Volleyball Qualifies for Tourney
Enthusiasm bubbles over with every practice and game.
The New Britain High girls volleyball team qualified for the Class LL state tournament by logging a 9-9 record during the fall season, a byproduct of the family atmosphere nurtured by veteran head coach Michelle Abraham.
The harmony that Abraham and her assistant Kristie Beckwith cultivate is carried onto the court by senior captains Faith Ford and Ginelle Martinez. Ford, who stands 6-feet tall, has developed into one of the best outside hitters in the CCC. Martinez’s balanced set of skills raises every facet of New Britain’s game.
The success of Abraham’s program can’t fully be measured in wins and losses. During her 25-year tenure, New Britain has scaled the heights and scraped the bottom.
The ultimate reward came in 1999 when the Hurricanes, down 2 games to 1 against the haughty Cheshire powerhouse that had beaten them in the 1998 final, rebounded dramatically to win a Class L title. From 1997-2002, Abraham went 117-20 with two outright CCC South crowns, one shared and three second-place finishes.
“State championships are few and far between,” Abraham said. “Sometimes we make it to the tournament but I can only do so much. I do what I do in practice. Ultimately, the girls need to figure it out. Of course I want to win, but they’re going to graduate and they’ll be gone but I’ll still be here.”
Martinez and Ford were barely old enough for school back then. What matters most to them is now, and tournament qualification is simply the reward for what they’ve accomplished as players and leaders.
“It goes beyond wins and losses,” said Ford, who also plays on the NBHS basketball team. “High School sports motivate you to do good in school. It gives you more friends. It actually gives you a family. … Blood makes you related but loyalty makes a family.”
The state championship will always stand as Abraham’s most notable tangible accomplishment. The subtle ones that she has helped bestow on her legions of players and former players are topics that are also near and dear.
“Helping kids is really our ultimate goal,” she said. “We do keep a lot of kids on the team so they can have a good experience and learn life skills.”
Martinez can readily sense the love that flows freely throughout the team.
“[Participation] will build your confidence,” she said. “The fan base – everybody – looks up to you. It is a family, people that you trust on and off the court, people you can go to. Blood couldn’t make us any closer.”
Ford has a lot to do with New Britain’s surge this season. She has learned Abraham’s lessons well enough to be considered for the highest postseason awards, but volleyball is far from a one-person game.
“Faith is very good,” Abraham said. “[On October 22 against state-ranked Farmington], she had 21 kills and that’s against a well-coached team. When Faith plays well, the team plays well. Unfortunately we rely on her a real lot, but the little ones are doing a real good job, too. She makes them look a little better than they are at times and vice versa.”
Others in Abraham’s rotation are the Mesa twins, Annette and Yamiles, Juliette Thuiller, Jessica Duque, Alexis Sulewski and Mariah Rosado. Others playing varsity are Marielle Pagan, Destini Kennedy, Alyssa Millan, Meghan Pelletier and Lexie Lopez.
“Ginelle gets a lot of touches,” Abraham said. “She’ll listen and she’ll try to do what you tell her.”
The last time New Britain qualified for states, Ford and Martinez were sophomores. The Hurricanes lost to Wilbur Cross in four games. The last time the ’Canes won a tournament game was 2005 when they beat Hall and Staples to advance to the ‘LL’ semifinals. Ford and Martinez are yearning for the season to last as long as possible.
“The volleyball season is short, only two months,” Ford said. “You want the season to last longer, right up to the state championship.”
Martinez added, “We all never give up. Last year we had a problem. This year it’s picked up just like a family. This year we have each other’s back.”