EAST HARTFORD - Every sports team has its rival.
For the only two New Britain area volleyball teams, Southington and Newington, they happen to be each other's.
Just three days after the Indians got the better of the Blue Knights for the CCC West division title, Southington responded by winning the most important match of the season between the two Thursday night.
The Blue Knights took the CCC Tournament championship, beating Newington 3-1 in set scores of 19-25, 25-18, 25-17 and 25-21. Southington won the season series 2-1.
“Newington is Southington volleyballs’ biggest rivalry,” Blue Knights head coach Lou Gianacopolos said. “It is something that started with Newington and we turned it into a good friendly rivalry.”
The Indians controlled much of the opening set with opened up the first set with Southington only able to generate back-to-back points twice. Much of that had to do with Newington’s defense.
Mason Romano blocked three vital shots, increasing the Indians’ score to as much as 12 at one point.
Blocks by Teddy Fravel, Louis Ebguna and Dan Cloutier increased Newington’s score and with a lead of 17-12, Fravel spiked the ball, giving the Indians a bit of insurance.
A final run of five and an out of bounds serve by Southington gave Newington its only set of the night.
“We came out to a great, great start,” Newington head coach Curt Burns said. “Things were starting off great and then [Southington] flipped it.”
The Blue Knights came out strong in the second set, opening up with a 5-0 run. Back-to-back points, highlighted by a spike from Southington’s William Pfanzelt increased the team’s lead to 7-2 over the Indians.
“At the beginning I was kind of worried,” Pfanzelt said. “I was worried because we were struggling a bit on general errors.”
Newington, however, continued to battle back.
A run of three and four, including a spike from Fravel gave Newington a one-point led (12-11). But the Blue Knights responded quickly. Runs of three, five and two put Southington over the edge, taking the second set 25-18.
“It was a rough game,” Newington’s Evan Metzgar said. “This was our third loss of the season and honestly I think that, that was our weakest loss. In our other two losses we fought strong and it just didn’t end well. This one, we just weren’t as sharp as the other team.”
Southington continued to cruise through the third set.
The Indians were unable to generate a run greater than two. An ace from Pfanzelt finished the set off for Southington 25-17.
“Usually we come out strong after the first set,” Newington’s Leonel Caceres. “We just needed more energy from the bench and we just can’t be down on ourselves.”
The fourth set was a bit more competitive with both teams fighting for control.
A spike and back-to-back aces from Southington’s Timothy Walsh gave the Blue Knights a two-point advantage (16-14) over Newington and the momentum. Southington went on a 5-1 run to get it to 20.
But once tensions got high, the Indians tried everything they could to tie the score back. Newington pulled within three (24-21) before the Blue Knights ended it.
“We were kind of shaky in the beginning, but we didn’t let that get us down,” Southington’s Jonathan Clarke said. “We fought back and just kept a positive attitude. This is the first time we claimed the CCC title in a few years so it’s a very, very big accomplishment. I’ve never been a part of something as big as this, not in football, not in any other sport I’ve played. It feels good.”
Shelby Iava can be reached at (860) 801-5096 or firstname.lastname@example.org