Rising to the challenge; Girls volleyball survives a top challenge

By John Goralski
Sports Writer

Coach Rich Heitz had circled this two week blitz when this year’s schedule was first released. With two state powerhouses sprinkled into a conference schedule that’s already littered with top talent, Heitz knew this would be the ultimate measure.
Would his girls be up for a challenge against a team that swept past them in the preseason? Yes. Would they be ready to face an up-and-coming program with a star studded coaching staff at the helm? Yes, they would. How about a team that always gives them fits? Yes, even Farmington was no match for the Knights.
Southington dispatched a trio of high caliber programs last week, but Heitz still isn’t ready to rest. With Coventry and Simsbury on the horizon, it isn’t over yet.
“It was a hard week with a couple of tough games sandwiched in by a pesky NW Catholic team, but we knew that it was going to be difficult,” he said. “I think the girls responded great. I think you can argue that Woodstock Academy is the best team in the state—at least from what I’ve seen in the preseason and early season. NW Catholic is well-coached by Jeanne Digiacomo, the former St. Joe’s coach. Now, they have Nancy Ringrose, the former Central CT coach as their assistant. Then, Farmington is Farmington.”
And Southington is the only one among them that’s still undefeated.
“We’ve still got a lot of work to do,” said Heitz, “but we’re on the right track.”

Woodstock Academy
The Centaurs swept past the Knights in a preseason tournament and carried that momentum into the first game of the series. On Monday, Sept. 17, Woodstock Academy blasted past the Knights in game one, 25-17.
Heitz gathered the girls between sets to steady his bench.
“They are a phenomenal team,” Heitz said. “They blew out everybody down there (in Darien). They blew us out. We knew their libero Sam Forst is the best libero in the state, without question. They were the best team I saw in the preseason. They dominated everybody.”
On this night, Southington held its own. They held onto a short lead throughout the second contest, rebounded from a 16-7 deficit to capture the third, and held on to win the fourth set, 25-20. Southington took the best of five series, 3-1.
“I hope we have the confidence now that we can play with anybody in the state of Connecticut,” said Heitz. “This team has probably been the hardest-working team that I’ve had with their strength training in the offseason. We were pretty winded at the end, but we all fought through it.”
Corinne Horanzy led the charge with 21 kills and 20 digs. Danielle Kaminsky distributed 38 assists and 10 digs. Sam Vitale (10 kills, 6 digs) and Caroline Barry (4 kills, 2 blocks) anchored the play at the net, and Alison McCormick anchored the back row with 16 digs.
As a team, Southington served 88 percent from the floor with 11 aces.
“We knew that they were very good, and we knew the job they did against us at Darien,” said Heitz. “We were looking to catch any string of momentum at any point. We were able to grab it a little bit in the middle of game one, but we gave it up. We came out in game two and had it. I think that the big thing was that we were down 16-7 in game three and came back. Once you do that to a team, it’s hard to come back.”

NW Catholic
On Wednesday, Southington rallied for a pair of lopsided wins before Heitz began to tinker with the lineup. Southington swept past NW Catholic, 25-11, 25-14, before dropping a 25-17 decision in game three, but the Knights clinched the series with a 25-9 win in the fourth and final set.
“We were up 2-0, but we’re constantly trying to find out what rotations and lineups will make us a better team,” said Heitz. “We tried a couple of lineups that probably weren’t our strongest, but that’s okay. We’re always trying to find ways to improve.”
Kaminsky paced the attack with 36 assists and seven digs. Horanzy had 13 kills and 17 digs, and Barry added 12 kills. Sara Malicka anchored the defense with 18 digs. Vitale (7 kills, 5 digs), Cyndy Woolley (5 kills), Jordyn Moquin (7 digs)

On Friday, Southington continued the streak with a 3-0 win against Farmington. Once again, Southington tinkered with the lineup after a 2-0 start, but Southington held on for a three-point victory to clinch the shutout.
“We took it right to them from the get go,” said Heitz.
Horanzy led the way with 19 kills and 15 digs. Kaminsky was perfect from the line (10-for-10) and dealt out 35 assists. Vitale had nine kills and eight digs. MAlicka finished with 12 digs. Barry (7 kills) and Woolley (6 digs) contributed.
Southington swept past the Indians, 25-11, 25-14, and 25-22 to improve to 5-0 (4-0 in the CCC West). The Knights will try to carry that momentum into this week’s competition with another grueling week with conference matchups with Hall and Simsbury sandwiching Thursday’s rivalry at Coventry.
“Coventry and Woodstock are two of the top three teams in the state. Then, we’ve got RHAM and Bristol Eastern as mandatory crossovers and another game with Farmington,” said Heitz. “This is probably the toughest schedule that we’ve had.”
Bring it on.
To comment on this story or to contact sports writer John Goralski, email him at jgoralski@southingtonobserver.com.

By John Goralski
Samantha Vitale goes for a kill during a win over Woodstock Academy on Sept. 17.

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