NEW BRITAIN -New Britain boys volleyball head coach Michelle Abraham knew Mondayâ€™s match against 1-10 Bulkeley might be the Hurricanesâ€™ last chance at history in 2019.
Her team entered Monday with a record of 0-13, still searching for the programâ€™s first-ever victory, and awaited an opponent in the Bulldogs who had beaten New Britain earlier in the season (the Hurricanes did, however, secure their first-ever set win in that match).
With four opponents remaining after Bulkeley, all of which beat New Britain 3-0 earlier in the year and boasted a combined record of 32-12, Abraham wanted a win on Monday for her group of youngsters who never stopped working with each passing defeat.
â€śWe need to beat the teams we can beat,â€ť Abraham said. â€śEvery team on our schedule except Bulkeley, Rockville and Glastonbury is making the state tournament. They have no easy nights.â€ť
Fortunately for Abraham, her Hurricanes made things as easy as possible on Monday, sweeping the Bulldogs 3-0 to spark a spirited celebration that likely included a large sigh of relief.
â€śWe really wanted to do this,â€ť junior Jerry Chungong said.
New Britain did it with an unshakable sense of positivity, one that continued to impress Abraham through each rough lesson the Hurricanes faced this season. Most of Abrahamâ€™s group entered the programâ€™s first-ever season with no volleyball experience, and it showed on the scoreboard. Yet when it needed a solid performance to finally break into the win column, the team didnâ€™t blink.
â€śWe had no negativity on the court, and it made a big difference,â€ť Abraham said. â€śIâ€™m proud of them. They keep showing up and playing hard, and they kept making gains and moving forward.â€ť
The positivity Abraham has preached was put to test in Mondayâ€™s second set, when a nine-point lead turned into a 20-19 deficit. For a team that had already watched losses pile up over a span of two months, the Hurricanes could have accepted their fate and crumbled. But that is just the type of thinking that has become forbidden at New Britain.
â€śWe spoke about that during our last match,â€ť Chungong said. â€śEvery time we let some type of negativity into the match, bad things happen. So we tried to bring more positive vibes into the game, and we turned it around.â€ť
For the players, the match was really never in question. Abraham may have felt pressed to get the win over Bulkeley to ensure her group experienced the euphoria of triumph at least one time in their inaugural season. But the Hurricanes, win or lose, would have maintained their steady flow of positivity into its next match, regardless of the challenge that awaited them.â€ť
â€śThey never doubted it,â€ť Abraham said. â€śThese kids have gone through adversity all their life. Thatâ€™s what makes New Britain different. Had they lost, they would have bounced back and thought they could beat Glastonbury and come out strong. They believe. But we donâ€™t have to worry about that now.â€ť
Positivity, like the one coursing through New Britainâ€™s locker room, can be contagious, as can winning. With the first program win out of the way, the Hurricanes are hopeful for the future growth of their program. Even if their historic achievement doesnâ€™t drive up interest from the next wave of potential Canes, the current group wonâ€™t lose a shred of their positivity.
â€śThere will be a lot of chatter in the building tomorrow,â€ť Abraham said. â€śIt will get contagious. I have no doubts about that. It will be a matter of time, but Iâ€™ll live and die with the guys I have. They started this program, and they deserve this.â€ť
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or firstname.lastname@example.org