BURLINGTON — Now that high school sports are finally being played, do they really mean anything?
New Britain and Lewis Mills squared off in a thrilling five game girls volleyball match Friday evening in which the Hurricanes came back from a 2-0 game deficit for a 3-2 win.
Makenzie Jones ripped off five aces in a row in Game 1. Jones, Josie Lee and Bri Pelchar combined for 26 kills to make it seem like smooth sailing to a Spartans’ sweep.
Then the Hurricanes eked out a 25-22 win to stay alive in Game 3, came back from a 20-11 deficit to gut out a 27-25 Game 4 win before sweeping home to a 15-8 final on Natalia Kownacki’s ace for the last point of the match.
Audrey Belliveau had 15 assists; Maya Slisz was a marvel of consistency on 14 of 16 serves, including three aces; and Karolina Gierra led the Hurricane charge to the tape with eight kills.
“They played with passion,” Mills coach Jim Barone said.
And still, on a Senior Night with only the seniors’ parents allowed inside the gym, no state championship possible in any sport due to coronavirus and even condensed regional tournament experiences no sure thing, with the possibility of school and team shut-downs, the question still remains for lots of parents and elite athletes.
What’s the point?
Both teams began their answer with more-than-usual passion on the gym floor.
Then Mills’ eight seniors and New Britain’s five got together in a group discussion of what games really do mean in the coronavirus environment.
“It means so much just getting out there in a sport we love,” Lewis Mills’ Makenzie Jones said.
“Any kind of season means everything gets back to normal while we’re playing,” New Britain’s Maya Slisz said. “We have to value the moment we have.”
“We get to play with our friends,” teammate Natalia Kownacki said.
“When we started, most people thought we couldn’t do it, like football,” Hurricane Karolina Gierra said.
And, “Not knowing if it’s going to be our last one, every game matters all the more,” said Audrey Belliveau.
And what happens if Friday’s match does turn out to be the last one this season?
“We’re going to hope it isn’t,” Pelchar said.
Every girl had masks in place to keep that hope alive. The Spartans had team masks made.
“It’s become a bonding tool for them,” Barone said.
“Let’s hang out after this,” a New Britain senior said to the Lewis Mills group.
Sometimes, especially including now, there’s much, much more meaning in a game than the distant hope of a championship.
New Britain 3, Lewis Mills 2
Highlights: NB — Audrey Belliveau 15 assists; Maya Slisz 14/16 serving, 3 aces; Karolina Gierra 8 kills. LM — Makenzie Jones 10 kills, 5 aces; Josie Lee 10 kills; Bri Pelchar 6 kills; Natalie Hamel 16 assists.
Records: New Britain 1-1; Lewis Mills 1-1.