SHELTON>> The Shelton High School gym has become like a second home for the Newington boys volleyball team in recent years. The final stop on the road to a state championship.
On Friday the Indians made the trip once again and again left as state champions.
Top-seeded Newington beat second-seeded Joel Barlow in four sets (25-21, 20-25, 25-19, 25-19) to win its second consecutive Class M state title and third in four years.
“We set a goal that we want to get back here each year and they work towards it,” Newington coach Curt Burns said. “They know they have to work hard, but they do. We get here and they have to do well here and they do. I’m very happy for them.”
It was Barlow’s first ever state finals appearance.
Despite some new piece on this team, the Indians had a solid core of Jordan Aprea, Nick Hinchcliffe and Brett Sullivan who helped bring the younger players together, mentor them and gel when they needed it most — at the end.
“We have so many new guys and they all stepped up to the plate,” Senior Nick Hinchcliffe said. [They] focused and worked hard and it was a great result.”
Hinchcliffe was named the Class M tournament Most Valuable Player collecting 37 kills in the championship game.
Chatham Studer had 21 kills to lead Barlow.
One of the young guys to step up was setter Blake Mamaclay. Replacing an All-State setter may be big shoes to fill, but he stepped right into his role this season and excelled.
“Blake (62 assists) did a wonderful job,” Burns said. “He was basically a JV player and a call up a year ago and now he’s all-state and leading us to a state championship at the quarterback position so to speak.”
Newington had a couple other guys step in this year and contribute, including blockers Dante Phillip and Tyler Callahan.
The first two sets were split, but Newington showed its experience and poise in the third and fourth sets when it took early leads and set the tone.
The Indians closed the third set with a 9-4 run to take the lead. But it was the fourth that put Barlow on its heals.
“I thought we played a very even game,” Joel Barlow coach Chris Lovelett said. “However, I think where they really put us to bed was they were much more consistent with their defense and their serve receive. They were able to run their offense a little bit more in game three and four than we were and unfortunately that’s where I think they got us.”
A 9-0 run in the midst of the fourth set gave Newington a 17-8 lead. Even after Barlow got it within five, Hinchcliffe and Jordan Aprea (10 kills, 19 digs) shut down the rally.
“Everything was just clicking for us,” Hinchcliffe said. “We started playing our game, got all the jitters out.”