Newington and Joel Barlow are familiar opponents in the Class M boys volleyball championships. The teams have faced each other three times since 2015 and until Thursday night, Barlow had been a runner-up.
Thursday, Barlow won its first title, 3-1 (25-16, 20-25, 25-17, 25-20) over Newington and completed an undefeated season (19-0) at SMSA.
“We know them quite well,” Barlow coach Kevin Marino said. “But we were just trying to focus on us and what we’re able to do on the court. We lost sight of that a little bit in set two but then we were able to find it again and right the ship.”
It was the first set Barlow, a three-time Class M runner-up, had dropped all season.
“They just stayed resilient the whole time,” Marino said. “I couldn’t be more proud of them.
“Their mentality is their strength. Everybody kept asking us, ‘What’s going to happen if you don’t win?’ I guess we’ll never know. They stay steady the whole time even the way they responded from dropping a set.”
Newington, a six-time Class M champion, had won the last three titles from 2017-19. Last spring, there were no high school sports due to the pandemic.
The Nor’Easters finished 19-3.
“We did take a set off them which no one has all year, but I thought their defense was fantastic,” Newington coach Curt Burns said. “All the long rallies, they kept the ball in play. We had trouble terminating and putting the ball down and when those rallies were extended, it seems like they got the lion’s share of those long rallies.”
Josh Akosa led Newington with 13 kills, four assists and 14 digs and senior setter Eni Lici, who missed his sophomore season (and would have missed his junior season if there was one) because to knee surgeries, had 33 assists, 10 digs, four blocks and five kills.
“They’re a good tactical team,” Lici said. “They like to play their spots well. They’re intelligent off the block. We just weren’t as efficient. We made a good amount of service errors. We just couldn’t execute the way we wanted to. We took the second set. We were very confident we could put it down on attack. We just made a good amount of defensive errors that we hopefully tried not to limit but not today.”
Lori Riley can be reached at email@example.com.