The Rebels volleyball team officially qualified for the state tournament with their tenth win for the season in a 3-2 victory over Milton on Oct. 10. This achievement marks a big point in the team’s season; however, it is not the only milestone they reached this past month. The girls also clinched the Herget Title after defeating rivals Natick and Norwood; additionally, junior Mckenzi (Kenzi) Rae reached 1,000 career assists in their 3-2 victory over Natick on Oct. 19.
With both the Rebels and Redhawks heading into their match tied in the Herget Division with records of 6-1, they knew that this match held heavy impact on determining which team brought home the 2017 Herget Title. The first time the two teams met this season was on Sept. 15, when Natick defeated Walpole 3-0. Although the Redhawks swept the Rebels, the three sets finished at scores of 29-27, 27-25, and 25-19, proving the match to be highly competitive. Entering the second match, both teams knew that they were in for a tight competition.
“The first time we played them, Natick’s offense dominated and they had us out-of-system a lot”, said Walpole varsity volleyball coach Lisa Cyr. “The strategy for the 2nd match was to serve and hit aggressively so we could put them out-of-system. We also expected the ball at any point which prepared us more on defense.”
Natick came out hot, taking the first two sets 25-20 and 25-22 respectively. It was in the second set that K. Rae completed her 1,000th assist off of a set to her twin sister junior captain Abby Rae.
“I knew I was close to reaching 1,000 assists, but I didn’t know exactly how many I needed, so when it happened I was clueless,” said K. Rae. “For assists to be counted you need a good pass from the defense, and then a strong offense to take the ball and kill it, so even though this was a big personal achievement I could not have done it without all the girls last season and this season.”
Rae delivered her 1,000 assists throughout her sophomore season in 2016—where she totaled 544 assists and average 6.6 assists per game—and her junior season this year, in which she currently has 511 assists and averages 8.0 assists per set.
“Kenzi is one of the most determined people I know. She strives to be the best she can every day,” said A. Rae. “Coach calls Kenzi the quarterback of the team and I completely agree. We would not be the team we are without her.”
With their backs against the wall and the Herget Title on the line, the Rebels rallied their energy and began to fight back to victory. Junior Sawyer King lead the charge with a plethora of kills, as the Rebels took the third set 25-15. King finished the match with three blocks, 15 kills, and a kill success of 35.7 percent.
“They came out hungry for the win in the first two sets,” said King. “Once we started killing a few balls we were able to turn it up a notch and take the win.”
With momentum on their side, the Rebels stormed into the fourth set and took a quick 11-4 lead. Senior Meghan Koenig scored four of her seven points of the match in this set to propel the Rebels ahead of the Redhawks. Finished by a kill from senior Rebecca Smith, the fourth set went to Walpole 25-15. The fifth and final set followed, giving the Rebels a sense of déjà vu connected to their game against Norwood in 2016, in which they battled back from a 2-0 deficit to win the match.
“In volleyball you can’t feel confident about a win until the match is over,” said coach Cyr. “We dominated sets 3 & 4 so I knew if we kept that momentum we should be okay.”
Abby Rae set the Rebels off well, with two hard kills back to back. She finished the match leading the team with 19 kills, 4 aces, and 25 total points scored. The Rebels dominated the beginning of the set, taking a 4-0 lead. King did not halt her hot-handed scoring for the Rebels, as she gathered four more kills, including the final blow that won Walpole the match.
“Sawyer King picked up her game and really fought hard,” said coach Cyr.
Moving forward towards a probable long trip in the State Tournament, this victory marks a confidence boost and sense of achievement for the Rebels.
“We are going to have more competitive matches like this in the tournament, and it makes me feel confident that we will be successful and go far this year,” said senior captain Wynter Conlon.
After defeating Natick, the Rebels had to take down Norwood to clinch the Herget Title. Although Walpole’s morale and confidence was boosted with 6’2 senior Kiki Ryan defending the net for Norwood, the match was not going to be an easy win for the Rebels.
“We had a lot of energy and enthusiasm because it was senior night, and we knew that this [game] would officially define whether or not we won the Herget,” said Koenig.
The Mustangs came out hot and took the first set 25-19. The Rebels responded strongly, winning the second set 25-20, and creating momentum that propelled them to win the third and fourth sets 25-18 and 25-17 respectively. A. Rae leads the Rebels to victory with 20 kills and 4 aces.
The Rebels finished their season with a record of 14-5, granting them the fifth seed in the South Division and a first round bye. Walpole will play the fourth seed North Attleboro on Monday, Nov. 6.