By John Goralski
Lou Gianacopolos turned his back to the scoreboard and gathered his team in a huddle.
Sure, the Knights had lost the first game to their Staples nemesis, but it could have just as easily been a win. The Knights controlled the pace. Mistakes determined the outcome.
The coach scanned his player’s faces, liked what he saw, and returned to his seat on the sidelines with a look of quiet confidence.
“I think that we were more well-rounded than they were,” said the coach. “In the first game, we had four net violations, three missed serves, and a lot of errors that we could control like hitting into the block. We knew where those points came in for that game. In the huddle I told the team that the game was lost by points, but we controlled our destiny.”
Every Southington season since 2007 has ended with a postseason match-up against Staples. Four have come in a championship game, and Southington’s victory in 2010 was the only time that the Knights finished with a victory.
Gianacopolos might not admit it, but this was more than just a regular season matchup. That’s why the coach was so pleased with the way his team responded.
“We knew going into game two that we had to limit net touches and errors, and the team that made the least amount of errors was going to win that match,” he said. “If you look at game two, they missed a few vital serves. They were struggling, but we were hitting our spots to keep them out of system.”
Nick Powell set the pace. The senior hitter attacked the net 41 times for 21 kills. He served 16-for-18 from the line and anchored the defense with a team-best 10 digs.
“If there was someone that put the game on his back, that was Powell,” said the coach. “For the first time since seeing him as a freshman. Today was the day that he actually stood up and said that this was his game.”
Chris Sherwill joined him at the net with 13 kills and in the back row with nine digs. Alex Zajda marshaled the attack with 48 assists and nine digs. As a team the Knights served 93 percent, and they rallied for three straight victories to clinch the series.
Southington improved to 2-0 with the 3-1 victory. Staples won the first game, 25-23, but the Knights answered with wins of 25-22, 25-21, and 25-23. The tightly contested game could have gone either way, and Gianacopolos brushed aside the final result.
“This is just a good, early on, tough match,” he said. “We’ve still got a lot to work on, and this match really proved that. It was a high-intensity match with Staples, which is another good, competitive program. I think today gave us a ton to work on and fix.”
The game was a stark contrast to the opening day sweep of Bulkeley-Hartford Public. Sherwill led the way with nine kills. Powell scored six kills and eight digs. Zajda distributed 23 assists, and the team served 92 percent from the floor.
Bulkeley managed to score in double digits in just one of the three games as Southington rallied to a 3-0 win, 25-7, 25-10, and 25-8.
To comment on this story or to contact sports writer John Goralski, email him at jgoralski@ southingtonobsever.com.