SHELTON - As the Newington boys volleyball team crowded around teammate Collin Liedke and the Class M state tournament championship trophy for celebratory photos, senior Louis Egbuna shouted a spirited instruction to the rest of the Indians before the cameras began clicking.
“Throw them threes out!” Egbuna shouted, holding three fingers in the air, one for each state title Newington had won in as many seasons.
One by one, the rest of the Indians followed, locking thumbs to index fingers and holding up their remaining three fingers to celebrate the program’s first three-peat in a history that has included a lot of winning, particularly in the past decade. Thursday night’s win over No. 2 Cheshire not only marked a three-peat for Newington, but clinched the team’s sixth state title in the past eight years, ending the 2010s as arguably the most dominant program in the state.
“It’s a real blessing to be able to be on a team that was able to accomplish this,” senior Leonel Caceres said. “The program has gone back-to-back before, but never three in a row.”
The Indians were aware of that fact before the season began, and after already embarking on a historic journey under head coach Curt Burns in the form of back-to-back state titles, the Newington senior class, along with the rest of the team, didn’t want to stop there. Even on opening night, the Indians had their sights set on the state final, and the quest for No. 3.
“We’ve been talking about the three-peat for a long time,” senior Teddy Fravel said. “I wouldn’t say we knew it was coming, but we had a good feeling.”
For a team as dominant as Newington, it’s sometimes hard to point out times when its run at a three-peat felt like it was standing on shaky ground. That changed when junior all-conference middle hitter Mason Romano went down with a fractured ankle prior to the state semifinals. Without one of their top performers, the Indians dropped the first set in Thursday’s championship match, but gathered themselves after remembering the goal they had kept in the front of their minds since the season began. Newington responded by sweeping the next three sets, earning a win while shorthanded and somehow further staking its claim as a dynasty.
“Oh yeah, we thought about this from the beginning of the season,” Egbuna said. “All we thought about was getting here, and once we did, we finished the job.”
As the Indians closed the book on this decade in familiar fashion, they didn’t spend much time harping on the word ‘dynasty’ after celebrating on the court at Shelton High. Not because they don’t find themselves deserving of the label, but because they already considered themselves worthy, even before the last point was recorded on Thursday night.
“I think we’ve thought that for a while,” Fravel said when asked if Newington volleyball is officially a dynasty with a third straight title.
The Indians will miss key seniors like Fravel, Egbuna and Caceres, but a crop of talented underclassmen and a solid group of juniors will likely have Newington right back where it ended this season in 2020, which begs the question if the Indians can make the next decade as dominant as the one that just passed.
“I still have a good core of sophomores and juniors, so hopefully we can make it four (in a row),” Burns said. “But we’re going to celebrate three first before we think about that.”
Perhaps Burns underestimated the drive of his team. Even with championship medals hanging around their necks, the Indians celebrated the present by looking to a future of further dominance.
“All I know is, there’s many more to come,” Egbuna said. “We got the first three-peat in Newington history, but there’s many more to come. Next is four, five and six. Stay tuned.”
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or firstname.lastname@example.org