When Newington boys volleyball takes the court Thursday night against undefeated Joel Barlow, there will be no fear in the eyes of Newington’s team.
Against an 18-0 team that has yet to drop a set all season, you have to be.
With Newington volleyball rarely seeing an opponent that has pushed them all season, the Nor’easters enter the Class M final winners of nine of their last 10, the one blemish in the stretch coming in a 3-1 loss to Southington May 24. Since then, the Nor’easters have blanked Rockville and Cheshire in the quarter and semifinals in 3-0 scores.
With plenty of film on the Falcons, Newington boys volleyball head coach Curt Burns said seeing them play South Windsor earlier in the week was helpful.
“We got to see them in the semis, fortunately. We played the first match Monday in Pomperaug and some of coaching staff stuck around to watch Barlow. I’ve seen them a lot on tape, … we kind of knew [what they do]. Seeing them in person was very helpful, and they were very impressive. I feel we play in a tougher league in the CCC and play tougher opponents. But, I’ll give them credit for going and having a perfect season so far. … [On film] you didn’t see what they could do against a solid or really strong team, so that could be deceiving. They were pretty dominant against some pretty weak teams.”
A team where there’s no towering presence at the net to create issues, Burns said the Falcons are a well-rounded club that is firing on all cylinders.
“They’re one of those classic teams where they’re kind of better than some of their parts,” said Burns. "Nobody really stood out, like a superstar, but they’re all good and they play very well as a unit. You can tell they play tight, … their setter is very good and locates the ball well. They’re got some good arms, ball control is good. Just a good overall team, but nobody jumps out.”
Entering Thursday the Falcons have four boys above 100 kills. Rhys Robichaud leads them all, racking up 144 kills. Aidan Depra is close behind with 139 kills.
Leading the club in assists is Leo Houser, who has tallied 522 assists on 1,207 ball handing attempts. Leading the club in digs is Aydan Klobier with 165. From serve, the highest serve percentage belongs to Depra, who boasts a 64.6 pecentage on 242 attempts.
According to MaxPreps, Barlow ranks 155th nationals, and is averaging above the national average in kills per set, hitting percentage, digs per set, total serving aces and aces per set.
In short, the Falcons are good, and Burns knows it. But, Southington has been on the good side of history against them – defeating Barlow as recently as 2018 in the Class M final.
The win against Barlow was the middle part of a three-peat for Newington, which is still currently active since 2020 crowned no champion. In the streak, the Nor’easters have defeated Cheshire (2019) and South Windsor (2017).
Prior to the three-peat, Newington won in 2015 (also against Barlow), 2014 and 2012.
“The mental part is kind of on our side,” said Burns. “We have a history with Barlow and have met them in the finals a number of times and prevailed against them. I think they’re going to think ‘Oh, here we go again. We have a really good team and we run into Newington in the finals again.’ … I think we’ve got somewhat of a mental edge over them because we’ve beat them a number of times previously.”
Leading up to game day Newington has enjoyed the benefit of a day off for graduation, which took place Wednesday in Hartford.
A light workout has kept the boys loose and ready to roll come Thursday, but rest at this point of the season will help keep bodies ready come 5 p.m.
“I think rest is good. … I just hope they’re all relaxing and recovering from the heat of the sun (Wednesday). Hopefully they’ll be ready to go,” said Burns.
Gametime for Newington and Joel Barlow will be at 5 p.m. Thursday night in the Class M boys volleyball final at SMSA in Hartford.