Kishan Patel has been instrumental in putting New Bedford High men’s volleyball back on the map this year.
And to think he almost didn’t come out for sports in first grade.
“I was never interested in volleyball,” he admitted. “Me and a group of basketball teammates were in the weight room and assistant volleyball coach Bobby Tetreault came up to us and started talking about volleyball. We told him we would try, but the first day I didn’t want to go. Ryan Dosenberg picked me up and took me to tryouts.
“Coach said, ‘Try it for two days.’ After the first two days, I fell in love with it.
Over the next three years, Patel dedicated himself to improving himself and helping the program improve and achieved both feats.
“I think he was the reason for our turnaround this year,” New Bedford High coach Ben Kaeterle said. “He changed the mentality of some of his teammates. He took these guys under his wings. These guys wanted to overthrow the program and he paved the way. You knew he really cared a lot about that.
As a senior, Patel helped the Whalers enjoy their best season under Kaeterle by hitting a team record 232 kills. He also had 109 digs and 27 service aces to win the Standard-Times Boys’ 2022 Men’s Volleyball Player of the Year award.
“After my freshman year, I was pretty good at volleyball and I thought I could do something with it,” Patel said. “The coaches talked about bringing the culture back.”
To do that, Patel knew it was important to play volleyball all year round, so he rounded up his teammates.
“What I did was push my teammates and myself to play in the offseason,” he said. “We were playing beach volleyball in Burgo and then going to Attleboro and Warwick for an indoor open race. I was trying to get someone I know to play volleyball and give it a try.
By training through the offseason, Patel and many of his New Bedford teammates improved dramatically and it showed this year by winning a share of the Southeastern Conference championship with Brockton, finished with 12 victories, defeated GNB Voc-Tech for the first time in seven years and won a playoff game.
“This season was definitely mine had played years before. We have achieved the goals we set for ourselves.
“We wanted to make a playoff appearance and win the City Cup, which we did.”
Patel said a turning point in the season came when the Bears lost to GNB Voc-Tech and then lost two games to Winchester and O’Bryant in the Winchester tournament.
“My coach took us to a tournament in Winchester where we played two of the best teams in the state,” he said. “We could see what a very good competition is.”
The Whalers won eight of their next 10 games, including a thrilling 3-2 victory over rival GNB Voc-Tech.
“After the first game against Voke, we were hungry for the next game,” Patel said. “It was a top three moment of my high school career. It was the most crowded I’ve seen in this gym. I felt the ground shake at times. We were on cloud nine.
After playing it safe in the first encounter with Voc-Tech, Kaeterle sat down with Patel.
“I said, ‘You’re the go-to. The team runs through you. After that, he took the reins and he’s really gone for the second half of the season.
Patel had 19 kills to help New Bedford beat the Bears for the first time since 2015.
“When we needed him, he really showed up,” Kaeterle said. “He’s the best player I’ve coached in my years at New Bedford High.”
Patel’s best performance of the season came in New Bedford’s 3-2 playoff win over Acton-Boxborough in which he had a career-high 21 kills to send the Whalers into the Sweet 16 .
“Going into these important games, I was excited,” he said of the Voc-Tech and Acton-Boxborough matches. “I remember the feeling I had for those two games. I was looking forward to playing. During these matches, I didn’t feel any pressure. I felt like no one could stop me in those two games.
In addition to his ability to play all over the court, Patel stood out for his leadership in helping to improve those around him and also in sacrificing himself for the good of the team.
“I never considered myself the first option because the whole team was loaded with guns,” he said. “I always tried to do whatever helped the team win. Sometimes there were other guys who would hit harder than me to get pints. I let the team feed off that.
“I’ve been playing a little longer than the other guys on the team and that experience has helped me. I always tried to focus on the next game and let my teammates know it was OK to mess up here and there as long as you stay locked up.
Patel said the secret to New Bedford’s success this year was the bond the team shared.
“What amused me was playing with my friends,” he said. “Being friends with the whole roster, it was easy to trust and depend on each other.
“I really hope people look at this team and say this team helped change the program at New Bedford High.”
ALL ABOUT KISHAN PATEL
WHY IT WAS SELECTED: Through his leadership and ability on the court, Patel helped the Whalers double their win total from 2021 with 12 wins this year thanks to his dedication to training in the offseason. … GNB Voc-Tech seniors Alberto Gomes and Ethan Fagundes were also considered for the top honor after leading the Bears to a split. 2 Final Four appearance.
KEY STATS: The Southeastern Conference All-Star had a team-high 232 kills to go along with 109 digs and 27 service aces. He also led the Whalers in service-receiving percentage with just 29 errors out of 329 attempts.
MVP MOMENT: He shone on the biggest stages, registering 19 kills in a 3-2 regular season victory over rival GNB Voc-Tech and snapping a career-high 21 kills in a 3-2 victory in playoffs against Acton-Boxborough.
NEW BEDFORD COACH BEN KAETERLE: “For his talent, he is so open to learning. He’s one of the most coachable players I’ve ever had. He wasn’t the greatest vocal leader, but he led by example. He made an impression not only on how to be a great volleyball player, but also on a great person.
REMARKS: Patel recently coached a youth volleyball team at the Bay State Games that finished fourth and won the sportsmanship award. “It was definitely a great and fun experience,” he said. … Patel plans to study computer science at the University of Rhode Island and wants to try out for the volleyball team there. … Patel, who was born in Milwaukee, moved to New Bedford when he was five. He has a younger sister, Megha, who plays tennis and runs athletics for the Whalers.