Dedicated Waltzman Sets High Goals for Natick Volleyball Squad

Ken Hamwey Staff Sports Writer
Issue Date: 
May, 2018
Article Body: 

Max Waltzman aims high when he’s discussing the goals he wants to achieve in volleyball.
An outside hitter, the Natick High captain, who last year helped spark the Redhawks to the Division 1 Central championship, firmly believes this year’s squad can win the state crown. And, on an individual basis, he’s striving to not only to improve his personal statistics, but he’s also setting his sights on the Massachusetts Player of the Year Award.
As a junior last year, the 6-foot-4, 185-pound Waltzman cornered the market on awards. He was a Bay State Conference all-star and he also was selected to all-star teams compiled by the Boston Herald, Boston Globe and Metrowest Daily News. The 18-year-old also was chosen Natick High’s MVP. His statistics included 305 kills, 111 digs and 23 blocks.
“It’s realistic for our team to repeat as sectional champs and to also win the state championship,’’ Waltzman said. “A lot of work has to precede those events and that means staying focused in practice and thinking solely on a game-to-game basis. As for me, I want to improve my stats, strive to be an all-star again and be the state’s Player of the Year, an award that goes to a senior.’’
At Local Town Pages deadline, Natick was unbeaten at 6-0.
Last year, Waltzman and his teammates finished 9-7 in the regular season then, as the No. 11 seed in the sectional, won all four matches to capture the championship. The Redhawks then were eliminated in the state semifinals by Westfield in five sets.
If Natick does return to the state tourney, Waltzman will no doubt have to again play at a high level and deliver key efforts in pressure-packed situations. His coach, Peter Suxho, has lots of confidence in his outside hitter, who began playing volleyball as a freshman.
“Max is a terrific all-around player,’’ said Suxho, who’s led Natick and Millis to state titles. “He’s competitive and he’s always battling and attacking. He scores points, he’s good in both the front and back row and he likes to win.’’
An aggressive and instinctive player, Waltzman is confident in his style and ability, which keep him under control when he’s attacking the ball. His strengths include hitting, passing, a high energy level and a defensive presence in the back row. But, he knows his game can be upgraded.
“My court vision can use improvement,’’ he emphasized. “That means reading the setter and our overall offense and adjusting accordingly. My blocking can be better and I can improve my jumping skills.’’
Waltzman, a BSC all-star as a high jumper in track, also played varsity soccer, first as a striker and later as Natick’s goalie. But, when he played volleyball as a freshman, he knew the sport would become his comfort zone. “It clicked for me immediately and I’ve worked to be the best I can be. Coach Suxho is the reason for any success I’ve had. He’s a great motivator, he’s strategic and he lets his players know what’s expected of them.’’
Waltzman is also bullish on his teammates — Matt Flaherty (middle hitter), Brett Olen (setter), Tyler Klein (outside hitter), Ben Everett-Wilson (middle hitter), and Hugh Campbell (libero).
“Matt and Brett are our other captains,’’ Waltzman noted. “Matt’s a great blocker who hits well in key situations. Brett is athletic, able to learn and think quickly. Tyler, Ben and Hugh all work hard in practice, they’re quality athletes and they’ve got a desire to win.’’
Waltzman is in his second year as a captain and he relishes the responsibilities that accompany the title. “I love being a captain,’’ he said. “I try to lead by example and also by being vocal. And, I try to be supportive of all the players.’’ Suxho, who once coached the Albanian National Team, said Waltzman leads by getting impactful numbers and that’s because “he’s focused and determined.’’
The most memorable games for Waltzman last year were the sectional battles with Xaverian and Framingham. “We won our opener against Xaverian and I had 33 kills, 12 digs and 6½ blocks,’’ Waltzman recalled. “I played an all-around game and that win got us off and running. Against Framingham in the third round, we rallied from a 2-1 deficit and won in five sets. The entire team played very well.’’
Beating Leominster in the final was Waltzman’s top thrill. It was his first tourney title and the excitement surrounding the squad is what he still cherishes. “Being an 11th seed and winning the sectional was really thrilling,’’ he said. “It was great to see what happens when everyone plays to their potential. As we began to win consistently in the tourney, more and more fans came out. Our team chemistry was great and the tourney was like family time. We all jelled.’’
An honor student, Waltzman would like to play volleyball in college. He’s committed to the University of Rhode Island and plans on majoring in marketing.
Relying on an athletic philosophy of winning, reaching one’s potential and enjoying competition, Waltzman credits sports for learning some life lessons. “Sports have helped me to be mentally tough in pressure games, how to build good relationships with teammates and to always respect your coach,’’ he noted. “One also learns how to get up when you’re down.’’
A fan of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady because “he’s dedicated,’’ Max Waltzman is all about dedication, too, and he allows that attribute to shine brightly when he talks about his favorite situation on a volleyball court.
“At the end of a game, when the final score shows we’ve won, that’s what I like most,’’ he said.