PLAINVILLE - The Newington boys volleyball fell behind two sets to none to South Windsor on Thursday night at Plainville High School, but the Indians stormed back to win each of the next three sets to claim the Class M championship by a score of 24-26, 20-25, 25-18, 25-15, 16-14.
“It’s so surreal right now,” Newington’s Vinh Dau said. “I’m still trying to soak it all in. It’s amazing. It’s the best way to go out, as a senior.”
For the second time this postseason, Newington climbed out of the biggest possible hole to eventually win and the comeback began in the third set. After splitting the first four points with the Bobcats, the Indians scored the next seven to take a 9-2 lead. South Windsor scored the next three to pull to within four but the Indians were able to maintain that margin through 15-11.
Then, Newington went on another four-point run to open the gap up to 17-11 but the Bobcats battled back to get to within just one point (18-17).
But the Indians would not be denied. Dan Cloutier entered the game to serve and led him team on a six-point run, including a pair of aces, to claim the third set.
“I’m just happy to come off the bench and create a spark,” Cloutier said. “I’m always ready on the bench when Coach needs me.”
Newington carried its momentum into the fourth set, starting by winning the first two points and seven of the first nine. The Indians maintained the five-point gap until the score was 14-9, when they strung some points together to get out to 19-11. At 24-15, on a spike by the Bobcats, Newington libero Kevin Bilbraut managed to get a sliding hand under the ball, Evan Metzger set it up and Andres Ithier-Vicenty finished it to claim the fourth set for the Indians and force a decisive fifth set.
South Windsor got the quick start in the fifth, going in a 3-0 run to start, but the Indians tied it at four, five and six after that. Newington then took an 8-6 lead but the Bobcats erased it, tying the game at eight. The two teams went on to get knotted at 12, 13 and 14 points apiece, with neither being able to pull away.
At 14-14, Vinh Dau took a set on the outside and spiked it to put the Indians up one and in a position to win the set and match. With all the pressure on, Zach Harmon received a set from Metzger and unleashed a spike that the South Windsor blocker could not handle, the ball fell to the floor and the Indians erupted in celebration.
“This is the greatest feeling ever,” Harmon said. “We worked hard for this. Very hard.”
Back in the quarterfinal round of the Class M tournament, Newington fell behind Lewis Mills by two sets and ended up winning so what the Indians pulled off on Thursday was nothing new for them.
“It took everything,” Bilbraut said. “We knew [it would] from the beginning of the game. We were saying in the locker room just give 110 percent the whole time. We knew they were a really good team and we weren’t going to walk all over them. And we had been there before so we knew what it was like to be 2-0 down and we just had to stay focused mentally and just limit our errors and just get the ball down on their side of the court.”
Josh Kestenbaum can be reached at 860-973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org On Twitter: @K_baum30