The 2019 calendar year was loaded with sports history, both good and bad.
Here are the 10 local sports storylines of the year from the New Britain Herald coverage area:
1. New Britain Bees leave Atlantic League, ending pro baseball run in city
After finishing last in the Atlantic League in attendance, the Bees elected to move to the Futures League this past fall, ending a run of more than three decades of professional baseball in the New Britain area. The Bees were in the postseason race until the final weekend of the regular season but came up just short, meaning their four-year tenure in the league never resulted in a playoff berth.
2. New Britain boys basketball reaches first state final since 2002
The Hurricanes reached the quarterfinals in 2018, but this past March, a group of tight-knit upperclassmen led the team to one of its most memorable runs in recent history, taking down the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds in thrilling fashion to reach the state championship in Division II. The quarterfinals was won by a steal and a layup from senior Kaiyon Gunn in the closing seconds on the road against Wilton, and the semifinals was won with crucial defensive stops down the stretch against Glastonbury. Defense was the identity of Kurt Reis’ group and it took them all the way to Mohegan Sun Arena.
3. Innovation boys basketball wins first state championship
The Ravens weren’t just a great team last season. They were dominant, rolling through the Division V state tournament and winning each game by double digits, save for a gritty 42-38 win over Valley Regional in the semifinals. Behind All-State talents Lenny Okonya and LJ Hazelwood, Innovation also cruised to a conference championship before taking on the rest of the state, who were introduced to a new-look program that had completed a merger with Two Rivers High School just two years before.
4. Plainville football wins first-ever state tournament game
After clinching a state tournament berth in their regular season finale thanks to a clutch defensive stand against rival Farmington, the Blue Devils drew second-seeded Bullard Havens Tech in the state quarterfinals, and for the first time in program history, won a playoff game thanks to a 22-12 victory on the road. Plainville was led by All-State selections Aiden Jones and Christian Collin, as well as head coach Tim Shea, who began his tenure with the Blue Devils with a 0-10 season just four seasons prior.
5. Berlin’s Jon Trevethan wins second straight state title
One of the most dominant tennis players the area has seen in a long time, it was hard for Trevethan to follow up a junior year where he didn’t lose a set through the regular season and won a Class M state title. But follow it up he did, dedicating his final season to his head coach Rex Smith, who had passed away last November, and winning another state title, this time over Tolland’s Brennan Nick. Trevethan’s memorable 2019 was also highlighted by a commitment to play collegiately at Roger Williams University.
6. CCSU baseball, football and women’s soccer teams all make history
Behind first-year head coach Ryan McCarthy and senior transfer quarterback Aaron Winchester, the Blue Devils’ football team ran through an undefeated conference slate, losing just one regular season game, a heartbreaking loss in the finals seconds against FBS-opponent Eastern Michigan. The team’s success resulted in a trip to the FCS playoffs (CCSU lost in the first round to Albany), the removal of McCarthy’s interim tag and a rise to as high as 17th in the national rankings, the best mark the team has ever had.
On the pitch, the women’s soccer team won its second straight NEC title to advance to the NCAA Tournament, where the Blue Devils took down Rutgers 1-0 on a goal in the 88th minute by Erica Bardes. The victory marked just the second time in program history that CCSU won a NCAA Tournament game.
Shifting over to the diamond, the CCSU baseball team reached its own NCAA Tournament, and won its first-ever game there with a 7-4 victory over Cal. The win was not only historic, but it kept the team’s season alive, as the Blue Devils were facing elimination after a loss to Arkansas the day before.
7. Newington boys volleyball wins third straight state championship
The Indians continued their dominance over Class M with yet another state title, beating second-seeded Cheshire 3-1 to complete a three-peat, and the team’s sixth state championship in eight years. Even after losing all-conference talent Mason Romano after the state semifinals, Newington didn’t miss a beat, thanks in large part to All-State talents Louis Egbuna and Leonel Caceres, who finished as a finalist for CIAC Player of the Year, and helped the Indians conclude a compelling resume for the most dominant area team of the 2010s.
8. Southington softball wins state championship
The Blue Knights just seem to have a flare for the dramatic. After winning three straight state titles in 2013-15, all of which came down to the final pitch, Southington found itself in a battle with NFA in this year’s championship game, watching a 7-2 lead in the final inning wither to 7-6, but Samantha Sullivan came on with nobody out and shut the door, getting the final outs and showing a veteran poise despite being a freshman in the biggest moment of the season. The victory marked the fourth state championship for Southington in the past decade, rivaling the Newington boys volleyball team’s run of sustained dominance.
9. New Britain’s Raven-Symone Jarrett becomes first athlete in program history to win CIAC heptathlon
One of the most complete athletes in the area, Jarrett continued to fill her crowded trophy case this past spring, when she won the 2019 heptathlon with a total of 2,582 points. Jarrett needed to beat St. Joseph’s Nia Christine by 1.5 seconds to make history and dusted her opponent by a margin of 14 seconds to make sure her name would be remembered forever at New Britain High School, completing a school year in which she was All-State in track and volleyball, as well as all-conference in basketball.
10. Berlin girls soccer disqualified from state tournament
It was an improbable surge to the state tournament for the Redcoats, who overcame a number of key injuries to end the regular season with seven straight wins to reach the postseason. Just a day after winning its state opener in penalty kicks, it was announced that Berlin was disqualified from the tournament due to a player deemed ineligible. That player participated in a practice that was self-reported by the team and eventually ruled illegal, as the coach running the workout was from another state. It was an abrupt and surprising end to the Redcoats’ season.
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or firstname.lastname@example.org