NEW BRITAIN - The New Britain Girls volleyball team looked like a team that had never played together during the first set of its 3-0 loss to Avon on Monday night, and that’s essentially because it has not.
After losing four senior starters from last season and the coronavirus pandemic taking away the vast majority of their preseason, the early portion of the Hurricanes schedule will be used to build on-court chemistry between the players and learn their roles on the team. Head coach Michelle Abraham described her players as “close knit,” so manufacturing those relationships into volleyball success is the next step.
“We didn’t know how the season was going to go so it was really just conditioning and we didn’t do tryouts until like two weeks ago,” Abraham said. “Not knowing the girls, we basically just had girls that played last year back. Not having a preseason really hurts. We didn’t have preseason jamborees or games or anything like that. It mattered, but we do the best we can and we’re having a season.”
The Hurricane’s communication was off early in the match against Avon as they were blown out 25-6, largely because they allowed many points to end with balls landing in the middle of the court with no one going for them. Occasionally the reverse happened as well, when more than one player would make a play on the ball, but make contact with each other more than the ball.
After the dark first set, however, New Britain was able to show the potential it has as it continues to gain experience. The Hurricanes recovered from an early six-point deficit to take a five-point lead, but ultimately lost the set 28-26 after struggling to put together consecutive points.
“We just said to ourselves we have to step up our game and we all did,” senior Audrey Belliveau said. “We had a lot of changes tonight, our rotation was different, so we had to adjust to that. I’m proud of everyone and we all stepped up.”
The ability to close out tight sets will come with more experience for this team, which was displayed by reigning Class L champion Avon. The endurance and mentality necessary to stay composed in those situations are only built by playing together and weathering close games.
“I hate to say fatigue set in because we went five games the other night, but they’re mostly JV players so they’ve never been to a match where it’s gotten like that,” Abraham said. “But they’ll get there, every night we’re going to get better game by game, not just matches. I’m not disappointed whatsoever, Avon is a very strong program and they were right in it the second and third game.”
As one of the few returning contributors from last season, Belliveau will be looked to as a steadying force for New Britain. An All-CCC North selection in 2019, she led the team with 13 assists against Avon.
“I think we have a really hard schedule this year,” Belliveau said. “Our first game we lacked a lot of experience and already by our third game I think we’ve learned a lot so I think we’re just going to continue to grow.”
Through three games the Hurricanes are 1-2 with losses against established programs in Southington and Avon and a 3-2 win over Lewis Mills. The localized schedules for this season will make their season more difficult, but Abraham is ready cause a stir for the other teams in central Connecticut.
“We have nine games left only because we only play 12 so we’re going to look to continue to play hard and upset some teams along the way,” Abraham said. “We have a very tough schedule. We have Bristol Eastern, Bristol Central, Farmington, there’s no easy nights.”
Matt Hornick can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org