NEW BRITAIN - The New Britain boys volleyball team is still searching for its first win, but a hard-fought first and second set against South Windsor had head coach Michelle Abraham believing the Hurricanes are trending in the right direction.
“They’re doing really well, compared to where we started,” Abraham said of her players. “They’re understanding the game a lot more. We just have to get consistent.”
The team’s inconsistency and inexperience was apparent on Monday evening with multiple breakdowns that led to errors and Bobcat runs in a 3-0 loss.
After fighting back and forth early in the first two sets, New Britain (0-8) folded in a 25-11 loss in the third set to South Windsor (6-1), which has now won six in a row.
“I believe we came out strong and battled in the first two sets,” Hurricanes senior Randy Slart said. “As for the third set, I don’t know what happened there.”
The third set came at New Britain quickly, after a marathon volley won by the Bobcats broke a 4-4 tie. The volley lasted nearly a full minute before South Windsor took the lead on a kill by Alshil Rajesh. It was the first of 10 points in a row for the Bobcats in a dominant run the Hurricanes couldn’t escape.
“When a team starts taking off, they’re not at that level yet to shake it off,” Abraham said. “They let a mistake feed on them, but they’ll get it. They just have to let it go.”
New Britain appeared to be taking off in the first set thanks to Ralph Deliz, who sent over three straight successful serves to help give his team an early 3-0 lead. South Windsor got on the board when Jerry Chungong almost made a fantastic save with his foot for the Hurricanes, sticking out his leg on a kill attempt as the ball cleared the net and fell just out of bounds.
“He’s a soccer player,” Abraham said. “Did you pick up on that?”
The Bobcats fought back and tied the set at five, but a vicious kill from Bryan Rodriguez put the Hurricanes back in front. Rodriguez went for a block minutes later but couldn’t keep it in bounds as South Windsor took its first lead of the set. Back-to-back errant sets by Giovany Hernandez immediately stretched the Bobcats’ lead to 10-6 and New Britain’s inexperience began to show.
Three straight service aces from South Windsor’s Cooper Castellone pushed the lead to 15-8 and forced a timeout from Abraham, who watched her young group suffer a rapid change in momentum. Castellone’s serving streak continued out of the timeout, sending over four more serves, two which resulted in aces, to give the Bobcats a 19-8 lead. A kill by Slart stopped what was an 8-0 run by Castellone and South Windsor, who had put the opening set out of reach.
Down 21-10, New Britain received a quick boost from Chungong, who served up a 3-0 run for the Hurricanes before the Bobcats finished the job.
South Windsor carried its momentum into the second set, taking a 2-0 lead before New Britain quickly tied it at two thanks to a pair of unforced errors on the Bobcats.
Down 7-4, Rodriguez stepped up again for the Hurricanes with a clean block of Nolan Goodale’s kill attempt to pull New Britain within two. But South Windsor quickly responded with an 8-2 run capped off by a nifty move from Castellone, who faked a kill attempt before finessing a hit into a vacated spot on the Hurricanes’ side to put the Bobcats in front 15-7.
“I felt great on my kills,” Rodriguez said. “I wish we had brought it all together for a win though.”
Another brief string of errors by South Windsor helped New Britain to 6-1 run. The Bobcats committed four miscues during a stretch that saw the Hurricanes pull within three. But a volley briefly kept alive by another last-gasp effort with Chungong’s feet led to a point for South Windsor, which regained control with a 5-0 run and force a late timeout from New Britain.
A long volley followed by a block on Rodriguez’s kill attempt later in the set provided an exclamation point for the Bobcats, who took a 24-14 lead and a 25-14 win for the second straight set.
The third set was all South Windsor, with the biggest New Britain celebration coming from a most unorthodox “point” when Oscar Carmona tried to field a kill attempt before the ball bounced high off his arms and into the raised basketball hoop on the ceiling above, prompting a cheer from the bench. Unfortunately, those points didn’t count on the scoreboard.
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or email@example.com