With 73 consecutive wins across three years, the Needham High School boys varsity volleyball team brought home their third straight Division 1 State Championship on June 15.
Coach David Powell said this win feels different than the others. “We had to scrape and claw more this year,” he said. “That made winning the state title all the much more enjoyable because we really had to work for it.”
Senior captain Raymond Weng agreed with Powell, saying the team had great chemistry both on and off the court. “It made it even better and more fun to play the game and love the game,” he said. “And it felt even better when we won together because we had that chemistry.”
Powell, who has coached the boy’s varsity team since 2010 and has earned four state titles during his tenure, said he’s really seen the program develop over the last 13 years. More students are opting to play than ever before and are putting in more time in the offseason to hone their skills.
“We had a senior class that was really hardworking in the offseason,” said Powell. “They played a ton of volleyball and got better. They were super skilled, and as the season went on they got more competitive.”
He said the junior class was also a very competitive group, making the combination of players unstoppable. “Fusing those two classes helped a lot and had a ton of depth offensively. They were physical kids at the net.”
Weng, who will be heading to Purdue University in the fall, knew what winning a state title felt like twice over. Walking onto the court at Worcester State University the evening of the final game, he was both confident and nervous. “I know what the stakes are, and I know that it just takes whatever you’ve got inside to play your heart out and be better than the other team on the other side of the net.”
After the first set, Weng felt the team had a good chance of bringing home a victory.
Going into the season having lost a lot of key players from last year’s graduating class, Powell said he knew they were going to have to work a lot harder. “A lot of teams thought this would be the year to beat us, and we kept coming back. To be able to win was super satisfying,” he said.
Brian Cloonan, a right side hitter and rising senior, said expectations for the team were really high. “Everyone talked about the winning streak and when it would break,” he said. “When it got tight, people thought, ‘Oh this is the game Needham loses.’ But we were very strong mentally, so we were able to battle back.”
Cloonan said the state title is always the goal in the back of everyone’s mind. He agreed with Weng that the chemistry and the team culture were key to their success this year. “It was a really great culture team,” he said. “Every single practice, everyone was super focused, never taking a day off.”
Powell said the championship game was the team’s best performance of the year, sweeping Newton North 3-0. “The kids worked super hard. We worked hard as a coaching staff. The parents worked super hard supporting the team,” he said. “There is a collective sense of joy, and it’s not taken for granted.”