By John Goralski
At the start of the season, two weeks were circled on the schedule. Coach Rich Heitz made no bones about it. If the Knights were going to improve on last year’s season, they would have to survive this torrid stretch.
A loss to Farmington began it. A five-point fall at Bristol Eastern looked grim, but Southington rebounded with three straight wins last week to finish the stretch, 4-2. It’s a good sign as the Lady Knights approach mid-season.
“I think we took care of business for the most part even though there were times that we could have competed a little bit better at times,” said Heitz, “but this is a growing process.”
Southington held off undefeated Simsbury to kick off the week. They were able to bounce back from a slow start on Wednesday to push past Maloney on the road. On Friday, the Knights dominated from start to finish against Newington.
Now, the Knights (7-2) are just one victory from clinching a postseason berth. More importantly, they’re starting to build momentum.
“We would definitely like to have another shot at Bristol Eastern, but that was a good learning lesson, too,” said Heitz. “I think that, in the last week, we’ve seen some things sort of fall into place. We know where we want to be, and we have to continue building on this.”
The Simsbury match was tougher than the 3-1 score might indicate. Simsbury held off the Knights in the first game, 19-25, and the Trojans didn’t miss a serve all night. Despite the disadvantage, Southington battled back for three straight wins to clinch the series, 25-13, 25-16, and 25-22.
“When a team doesn’t miss a serve all night, there are no extra points out there,” said Heitz. “We earned every point tonight, and that’s a dynamic that you definitely don’t have to deal with too often.”
Maryssa Romano led the comeback with 13 kills and eight digs. Caroline Barry added nine kills with four aces. Morgan McCarthy (29 assists), Kelsea Allen (2 aces), and Sam Lohneiss (3 aces, 6 assists) contributed as Southington knocked Simsbury (6-1) from the ranks of the unbeaten.
“I think that Bristol Eastern match was an eye-opener for us in that we realized that we have to play tough and make our own breaks,” said the coach. “Especially defensively, we cleaned a lot of things up.”
That carried over to Maloney on Wednesday as Southington rebounded from another loss in game one to put away game two with a 22-3 rally.
Nicole Groll anchored the defense with 11 digs. Romano (13 kills) and Michelle Stublarec (7 kills) paced the offense, and McCarthy distributed 31 assists.
Maloney took the first game, 25-17, but the Knights responded with a 25-14 win in game two and a 25-20 win in game three. Trailing 21-20, the Knights rallied for five unanswered points to put the match out of reach, including three late kills by Stublarec.
“We dropped the first set against Simsbury and Maloney. That game one thing has been a quadnry, but we talked a little about it,” said Heitz. “We have to get over that hurdle, and we came out strong against Newington.”
On Saturday, the girls scored their first 3-0 sweep since the first week of the season. Barry paced the attack with 14 kills. Romano and Stublarec added seven kills apiece.
Groll pitched eight aces. Kateri Downes added four more, and Southington raced past Newington, 25-13, 25-14, and 25-22.
The girls will try to continue the momentum this week with conference games against New Britain (2-6) and Conard (2-6).
By John Goralski