NEW BRITAIN - The New Britain boys volleyball program is now just over a fortnight old after its loss to Bloomfield on Wednesday, and head coach Michelle Abraham knows that while frustration might be mounting for the new team struggling to learn an unfamiliar sport on the fly, expectations need to be restrained.
“We’ve been doing this for two and a half weeks,” Abraham said after New Britain’s first-ever home opener. “The kids have so much to learn, from simply changing sides. They’re competitive and they’re getting frustrated, but it’s backfiring on them. They have to understand it’s a process and it’s going to take time.”
If anybody knows this, it’s Abraham. As New Britain’s girls volleyball coach for over three decades, Abraham watched 15-loss teams become state champions in just a few years’ time, and has won over 300 matches in her illustrious career. The Hurricanes have the right coach for the job to build a new program from the ground up, because Abraham knows the process it takes to construct a proper foundation, including the value of realism.
“Some of these kids don’t even know each other,” Abraham said. “It’s a whole chemistry that they have to get used to, and we’re going to build that. It’s a work in progress for sure.”
Some bonds have already begun to be formed, as members of New Britain have united over a common sense of pride: representing the first-ever boys volleyball team that will always be remembered as the group that started it all.
“It’s awesome,” sophomore Erick Pacheo said. “We’re the first of the first. It’s awesome being the lead representation of New Britain volleyball. We wanted to break the ice and be that first team.”
Pacheo and the rest of the Hurricanes understand that wins are likely an added bonus this year, taking a back seat to the ultimate goal of becoming a functional team that paves the path for future teams to succeed.
“We want to make a bond as a family,” Pacheo said. “So we can get better year after year.”
Abraham already sees signs of improvement, as the group of mainly strangers with no volleyball experience have begun to find a sense of comfort in their new surroundings.
“They’re starting to understand more,” Abraham said. “Two and a half weeks ago, they knew nothing, not even where to stand on the court.”
Wednesday was the team’s second 3-0 loss of the season, but again, the outcome was placed on the back burner, with the more important takeaway being the team’s progress, as well as the crowd on hand to support the pioneers of New Britain volleyball.
The gym wasn’t filled to capacity, but there was a noticeable buzz, one that the players embraced and took as a reminder of why they are a part of Ground Zero for the Hurricanes.
“It was good,” sophomore Jose Olmeda said of the crowd support. “They told us that they’re going to be there, and that they’re going to be supporting us. It was good to break the ice and represent New Britain.”
While most of the roster is completely new to volleyball, not all are new to New Britain athletics, which Abraham believes will give her new team a head start to building an eventual champion, one that will look back on its inaugural group with a sense of pride, knowing the program’s success began with their hard work.
“We have a couple kids who played other sports here, so they know what the pride of New Britain is,” Abraham said. “Other kids will see that, and the program will be better for it. In a few years, this team will be in the state tournament, without a doubt.”