As the fall season winds down and playoffs approach, some athletes are at their best when it counts the most, both in helping their team make the playoffs and for some preventing other teams from doing so.
For two local athletes, their performances this past week stood out. Both Nelanie Velez and Adam Gottner had strong weeks - Velez for the New Britain girls volleyball team and Gottner for the Hurricanes boys soccer team.
The teams they play on are in different places in terms of position in the standings as the girls volleyball team has had a successful season while the boys soccer team has struggled.
However, both are the New Britain Herald Athletes of the Week because of their individual production and the value it has brought to both teams.
Velez, the senior captain of the girls volleyball team has played an integral role in the success of the Hurricanes this year. With New Britain on a five-game winning streak entering Monday, it is Velez who runs the court as setter, a new role she took over coming into this season.
Velez is still growing into her role as the leader vocally but is a leader by example, according to New Britain head coach Michelle Abraham.
“I got to motivate all the girls to keep them working hard,” Velez said. “Even if they make a mistake I got to let them know to shake it off and get back in it.”
In the win on Tuesday last week over Bulkeley, Velez had a dominant performance with 27 assists, six aces and 16 service points to lead the Hurricanes to the 3-1 victory.
On Monday, New Britain sat at 10-4 on the season and in second place in the Colonial North Division of the CCC.
The camaraderie of the team has improved over the course of the season.
“This year we’ve really come together,” Velez said. “We have some new girls that are on the team and they became like family with us.”
On Friday this week, the Hurricanes will host first place-Newington with an opportunity to make a statement with a win.
For Gottner, he may not stand out in terms of goals allowed this season, but his individual performance in net has been phenomenal and a majority of the goals he has allowed is a result of defensive mistakes rather than his own.
“My keeper is amazing,” New Britain head coach Garth Lawrence said. “There is no better keeper than him in the state right now.”
Just a sophomore for the Hurricanes boys soccer team, Gottner has plenty of potential and in the game against Bristol Central this past week he flashed that with many impressive saves on good scoring opportunities for the Rams.
“This kid was just a freshman last year,” Lawrence said. “He’s moved up just one grade and this kid is amazing. He will be All-State, All-Conference, All-American and will be playing for a college that he’s going to help.”
The away crowd reacted, consistently shouting out to him, praising the saves he was making.
“I think I’m more confident,” Gottner said. “Last year I was more scared since I was a freshman and now I’m trying to be more confident because I know that confidence in the goal is key.”
While both of these athletes play on teams at different places in the standings with the girls volleyball team being in second place and the boys soccer team being in last, receiving the recognition for their individual performance is something they both are proud of.
“I honestly love it and I’m really grateful,” Velez said. “I’ve been here since my freshman year and I really love this sport and I love my teammates.”
Dan Orencole can be reached at 860-973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @OrencoleDan