By John Goralski
Two weeks in, and the Knights have yet to lose a game. Two weeks in, and the Knights have yet to play at home.
Southington swept past Bloomfield and Daniel Hand last week to improve to 3-0 in the early season. Now, the Knights will turn their sights to their home court with four of their next five contests in the Southington gym.
For many on the young roster, it will be their first chance to start in front of their classmates.
“The guys are hungry for their first home match,” said Blue Knight coach Lou Gianacopolos. “We know it’s going to be competitive against East Hartford, and that’s what our guys need right now.”
Gianacopolos was ready to tinker with his lineup in the minutes before the April 14 tip-off when Bloomfield’s coach approached him with a unique demand. The Warhawk coach knew that his team was overmatched, but he begged the Blue Knight coach to give him everything he had.
“He said that he didn’t want anybody laying back,” said the Southington coach. “He wanted us to come full force to show his guys what volleyball is. He wants his guys to learn from the Southington program, and that’s what we did.”
The Knights swept through the contest in straight sets, 25-5, 25-11, and 25-12. Even with their back-ups, the Knights attacked the net in game three.
Southington servers combined for 23 aces as they attacked the net from the start. Peter Masters distributed 11 assists. Adam Brush scored six kills, and Dan Connolly scored four kills and eight aces. Tom DelBuono led the defense with four digs.
Southington cruised past Daniel Hand in the first game, 25-13. The Knights continued with a 25-14 win in game two. The third game was closer, but Southington earned a sweep with a 25-21 win. But Gianacopolos was far from happy.
Hand entered the contest without their 6-foot-6 big man. They had a few others missing from the lineup during school vacation, and Southington was sloppy on the offensive end.
Masters managed to score 19 assists in the three-game series, but he was often scrambling for the second hit. Southington usually averages about 2.5 hits per possesion, but that number plummeted to 1.5.
“I was really unhappy with that,” said the coach. “Our average pass was about 15 feet off the net, and we just could not control the ball. When you can’t get the ball to the middle, you’re always going to have that double block on the outside, and that’s what happened.”
Southington still managed to win easily. Shaughnessy powered the attack at the net with eight kills. Brush anchored the front line defense with three blocks, and DelBuono anchored the rear defenders with five digs. Masters and Shaugnessy contributed four digs apiece.
On the other hand, the game offered the coach a good measuring stick for his young team’s growth. The two teams are scheduled to meet again in late May.
Hand should be at full strength. Southington will need to perfect their passes, and Gianacopolos will get to see how a season of experience has prepared the Knights for the postseason.
That experience will begin this week as the Knights take on East Hartford, Hall, and Farming-ton on consecutive nights.
“We’re trying to toughen up our schedule with our practices,” Gianacopolos said, “but I think next week is going to be a good test for us.”