EAST HARTFORD - It was exactly one year ago when the Newington boys volleyball got knocked out of the CCC Tournament semifinals to East Hartford.
How sweet revenge can be.
This time, it was Newington who moved on to the CCC Tournament championship after beating East Hartford 3-1 in set scores of 25-13, 15-25, 25-17, 25-23 Wednesday afternoon in the conference semifinals.
“We haven’t been to the conference finals in a few years,” Newington head coach Curt Burns said. “It’s a relatively new event. We didn’t make it the last two years so to be back in the finals is nice.”
The win, however, did not come easy.
The Indians held a 2-1 lead going into the fourth set and the Hornets did their best to push for a fifth.
Both teams found themselves tied 13-13 after fighting back and forth for points, in what would end up being the final set.
East Hartford generated enough offense for a run of three to take the lead (16-13). But Newington was able to respond back with a run of three of its own, tying up the game once again, 16-16.
Both teams battled back-and-forth once again for points. The Indians managed to hold a one-point advantage (24-23) before an ace by Luis Egbuna ended the game.
“This was a really big win for us,” Newington senior setter Daniel Cloutier said. “We lost to East Hartford last year when we played them so it was really nice to come back the second time around. We were able to build a lot of momentum for the championship [tonight].”
The Hornets took an early 2-1 lead during the first set, but the Indians responded quickly with a run of six, taking the lead 7-2.
East Hartford slowly erased Newington’s lead with two runs of four, but a run of four and a spike from Mason Romano gave the Indians some insurance (14-8).
“Mason stepped up really big,” Burns said. “We switched the rotation around so he would be in the front row earlier than normal and he really matched up well with their big hitters. He had a strong match with blocks and kills.”
Romano finished the afternoon with nine kills and one block. Cloutier finished with 41 assists and six digs, while Egbuna finished with five service aces and 12 kills.
Blocks from Teddy Fravel and Riley Miller aided to the Indians’ next 4-0 run. Newington finished the first match with runs of two and three for a 25-13 victory.
“[East Hartford] is a really, really strong program,” junior libero Collin Liedke said. “It’s good to know that we can beat them and beat a big Class L school going into tournament play and conference final [tonight].”
The roles were reversed in the second set. After opening 4-4, the Hornets picked up the pace with a run of five to take an 8-4 lead over the Indians.
A bad serve by the Hornets returned the possession back to Newington, but the Indians couldn’t generate enough offense and gave the ball back to East Hartford. The Hornets then went on a run of seven for a 19-11 lead.
East Hartford finished off the second set with a final run of four (25-15).
Newington opened up the third set with a 6-1 run for an early lead, but the Hornets didn’t let that stop them. After a run of five, East Hartford found themselves tied with the Indians 8-8.
Newington continued to persevere through the third set with five different runs of two and one run of three to finish the match in its favor, 25-17.
“It was great to win,” Burns said. “[East Hartford] is great. Great program, great players, great athletes and to come into their gym and beat them when we’re both playing for the finals, that’s important.”
Shelby Iava can be reached at (860) 801-5096 or firstname.lastname@example.org