WORCESTER – Players talked about winning the Weston girls volleyball program’s first state title when Eileen Leblanc took over as head coach three years ago.
Friday night at Worcester State, they finally made it a reality.
Sophomore setter Riley Huml dished 33 assists, balancing the attack to help the third-seeded Wildcats (20-5) take the year’s rubber-match against No. 1 Medfield, 3-0 (25-20, 25-17, 26-24), in the Div. 3 state final.
Overcoming slow starts in the first couple sets was part of the job, but Fielding Mayhugh (15 kills), Nevaeh Yancey (12 kills, two aces) and Eleanor Wilkins (eight kills) proved reliable options to build big runs in each set. The Warriors (23-2) put up a scare at the end to nearly extend the match to at least one more set, but Weston’s composure carried out its three-year mission.
Seeing that goal fulfilled, while the program has since expanded from one team to three, brought Leblanc to tears.
“It’s all them,” Leblanc said. “I am privileged to be their guide through the journey. Since last year, they’ve really stepped it up. They really thought this was the year. … They just really wanted to do their school and their town proud because they know they’ve never won before. It’s just something they all felt was in their reach, but they didn’t daydream of it.”
“It’s just so amazing,” Mayhugh added. “To win in three sets in the state finals is such an amazing feeling. … The team was really loud, really good energy. I think everyone played really amazing this game, we put it all together.”
Just like it has all year, the Wildcats struggled to come out of the gate hot in any set. Kayla Hanna and Ava Pender (25 combined assists) helped lead Medfield to fast starts, never trailing through the first 20 points in every frame. Defense limited the Wildcats, but it couldn’t hold them off once they hit a groove.
A back-and-forth first set saw Weston finish off an 8-3 run to turn an 18-17 deficit into a 25-20 win, featuring a pair of kills each from Yancey and Mayhugh. Once a Kathryn Buckley kill gave Medfield a 10-9 lead in the second set, the Wildcats ripped off an 11-2 run to anchor a lead as large as 22-14 in a 25-17 finish, and a 7-1 run in the middle of the third frame was critical in a 26-24 win.
The Warriors showed plenty of gall to rally from down 22-18 to take a 24-22 lead, but two kills from Yancey helped power the Wildcats’ finishing touch.
“I told (coach Jerry Shu) from Medfield in our first game in September, ‘It’s you and us,’” Leblanc said. “To be able to come here and really put into action our plan and to win this in three just really makes a statement for the effort and time that they put into it.”
A sped-up offense played a critical role, and Huml stood out in getting multiple figures involved.
“We talked about it before the game, spreading it out so they don’t exactly know where we’re going,” Mayhugh said. “(Huml) did a great job of that and we were able to put away balls.”