NEWINGTON - The Newington boys volleyball team is just four matches into its season, but the Indians already have a certain date circled on their calendar.
June 6, 2019.
Two months from now, the Class L state championship game will be played on that date, when Newington hopes to complete its quest for a third straight state title, and its sixth in eight years. After the team’s win over Enfield on Friday, multiple members of the Indians recited the date to remind themselves of what they’re playing for.
“There’s definitely a lot of talk surrounding June 6,” senior Teddy Fravel said after the Indians’ 3-0 sweep of the Eagles. “See, I even know the date.”
Fravel wasn’t the only one.
“We know what the plan is,” senior Louis Egbuna said. “Obviously, it looks like we’re having fun, and we are, but we know what the plan is. We’re focused on one goal, which is getting that ring on June 6.”
Coaches often harp on the importance of taking things a game at a time, but head coach Curt Burns lets his players embrace their ultimate goal. After all, it seems to be working over the past few years.
“I let the guys be confident,” Burns said. “We’re not shy in saying what we’re going for. That’s all part of what the program is. But at the same time, you don’t want to think you can just walk onto the court and other teams are just going to fall over. They’re going to fight and give us their best shot, because they know we have the championships. That’s a big deal. We have to earn it.”
Getting the best of an opponent hungry to topple the state champs is a challenge the Indians welcome with open arms. Facing tough competition will only further prepare them for June 6, and Newington plans to make it there once again, one way or another.
“We love that,” Egbuna said of the extra effort exuded from their opponents every match. “We’re known as the king of the hill, so everyone wants to take us down. We’re getting their all each and every game. You can try to beat us, but it’s not going to work.”
For a team with such tunnel vision, is there ever a concern that looking ahead will cause Newington to trip over its own feet in the present?
The team’s 4-0 record suggests otherwise, and Burns has done everything he can to ensure that his Indians receive plenty of tune-ups before the state tournament, including a May 13 date with Westfield High School in Massachusetts, a team going for its own three-peat in its Division I tournament come June.
“I like a tough schedule,” Burns said. “I try to schedule tough opponents. [Westfield] will be a nice matchup. I want to test this group. I’m always looking for a challenge.”
Newington is looking for any challenge that will get it to the date that’s been circled on its calendar since the season started. June 6 is still months away, but the Indians stare it down as if it’s arriving tomorrow. It doesn’t mean they’re losing focus on the next match at hand. It simply means their focus is on getting to June 6, and they know they can only do that by taking care of business in the here and now.
If the rest of Newington’s opponents between now and June 6 bring their best, the Indians have a simple message: good luck.
“Every team that plays us has to play their best if they want to have a shot,” Fravel said. “If we’re focused, it will be tough for any team to beat us.”
Fravel and the Indians are certainly focused, on today, tomorrow and especially June 6, 2019.
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or firstname.lastname@example.org