NEW BRITAIN - The New Britain girls volleyball team knew the beginning of the 2019 season would be a tough test. Perhaps it didn’t know just how tough opening week would be.
The Hurricanes opened the year 0-2 after two sweeps at the hands of RHAM and Bristol Eastern, the latter, winning easily on New Britain’s home floor on Monday afternoon, showing just how far the Hurricanes need to grow in order to achieve their goal of getting back to the state tournament.
“[Our players are] not used to this, and that’s one of six really tough teams we’re going to play this year,” New Britain head coach Michelle Abraham said after Monday’s loss. “Eastern is a very good team.”
There will be more top quality opponents on the Hurricanes schedule, including Southington, Newington and Bristol Central later in the year.
Before the season began, New Britain was excited for its difficult road through the regular season, confident that it would prepare the team for tougher competition come playoff time, where the Hurricanes hope to get out of the first round. But the opening two matches of the season have shown that while it’s still very early, those state tournament preparations against perennial playoff teams could become the reason New Britain misses the tournament altogether.
“We’re not used to playing teams like that,” Abraham said. “We can’t take anyone for granted at this point. We’re going to struggle to get to those eight wins. As much as we want these games to prepare us for states, it might come back to bite us.”
The beginning of the season is normally a time for teams to fix wrinkles in its game and shake off any lingering rust from the offseason. The Hurricanes haven’t had that luxury, and they’re feeling it on the court, especially going against teams like the Lancers that are far less forgiving when it comes to early season kinks.
“I think it’s tough, because last year we were 15-5 and we usually don’t start off with teams this tough,” All-State senior Raven Jarrett said. “It’s a different feel, it’s a little faster, and we just have to adjust. We need to pick it up.”
Jarrett noted the Hurricanes’ play on the back row as a specific area that needs improvements, and the team hopes to see that materialize soon, so their preseason goals can still be fulfilled.
“We’re usually always in state tournaments, but my goal as a senior is to make it past the first round,” Jarrett said. “I’ve been playing varsity for four years and I’ve never made it out of the first round.”
Jarrett’s goal is to make it past the opening round, but New Britain has to get there first. Its first two matches of the season shows there is still a ways to go in order to put itself in position to win a state tournament match. Fortunately, there is still plenty of time left in the season, and when the next round of tough contests rolls around, the Hurricanes may find themselves in a much different, and much better, place to welcome that level of competition.
“They have to be more attentive in the game and see what other teams are doing, but we’ll get there,” Abraham said. “They’ll figure it out.”
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or firstname.lastname@example.org