NEW BRITAIN - It was a tough season overall for the New Britain girls volleyball team, but the Hurricanes were able to send their seniors out with a convincing win on Thursday.
New Britain, after laboring to a 2-10 record thanks to multiple matchups against conference juggernauts like Bristol Eastern, Avon and Farmington, closed its shortened season with a dominant 25-6 victory in the third set to conclude a clean sweep of Plainville (25-17, 25-18, 25-6) in the consolation match of the CCC’s Region B lower bracket.
“It’s nice to end on a win,” New Britain head coach Michelle Abraham said. “It’s been a struggle, but we got put into a region that has the top teams in the state. My younger girls saw what’s to come and hopefully we move on from there.”
The Blue Devils, also fielding a young and inexperienced group, were shorthanded in a big way on Thursday due to some ill-timed injuries, and ran out of steam after battling through a pair of hard-fought sets to begin the match.
“Yesterday, we lost three of our starters,” Plainville head coach Alle Caponigro said. “It was a very last-minute adjustment and there were a lot of girls on the floor that haven’t seen a ton, if any, game time this year. There were going to be challenges with that.”
The young Blue Devils group played up to the challenge at the start after the Hurricanes jumped out to an early 4-1 lead in the first set. Plainville battled back to tie it at five before a service error gave the lead back to New Britain. The Hurricanes pushed the lead up to seven after five straight serves from junior Karolina Giera went unreturned, including an untouched ace to make it 12-5 to force a timeout from Caponigro.
The Blue Devils grabbed service back out of the timeout, but a kill from Kaylee Cahill put the Hurricanes right back in control at 14-8. The advantage grew to 19-11 after Audrey Belliveau finessed a kill over a pair of outstretched arms, and a kill by Natalia Kownacki later made it 21-12. Giera continued her strong set with a kill and a service ace in back-to-back points to help finish off a 25-17 win, New Britain’s first set victory since its last win against Plainville on Oct. 19.
“It feels great,” Kownacki said of the strong start. “We were playing together and just had to make sure to keep the momentum up. It all worked out tonight.”
Samantha Thompson put down a pair of service aces early in the second set to give the Blue Devils momentum and a 4-2 lead before a clean Kownacki kill gave service back to the Hurricanes. But Plainville immediately responded and put together another mini run to take a 9-3 lead. A Giera kill stopped the bleeding for New Britain, and a pair of Blue Devils errors helped the Hurricanes trim the deficit to 10-8, while a kill by Maleah Echavarria later tied it at 11 apiece. Two more Plainville errors put New Britain out in front for good as Wendely Garcia grabbed the final service point to put the Hurricanes ahead 2-0.
“We just made sure to encourage each other and get our heads back in the game,” Kownacki said of the team’s turnaround in the second set. “We knew what we were capable of and just had to get back to that level.”
Echavarria began the third set with an ace and another later in the set continued her opening run that gave New Britain a 7-0 lead. Kownacki followed with back-to-back kills to continue the run at 9-0 and it took a service error from Echavarria for the Blue Devils to finally stop the surge from the Hurricanes.
“I’m incredibly proud of what the team that we had out there did in the first two sets,” Caponigro said. “By the third game, it was just a lot of girls out there who don’t normally play and didn’t have the stamina for a full game. Which is unfortunate for the last game of the season, but we’ll take it with a grain of salt.”
Belliveau continued the dominance with another service ace to make it 14-1, and by the time her run concluded, New Britain held a 17-2 lead, well on its way to closing out the season with a sweep and an overwhelming final set.
It was a reason to celebrate for the Hurricanes, who now turn their attention toward the future after dealing with plenty of growing pains in 2020.
“It’s not one of our banner years,” Abraham said. “I hate losing, but this 10th grade group is going to be significant. Every day they’ve improved on and off the court.”
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or firstname.lastname@example.org
NEW BRITAIN 3, PLAINVILLE 0
CCC Region B consolation match, lower bracket
At New Britain
(25-17, 25-18, 25-6)
Records: New Britain 3-10, Plainville 1-13.