A new season of boys volleyball is just days away, and while there are only a trio of local teams that will be in action this spring, one of them in the first year of existence, there is enough winning between the schools to fill up an entire conference.
Volleyball powerhouse Newington highlights the upcoming season as the Indians will be going for their third straight Class M championship, and sixth in the past eight years. Southington comes off another successful season in which it won 15 regular-season matches before reaching the Class L state tournament quarterfinals.
New Britain will look to join its two local counterparts in sustained success, but will be doing so from Ground Zero, as the Hurricanes field their first-ever boys volleyball team.
Here is a closer look at each team:
Head Coach: Curt Burns (16th season, 245-78)
Last year: 23-3 overall (won Class M state championship)
Key losses: Dan Cloutier (setter, All-State Class M, CHSCA Player of the Year), Evan Metzger (DS/setter)
Key returnees: Leonel Caceres (senior, S/OH, All-State Class M), Louis Egbuna (senior, OH), Teddy Fravel (Senior, middle), Collin Liedke (senior, libero), Mason Romano (junior, middle), Riley Miller (senior, opposite)
Newcomers to watch: Jacob Baclawski (sophomore, OH), Jasper Cayunda (junior, DS/Lib), Alex DiPaola (junior, setter)
Outlook: As usual, Newington enters the spring with state championship expectations. The Indians are used to high expectations, and that won’t change in 2019, especially given the amount of talent returning from last season’s title team.
Newington returns 14 players with Class M state championship medals, while several of its top returning players have improved over the offseason by playing on USA Volleyball age-group teams. Class M has grown stronger with the addition to schools like Cheshire, Simsbury and Xavier, but the Indians figure to be the team to beat once again.
Head coach: Lou Gianacopolous (17th season)
Last year: 19-3, won CCC Tournament championship, lost in Class L quarterfinals
Key losses: Niko Sophroniou (All-CCC), Jonathan Clark (All-CCC), William Pfanzelt (All-CCC)
Expected key returnees: Zach Morgan (senior, setter/libero), Rocco Possidento (senior, middle blocker), Adam Hunter (senior, OH), Tim Walsh (senior, All-CCC, OH), Justin Miranda (senior, DS/libero)
Outlook: The Blue Knights have been consistently competitive under Gianacopolous, and 2019 should be no exception. Sure, they said goodbye to three All-CCC players, but they returned plenty of contributors from last season, including Tim Walsh, who committed to Division-I St. Francis Brooklyn back in October.
Walsh led the team with 271 kills last year, and will be looked to lead Southington this year as it hopes to break its streak of four straight years of losing in the Class L state tournament quarterfinals. The Blue Knights downed Newington last year for the CCC Tournament crown, but lost to East Hartford in the state tournament for the second year in a row, after beating them in the regular season. Expect more winning from the Blue Knights starting this weekend, as the team looks to make it four years in a row of winning at least 15 matches in the regular season.
Head coach: Michelle Abraham (1st season)
Last year: DNP
Outlook: The Hurricanes enter the season with the advantage of being an unknown, but the disadvantage of having no experience at the high school level. Abraham was encouraged by the turnout to be a part of the program’s birth, as 19 eligible boys will be on the opening roster. New Britain will have little time to adjust, as it begins its schedule on the road against Farmington on Monday before hosting the school’s first boys volleyball game against Bloomfield on Wednesday. But Abraham has had plenty of success building a successful volleyball program. She has coached New Britain’s girls team for 31 seasons and built it into a winning program. This could be an interesting season to watch for the Hurricanes.