On Wednesday, May 2nd, Malden High School’s boys volleyball team scored a major win against the Somerville Highlanders at the MHS Finn Gym. The day before, MHS had come up short in a tightly contested 26-24 first set against the Winchester High Sachems, which ended with losing the next two sets by considerably large margins.
The boys hoped to have a “bounce-back” performance against the Highlanders on Wednesday to get their season back on track after having started it with only three wins out of twelve games. When asked about the team’s morale heading into the game, sophomore Ryoma Yonetani mentioned that the team was “confident going into the game” and that “[they knew] if [they] play[ed] to [their] potential, [they could] beat Somerville.”
The Tornadoes started the first set in dominant fashion, taking control of the set and obtaining a 13-8 lead early on. However, just when it seemed as though MHS would cruise their way to a victory in the first set, the Highlanders went on a run of their own making the score 20-19. From there, both teams traded points and eventually landed at a stalemate with the score tied at 25. Nevertheless, despite coming close on several occasions, the Tornadoes never let Somerville lead and closed out the set by winning two points, with a score of 27-25.
The second set began similarly, with MHS leading. With aid from some great serves as well as returns, the Tornadoes took control of the set with an early score of 11-5. Trailing 15-10, Somerville called a timeout hoping to turn the set and the game as a whole around in their favor. However, unlike the first set, MHS never let the score get competitive in the second set. After the timeout, Malden scored 10 straight points and cruised to win the second set with a score of 25-15.
As the third set began, Malden had all the momentum and it seemed likely that they would sweep Somerville in three sets. Despite being down 2-0 in the match, Somerville continued to compete relentlessly in the third set. The set began in a very tight manner, with the Highlanders possessing only a 14-12 lead midway through the set. However, after this point, MHS never got close to the Somerville lead. Staging an impressive run, the Highlanders eventually led 23-15 and closed out the third set with a final score of 25-19.
With a 2-1 lead, the Tornadoes hoped to close out the match and avoid a “sudden-death” fifth set. Early on, it certainly seemed that the boys would finish the match in four sets. Through some tremendous serves as well as acrobatic saves and returns, MHS took control of the set and lead 10-4. In hopes to recover in the fourth set and force a fifth one, the Highlanders once again called a timeout. However, unlike previous timeouts by Somerville, this one seemed effective as the Highlanders completely turned the set around and looked reenergized. After tying the set at 20, both teams traded points back and forth, but it was Somerville who came away the victors, winning the set 25-23 and forcing a sudden death fifth set, played to 15 points.
The fifth and final set of the match served as a crucial one for both team’s seasons. Somerville looked to complete an improbable comeback and win the match, giving them a boost in confidence for the rest of their season. Contrastingly, MHS desperately wanted to avoid squandering a two set lead, an occurrence which would definitely be a big blow to the team’s confidence.
Ultimately, it was Malden who won the deciding fifth set with a comfortable 15-10 scoreline. The nerve wrecking 3-2 victory gave the Tornadoes only their fourth win of what has been a challenging first season in the Northeastern Conference. However, the team remains hopeful of turning their season around and the victory against Somerville was certainly a step on the right direction.
After the game, Yonetani expressed his relief in his team winning the match. Yonetani stated the the victory was “crucial” as it “keeps [their] hopes alive of making the state tournament” and that “[they] now need seven more wins” to do so. He cited the victory in the first set as “very important because of how close it was” and that it was that set which gave the team “a boost for the next sets.”
Yonetani also mentioned the team giving up their two set lead in the third and fourth set. He stated that “[the team] thought [they] were in a comfortable lead” and did not “play to [their] full potential” in those two sets. Yonetani then concluded by saying that they need to do a “better job finishing” and not make “matches go longer than they need to.”