By John Goralski
A smile swept across the group of Knights as they watched Shelton warming up before the match on Wednesday, May 15. Coach Lou Gianacopolos said that the same thing happened in the early moments of Friday’s game against Farmington.
It may look like the Knights are wasting valuable time when they gather to study their opponents in the minutes before the varsity games, but Gianacopolos calls it an important pre-game excercise for his Knights.
They are studying the eyes of their opponents and looking for weakness. Once his team sees it, the game is already over.
“When you look on the other side of the net, and you see someone looking down at the ground instead of the next play, our guys notice it,” said the coach. “You want to look in their eyes and see it.”
A string of six conference titles was broken last year. With a trio of 3-0 sweeps last week, the Knights have pulled within one game of recapturing their throne. The Knights control their own destiny.
It won’t be easy. They face the last unbeaten team, Glastonbury (15-0), on Monday for a chance to avenge a 3-2 loss in their first meeting. Three wins would secure a top four seed and home field advantage.
Gianacopolos said that the best is yet to come.
“We’re heading in the correct direction, but we started that a while ago,” he said. “We’ve been steadily up a climb. We had our hard part in the early season, but it’s coming around again.”
Can the Knights survive to make a run at another state title? Just look into their eyes.
On Monday, it came easily. Nick Powell hammered Maloney for nine kills and five aces in three games. Alex Borofsky added eight kills, and Ed Klein scored six. Alex Zajda distributed 23 assists, and Powell anchored the back row with 11 digs.
Southington swept past Maloney, 25-11, 25-17, 25-17.
“We kept them out of system, but they had a great libero there that just kept digging up the balls,” Gianacopolos said. “It was a good game for us.”
The real challenge began on Wednesday with a non-conference rematch with Shelton. Southington won the first meeting in a 3-1 battle. The second contest finished quicker.
Zajda distributed 27 assists to Southington’s front line, and the Knights scored on almost 50 percent of their chances at the net.
Powell and Borofsky finished with eight kills apiece. Ten players scored kills, and the Knights rallied to a 3-0 sweep, 25-13, 25-14, 25-19.
“We really prepared for this one,” Gianacopolos said. “We anticipated a stronger team, and we have to do that consistently, but it was a fun atmosphere. We want to be disciplined and have a lot of fun. Today, they were working together so well that they were having fun.”
Powell finished with four of Southington’s 11 aces. Borofsky anchored the middle with three blocks. Southington only collected 15 digs as a team, but that’s because there weren’t many Shelton attacks as the Knights kept them out of system with their outsides and middles.
Gianacopolos said that it’s become a sign of Southington’s depth at the net.
“We learned the first time that we played Glastonbury that we were relying too much on our outsides,” said the coach. “We knew that we had to develop our middles, and I think that was the turning point for us. If you run a successful middle, it opens up our outsides.”
The momentum carried into Farmington on Friday as Southington middles Borofsky (11 kills, 5 blocks) and Jeff Kolb (6 kills, 3 blocks) set up the attack. Outside hitters Powell (10 kills, 11 digs) and Chris Sherwill (10 kills) countered, and Southington’s defense combined for 47 digs.
The Knights rallied for a 3-0 win, 25-21, 25-17, and 25-21.
“We had momentum. It was like pushed them on the wall and didn’t let them off,” said Gianacopoos. “We just kept pushing and pushing and pushing.”
Now the Knights will try to cap their season with one final push. Do they have what it takes? You can read it in their eyes.