By John Goralski
Coach Lou Gianacopolos is approaching the season like a cross word enthusiast attacks the Sunday paper, and he’s been slowly chipping away at the answer. This week, the Knight coach learned a little more about his growing squad.
They dispatched their first opponent easily. They rebounded from a win to beat a big conference rival, and they surged past another perennial power for the second time this season. Gianacopolos has just a few more weeks to perfect his young squad, but he’s still looking for the final pieces to the puzzle.
“We still haven’t found ‘it’ whatever ‘it’ is,” he said after a 3-1 win over Glastonbury. “We have to find it and bring it into our game. We have a lot of pieces to this puzzle. We have 15 guys on the roster, and I want every one of them to work on the piece that they bring—whether it’s blocking, passing, serving, or attacking. Those are all pieces to our puzzle, and I want a 1,000 piece puzzle by the end of this. We have to get ready for the postseason.”
The first obstacle didn’t prove to be much of a threat. On Monday, May 5, the Knights surged past the Hartford co-op in three lopsided games.
Adam Brush attackd the net for 14 kills. Peter Masters and Adam Viviano combined for 33 assists. Mark Horanzy had nine of Southington’s 17 aces as they swept past the co-op, 25-8, 25-7, and 25-8, but Gianacopolos wasn’t ready to celebrate, not with Glastonbury up next.
“I don’t go out and scout teams. I’m always more worried about my team than theirs, but after we played Bulkeley, I went over to watch the Newington-Glastonbury game,” he said. “I saw the two teams lulling each other to sleep. It was a point here, a point there. It kept going back-and-forth.”
The coach returned with another challenge for his team in their contest with Glastonbury. He didn’t want the Knights to lose focus. Instead, he was looking for intensity and celebration.
The Knights rebounded from a loss in the first game to win the series, 3-1. Masters distributed 50 assists. Dan Connolly (19 kills) and Brush (10 kills, 5 blocks) attacked the net. Connolly (9 digs) anchored the defense, but Gianacopolos wasn’t happy with his team’s efforts despite the convincing win.
“We were aggressive at the net, but I was looking for celebrations after the point,” he said. “I wanted us to be one, but today it looked more like six players on the court than one team. That’s what we have to learn. We have Farmington at home on Friday. If we can not settle for this match, but put our A-game into Farmington, I’d call this a success.”
Gianacopolos threw down the gauntlet, and the Knights rose to the challenge. On Friday, the Knights were facing Farmington for the second time. The Indians were bigger, but Southington won the battle at the net.
Connolly (9 kills, 7 digs) and Brush (6 kills, 3 blocks) dominated at the net, but the biggest surprise came from the back row.
David Shaughnessy finished with eight kills—many from the back row. Eight players combined for 35 digs, and four players combined for 10 blocks. If defense wins championships, then Southignton’s ready. The Knights cruised to a 3-0 win, 25-15, 25-14, and 26-24.
“They were bigger than us, but we played one of our better matches defensively,” said the coach. “We heard that last match when some of the Glastonbury alumni came up to me and asked, ‘When did Southington start playing defense?’ I was honored. We focus on that in practice. We always have in the past, but this year we have a good group of guys back there.”
It’s just another piece of the puzzle. At 11-1, the Knights are in second place in the Class L standings. Next week, they’ll have a chance to avenge their only loss of the season with a road series in Newington. Glastonbury will get another shot late in the season, and Gianacopolos knows that his team isn’t out of the woods yet.
“Right now, I think we have to expect a little bit more out of ourselves,” he said. “We have to take all of our knowledge and fine tune it to bring ourselves to the next level. We still have to prepare ourselves for the CCC tournament—if we make it—and that’s still not guaranteed. We still have to bring our A-game every time.”
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By John Goralski