Bobcats title hopes fall short

By Ken House

PLAINVILLE – The South Windsor High boys’ volleyball team was in complete control of its Class M title match against Newington on Thursday night at Plainville High.

Then, suddenly the defending champions were not.

Buoyed by the brilliant defensive play of senior Kevin Billbraut, the third-seeded Indians (17-8) rebounded from a 2-0 deficit to capture the championship at Plainville High. It was Newington’s third state title in four years.

The match scores were 24-26, 20-25, 25-18, 25-15, 16-14.

The seventh-seeded Bobcats (13-9) were led by Brendan Baker. As the only returning player from last year’s championship team, the senior finished the match with 25 kills and 20 digs. Braden Goodale ended with three kills, 37 assists, and 12 points.

For Baker, the end was a bitter disappointment.

“We were feeling really good about ourselves after two games,” Baker said. “They got on track and we started to struggle. I’m proud of our guys. We are a very young team and to get this far is cool. But we did not win.”

When South Windsor took the quick lead, it looked to many like a repeat of the teams’ first match, a 3-0 sweep by the Bobcats in Newington. South Windsor coach Peter Maneggia, Jr., however, was not fooled. He knew the Bobcats would not coast to victory.

“They started playing better,” Maneggia said. “Newington is a good team that was back on its heels. Once they started passing the ball and running their offense. Newington put it together.”

And when Newington stormed back to tie the match at two sets apiece, he was not surprised.

“Newington plays the toughest schedule in Class M,” Maneggia said. “They play all the top teams. They are used to this. It is not new to them and I tip my hat to them.”

Although disappointed, Maneggia felt nothing but pride about his team. Returning only one player to a state championship team’s roster is grounds for a letdown. And when Baker sprained his ankle early in the season, the Bobcats had a great excuse to throw in the towel.

Instead, the Bobcats rallied and found themselves one set away from a second-consecutive state title.

“I’m proud of the whole crew,” Maneggia said. “A lot of our juniors had to grow up very fast. The coaching staff was tough on them when Baker went down. They had to get mentally tougher and they did.”

And, as a result, Baker knows one thing is certain.

“I’d bet on those guys for next year,” he said. “We have a lot of good young players who are coming back and they are going to have learned a lot from tonight’s game.”

South Windsor’s title dreams end in title match

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