By John Goralski
With a 2-0 lead after two games, Blue Knight coach Lou Gianacopolos shuffled volleyball players in and out of the lineup like a Las Vegas blackjack dealer. There was no urgency in the game, but Gianacopolos was urgently shifting his rotation.
With three games in as many days, Gianacopolos wasn’t about to waste any time on the court.
“They have to get their reps to get ready for tomorrow’s game against Farmington,” he said after a 3-0 win over Hall in the middle of the three game streak. “It’s a huge CCC match. They’re not in our conference, but we know how good Farmington is.”
For Gianacopolos, the three game flurry posed a serious challenge as he tries to prepare his team for the upcoming conference schedule. The games weren’t the hard part. In fact, Southington swept all three opponents, 3-0.
The challenge was to continue developing his young team with no time to practice.
“Generally, our practices are more intense than any game,” said the coach. “We play hard throughout practice. During a game, you only have six guys on the court playing hard. The other seven or eight are on the bench waiting.”
So Gianacopolos kept shuffling them into the game.
On Monday, April 21, the coach shuffled 11 players onto the court during a 3-0 win over East Hartford. Peter Masters distributed 21 assists across the roster. David Shaugnessy finished with nine kills. Dan Normandin served nine aces, and Tom DelBuono anchored the defense with five digs.
Southington won easily, 25-8, 25-12, and 25-15, but nobody posted numbers that jumped off the page.
Instead, the team served up 17 aces, 27 kills, 19 digs, and five blocks as a group. The team served just under 80 percent as a group.
The same held true the following day. Thirteen players shuffled on and off the court with only two players competing in all three games. Southington beat Hall, 3-0, with a trio of lopsided contests. The Knights won, 25-6, 25-18, and 25-11.
Masters and Adam Viviano shared time as setter, combining for 20 assists. Nobody had more than four kills. Nobody had more than four aces, but the team scored 14. Nobody had more than four digs.
Gianacopolos pointed to the team’s efforts at the line, serving 89 percent over the three game series.
“We were just trying to serve aggressively,” he said. “We don’t want to just score points on the jump serve. We want to be consistently aggressive. That’s a difficult task at practice or in a game, but they did it today.”
Southington never missed a step. The third game was arguably the toughest. Farmington has been a formidable foe over the years, but the Knights dispatched them easily on the road, 25-18, 25-19, 25-12.
Once again, Gianacop-olos substituted freely with 11 players competing during the contest, but the Knights were a little more serious about their volleyball distribution.
Dan Connolly scored 12 kills with six digs. Masters distributed 24 assists, and DelBuono scored 10 digs.
With the victories, Southington stayed perfect at 6-0. Through six contests, the Knights have yet to surrender a game, but things are going to get tougher.
Southington will face Newington (7-0), Enfield (1-5), and Simsbury (3-3). The Newington contest will mark the first of two battles that will likely determine the conference title.
By John Goralski