With the sound of the ball whistling by a defender, it usually is not hard to figure where the shot came from when playing against the Amity girls volleyball team.
Those booming kills usually came from junior Abby Harbinson.
In a year in which Amity advanced to the Class LL state championship finals, it is no surprise the ultra-talented Harbinson led the way. Aside from a late-season injury, Harbinson dominated from start to finish to earn the Register’s Area Most Valuable Player.
“My teammates definitely made me a better player,” Harbinson said. “They helped me out all year. When I was looking for support, especially coming back from my injury, they were there. My coaches as well. They helped me mentally. I had a great support system.”
Set up as the team’s middle blocker, opposing teams struggled to find an answer to solve the junior as she finished the season with 335 kills, 49 blocks, 50 aces, 86 digs, and 14 assists.
“Abby is a perfectionist in her play,” Amity coach Seth Davis said. “She wants to make sure that everything she does is the best it can be. She works very hard to understand the game, and how her technique contributes to how she can perform better. She analyzes every aspect of her play from her approach to her arm swing, and her defense. If it’s not perfect, she works tirelessly to make it as perfect as it can be.
“Abby brings an energy to the court that is infectious. When she has a good play, not only is Abby celebrating, but also the team finds it enjoyable. She is the type of player that keeps you in a match even when you are down. She communicates so well and helps keep the other girls on the court involved in every aspect of the match that it brings the entire team spirit up.”
Harbinson will enter her senior season on the court with impressive career statistics as she has 758 kills, 148 blocks, 80 aces, 164 digs, and 27 assists.
While the numbers may speak highly of how good Harbinson has been, the tale of the tape is how she makes everyone on the team around her better. Opposing teams clearly game plan for her, but Harbinson’s communication and desire to make her teammates better is evident on the court.
“She makes her teammates better in so many ways,” Davis said “She is a constant communicator and always supportive. No matter what is going on with the team, Abby wants to help the team succeed. Whether it’s helping with advice for the younger girls, feeding the coaches volleyballs to help others do well, helping read the court for the other hitters, or making kills when you really need her to, she helps bring everyone up. She loves getting the ball, but never feels bad when she doesn’t get it. By being supportive and giving advice when she can help, it makes everyone better.
“I would say the best part of coaching Abby is watching all the fun she has on the court. No matter what way the match is going, I can always look over at her and see her smiling. She brings enjoyment and levity to the game. She understands that it really is a game, but also that she wants to be the best at it, so she knows that she has to work hard at being the best, which for her is what makes it fun. Abby knows it will be hard work and she finds that fun. Just watching her and the rest of the team succeed on the court is enjoyable. Another great thing about coaching Abby is she loves to see her teammates succeed. When Lauren Campos, a sophomore, was playing outside against Cheshire and she would get a kill, it made Abby really happy to see her teammate make a good play. The best part is she isn’t selfish and has fun when everyone has fun.”
For Harbinson, also a coaches first-team all-state selection, Southern Connecticut Conference Player of the Year, and SCC first-team pick, the 2017 season was all about the postseason. An ankle injury late in the year forced the junior to miss a handful of games until the postseason began.
“Coming into the season, we knew what we wanted the team to accomplish,” Harbinson said. “We were going to do everything possible to make that happen. Every practice, the goal was to get better and try and improve on something.”
After the Spartans fell to Guilford in the SCC tournament semifinals, the only thing Harbinson and the Spartans were focused on was a state title. They would come up one match short of their goal, losing in the title game.
“I would say she stood out in just about every match of the state tournament,” Davis said. “She had a great tournament with 68 kills. She had 18 kills against Conard and worked tremendously hard. She had another great game against Cheshire with 15 kills. The entire team fed off of Abby in the entire Cheshire match. She had the first kill of the match and finished the match with the last kill.
“Abby is the type of player that changes a match. Even when she is not 100 percent healthy, her presence and attitude alter the way the other team plays. She is the one on the court narrating the points as they go on. She is a phenomenal communicator. She brings the team to another level, which is one of the reasons why she dominates.”
While Harbinson has that killer instinct on the court, there is another side of her which others quickly take notice of off the court. That person who is driven to succeed over the few hours of playing is also one of the most respectful kids around.
“Abby always hustles onto the court. If she is out and her rotation comes up, she is at the line before the ref even calls for the sub,” Davis said. “She is always ready for what comes next. She is incredibly supportive of the younger girls without stepping on the toes of the older girls. She tries to get everyone to love the game as much as she does.”
For Harbinson and the Spartans, the state tournament saw a matchup against arch-rival Cheshire. Looking to defeat the Rams for the first time this season after losing to them twice during the regular season, Harbinson led the way by opening the match with a kills, and 15 kills later, ending the match in the same manner.
“Beating Cheshire was unlike anything I have ever felt,” Harbinson said. “We lost both times in the regular season to them. When we had a shot at taking a game from them, that meant the world to us. The team morale was great. We were just going to fight and give everything we have. We saw a different level of fire from different players.
“I think when I got hurt it allowed younger players a chance to play. That playing time gave them confidence and showed them they are just as important to the team. That confidence showed in the postseason and really helped us.”
Harbinson, who has been playing volleyball since fifth grade, hopes to play in college, where she is already getting some looks. Those colleges will have one more year to wait as Harbinson and the Spartans have some unfinished business to take care of next fall.