NEWINGTON - The Newington boys volleyball team suffered its first and only loss of the season against the Cheshire Rams May 7. Since that loss, the team was been flawless.
“It really refocused us,” said Coach Curt Burns, regarding the only blemish on the team’s record. “You never want to lose, but the loss didn’t change our goals. We’ve been playing some good volleyball since the loss.”
Burns and his boys have reeled off 10 straight victories and haven’t dropped a set in any of the games. The 10-game winning streak has included straight-set wins over fellow powerhouses Glastonbury and Wethersfield.
The Indians have had several players step up during the late-season surge, including junior Nick Hinchcliffe. The 6’4 outside hitter has been the model of consistency during the second half of the season, registering three straight games with double-digits in kills.
“Nick has really come through for us this season,” said Burns, who’s been coaching at Newington since 2004. “He’s very athletic. He’s one of our highest jumpers and has good size and athleticism. You can really see his development as he’s learned the skills to go with his natural ability.”
Fellow junior Jordan Aprea has shaken off an early season shoulder injury and has been posting great all-around numbers, including an 18-point, two-dig performance in the victory over Glastonbury.
“[Jordan] was all-state as a sophomore, so that was a really big accomplishment,” Burns said. “He missed the first couple of matches due to injury, but he’s quickly caught up and his numbers are right there with everybody.”
The Indians closed out the regular season with a victory over Lewis Mills. Jon Cloutier lead the way in the team’s 19th victory with 12 kills and 3.5 block assists.
Newington finished the regular season 19-1, which was good enough to preserve the number one seed in the upcoming Class M state tournament. The team tuned-up for the state tourney by breezing through the Central Connecticut Conference (CCC) tournament. The Indians beat Southington and Farmington in straight-sets. Senior setter Riley McManus combined for 63 assists in the two tournament games.
“Riley has been really good at distributing the ball and is very balanced,” Burns added. “He’s been a great leader for us on and off the court.”
The Indians now turn their attention to the Class M state tournament, where they are one of only two teams with a single loss. The other team is Oxford, who has won 18 straight games since suffering an early-season loss. Oxford was last season’s state champs and Newington defeated Oxford to win the 2012 championship. The two schools seem to be on a collision course towards a championship for the ages later this month.
“We’ve been watching each other throughout the year,” Burns said of the budding rivalry with Oxford. “We could meet again in the finals and it would be a good match.”
Both teams would have to win two tournament games in order to meet in the highly anticipated finals rematch. Newington’s last home game and first tournament game will be this Friday. The action starts at 6 p.m. inside Newington High School.