By John Goralski
At the end of the second game, Coach Lou Gianacopolos waved to get his setter’s attention and motioned to the net. “Did you see that?” he asked, and Alex Zajda shook his head.
To fans in the Southing-ton gym, it looked like Glastonbury was just one game from sweeping the season series. Those fans would have been wrong.
Southington was just getting started.
“This team never doubts itself,” said the coach. “We’ve been down, 11-0. We’ve been down, 2-0, in a match, and we’ve come back to win. We knew that this match would be very close.”
Trailing 2-0 in the best-of-five series, the Knights began to battle back. they won by three in the second game. They won by eight to force a fifth game.
Zajda marshaled the offense with 53 assists to nine different players at the net. He set up outside hitters and countered with quick sets to the middles. Glastonbury scrambled to meet the torrid attack, and momentum shifted to the Knights.
We saw what was successful—our outsides on a quick set, not giving their middles time to go out and block. We recognized that, and as soon as we were able to execute, we were able to free up the middles,” Gianacopolos said. “You’ve got to set the outsides and establish the middle. That frees up everybody.”
Nick Powell (18 kills) and Chris Sherwill (14 kills) combined for 79 attacks on the outside. Alex Borofsky (8 kills) and Jeff Kolb (8 kills) combined for 39 attacks in the middle.
For the second time this season, the Knights battled back from an 0-2 deficit to force a fifth contest. The Knights rallied to a 9-5 lead in the final contest to force a Glastonbury timeout.
“This was our first playoff game of the year. That’s exactly what this was to us,” said the coach. “We went in with the mentality that once we lose then we’re out. That was the urgency that we had in this game today.”
In the previous meeting between the schools, Glastonbury battled back from a 9-5 deficit to win the fifth contest. This time, Southington held them off.
Southington had three opportunities to serve for match point and won it on their third attempt, 15-11. With the victory, the Knights grabbed a share of the conference title. Both Glastonbury and Southing-ton finished with 7-1 records.
“It’s our first season—the conference title,” said Gianacopolos. “Now that season’s over, so we have to prepare for our next season—the postseason.”
Southington carried the momentum into wins over Simsbury and East Hartford to clinch the No. 4 seed in the upcoming Class L championships.
Against Simsbury, Zajda distributed 18 assists in the first games and Peter Masters distributed 11 assists down the stretch as the Knights swept past the Trojans, 25-18, 25-18, 25-20.
Southington shuffled 16 players into the lineup. Borofsky and Powell had six kills apiece. Dan Connolly anchored the defense with five digs.
Against East Hartford, the Knights cruised to a 3-0 win. Zajda collected 31 assists. Kevin Casserino went 13-for-15 from the line with six digs. Powell had 15 kills. Borofsky had seven kills, and the Knights earned their 11th sweep of the season, 25-19, 25-8, 25-15.
Now, Southington (16-2) will host Danbury (8-9) in the first round for a chance to host the winner of Fairfield Warde (15-3) and East Hartford (10-8) in the quarterfinals before turning to neutral courts.
Southington could face No. 1 Glastonbury again in the semifinals.