The Joel Barlow boys volleyball team took top-seed Newington to the wire before falling in Thursday night’s Class M state championship match.
Newington won the fifth game by two points to beat third-seed Barlow, 3-2, at Shelton High School and earn its second straight Class M title. The Indians prevailed by scores of 26-24, 23-25, 25-20, 22-25, and 15-13.
“As a fan it was a great game, as a coach I’m proud, and as a competitor I’m disappointed,” said Barlow head coach Chris Lovelett after the match.
In the decisive fifth game, Newington opened a 6-3 lead, prompting Barlow to call a timeout.
The Falcons reeled off the next four points, capped by Matt Cruz’s kill, which was made possible in large part by a nice defensive play by Fenn Gurley to keep the ball alive.
Newington went ahead 8-7; then another Cruz spike re-tied the score.
The Indians took a 10-8 lead before Barlow battled back and got a block from Tommy Lucido to even the score.
Lucido then answered two Newington points with kills, knotting the score at 11-11 and 12-12.
After Newington again went ahead by one, Barlow’s Anthony Rizzo evened the score at 13 apiece with a kill.
But the Indians got the next point and then added the game- and match-winner when a Barlow hit went out of bounds.
Barlow had stayed alive by overcoming a 19-17 deficit to win the fourth game, 25-22.
With the score tied 19-19, Barlow got a kill from Cruz to go ahead by one point. After Newington re-tied the score, Barlow reeled off the next three points — culminating in a Lucido kill — to take a 23-20 advantage.
Newington closed within 23-22 before another point from Lucido gave the Falcons a 24-22 lead. A Newington hit out of bounds gave Barlow the 25-22 victory and sent the match to the winner-take-all fifth game.
Lovelett liked his team’s mettle throughout the match.
“When we were in a hole — when we were struggling, when we were down — we continued to fight and push,” said Lovelett, adding that he told his players that sort of no-quit performance is their legacy.
Cruz was a standout for Barlow, finishing with 33 kills and 11 digs. Finn McCaffrey added 11 kills, 32 assists, eight digs, and three blocks, and Lucido had seven kills and two blocks.
Sam Bartro (31 assists), Dylan Kloiber (10 digs), Rizzo (eight kills), and Gurley (10 digs) also contributed to the Falcons’ effort, while Logan Paradise (two kills, two digs, two blocks) did a little bit of everything.
But led by the play of Louis Egbuna (23 kills, seven aces, seven digs), Daniel Cloutier (54 assists, nine digs, three blocks) and Mason Romano (21 kills, seven digs, two blocks), Newington was able to get past the Falcons.
“They had a great game plan; we had a great game plan. I think that was why it was so back and forth,” Lovelett said.