By John Goralski
Lou Gianacopolos had seen enough, so he motioned for a timeout and gathered his young team. “Just go out and play,” the coach said with a forced smile. “Just play to win the point…and have fun.”
Just two days earlier, they fell to Newington for the second time this season. In game one against East Hartford, the Knights struggled to put them away, but the talk worked.
Southington surged through the final two games of the series. The Knights answered their 25-20 win in the first game with a 25-5 victory in game two. With a double-digit win in game three, Southington swept the series.
More importantly, the smiles were back on his team’s faces. Gianacopolos hopes that his team has flipped the switch.
“I want them to enjoy this,” said the former state champion coach. “At the end of the day, this season will end and we’re going to go on to live our lives. I want them to just enjoy it and play every point.”
There’s method to his madness. After all, volleyball is a game of momentum. It’s meant to be played loose, and it’s meant to be fun.
Coming off the second loss to Newington, Gianacopolos was worried that his team would put too much emphasis on the loss. In fact, Newington is not obstacle to a state title. The teams could meet again in the conference tournament, but the programs will compete in different classes for the postseason.
Still, Gianacopolos hopes his team learned the lesson from the two losses.
“Over the winter, I already picked Newington to win a state championship,” said the coach. “They are senior led, and teams with senior experience seem to be able to just will themselves into the right mindset to win. Our guys were waiting for the next point to see if they can win the match. It’s a different mindset.”
So Gianacopolos is looking for his team to get back to their roots. Fast play, celebrations after every point, those are the qualities that will push the Knights toward their potential.
“It’s another big game experience, and I hope that we learned something about ourselves,” he said. “Our captain Dan Connolly said it well after the game. He said that we are a great varsity team without a lot of experience.”
The week began with a 3-0 win over Maloney. Peter Masters (25 assists) and Adam Viviano (7 assists) paced the attack. Dan Connolly (9 kills) and Adam Brush (6 kills) led the scoring, while five different players combined for 14 blocks.
Southington swept Maloney, 25-15, 25-16, and 25-19.
The win was quickly overshadowed by a 3-0 loss to Newington on Wednesday. Brush had eight kills. Masters had 16 assists, and David Shaughnessy had eight digs. But Southington players combined for over 35 unforced errors.
Newington won, 25-15, 25-17, and 25-15.
“This game was a lot different than the first time we played them,” said the coach. “Last time, Newington made a lot of errors. They didn’t make any errors this time. We were the team that made the passing mistakes. We wouldn’t have been able to control the ball if we were able to throw it to our target.”
The Knights regrouped against East Hartford. Masters finished with 24 assists and eight digs. Connolly finished with eight kills, and Brush scored seven kills and five blocks.
Now, the Knights (13-2) will try to carry their new momentum through their final three contests. They’ll face Hand (4-12) and the Hartford co-op (0-15) this week with Glastonbury (11-4) in the season finale.
“We’re still trying to learn a little about ourselves now, so that we can look forward to what the postseason will bring,” said the coach. “It’s going to be interesting.”