, Monday in Athol.  FOR THE RECORDER/MIKE PHILLIPS

Staff Writer
Published: 4/15/2019 9:22:37 PM
Modified: 4/15/2019 9:22:32 PM

 ATHOL — The Athol boys volleyball team played indecisively for one set against Chicopee High School and it ended up costing the Red Raiders in a 3-2 loss on Monday.

Athol had a 2-1 lead and all the momentum after Zack Aldrich ended two consecutive sets with powerful kills that left Chicopee helpless to get a return. 

Setter Colby Soltysik (26 assists) set up both set-ending kills for Aldrich.

“It was his (Aldrich) best game of the year,” Athol coach Harrison West-Mather said. 

Aldrich’s timing on his jumping at the net seemed perfect, and the power of the hits led to a season-high 16 kills against the Pacers.

But in the fourth set with a chance to close the match, the Red Raiders lost several points due to a lack of communication. 

“It was a lack of motivation,” West-Mather said. “Just letting balls drop in the middle of the floor. Too complacent after winning the second and third set.”

In the fifth set Athol had serve with the score tied 10-10, but a service error gave the ball back to the Pacers. Two consecutive kills by the Pacers ended the match.

Final set scores were 25-18, 20-25, 24-26, 25-18 and 15-12.

The loss moved the Red Raiders (2-3, 2-3) to fourth in the PVIAC East league, with Chicopee (3-2, 3-2,) taking sole possession of third.

The Red Raiders have shown improvement since beginning of the season, according to West-Mather. 

“We are passing better than we did,” West-Mather said. “Our offense is a little better.”

Parker Deleo and Isaac Dodge had six kills each for the Red Raiders. Deleo helped out the defense as well with 13 digs.

Freshman Joey Gray, who is playing his first season of volleyball, missed the game with a knee injury. Athol expects Gray to be back next week.

“He tweaked it,” West-Mather said. “We are much stronger with Joey.”

Both Putnam and Central are undefeated in the East.

Soltysik led the Red Raiders defense from the setter position with 22 digs and seven blocks. 

Aldrich added five service aces and 15 digs for the Red Raiders who travel to Agawam on Tuesday.  

Matt Willhite had an active game for Athol with nine digs. In the third set a diving Willhite dig helped maintain possession for the Red Raiders who went on to win the set. 

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