No shortcuts for Knights; Volleyball embraces late season challenge

By Jon Goralski
Sports Writer
Frontier Regional School was undefeated and ranked No. 3 in Massachusetts when the Lady Knight volleyball team swept two straight games at the end of the first session of pool play. In the second round, Southington split with Massachusetts’ top ranked team—Notre Dame Academy—which was ranked No. 31 in the country.
On Monday, Oct. 13, most Southington students were enjoying a break from school for Columbus Day. The Lady Knights were testing their mettle at the VolleyHall Classic in Springfield. The annual Volleyball Hall of Fame tournament welcomes some of the top teams in the region, and the Lady Knights held their own against top competition.
“We played some of our best volleyball of the year in the first set [against Notre Dame], and we hung with them in the second set,” said Lady Knight volleyball coach Rich Heitz. “Then, we split with Weston—a good team—and we hung with Merrimack, a team that has an outside hitter with a full ride to Quinnipiac. Merrimack went on to lose in the finals and ND Academy lost in the semifinals. In our afternoon pool, we had two of the four semifinalists, and we played well against both of them.”
The Lady Knights went 7-5 in a day that saw six different opponents with good pedigrees. Maryssa Romano finished with 27 kills, six aces and eight digs over 12 games. Morgan McCarthy had 74 assists. Caroline Barry had 17 kills. Sylwia Lewkowicz had 13 kills with three blocks, and Kateri Downes led the defense with 14 digs.
“I was happy with the way we played, and I think it was great for the girls to spend the whole day together,” said Heitz. “We have to build on this, and we’ll see good things.”
That’s why Heitz was so frustrated following a 3-2 loss to Simsbury on Wednesday that may have cost the Knights a berth in the conference tournament.
Southington fell behind, 2-0, before rallying for a pair of lopsided wins to force game five. Southington led, 11-8, in the final contest but lost, 15-12.
Romano paced the offense with 17 kills and 15 digs. Lewkowicz added 11 kills and four blocks, and Barry added 10 kills. Downes (13 digs), Nicole Groll (14 digs), and McCarthy (41 assists) contributed.
“It was a tough loss—as tough as they come. We played really well in sets three and four, but I didn’t expect us to be so flat in the beginning,” said Heitz. “You’re fighting to get back to set five, and set five is like a flip of a coin. It can go either way, and it didn’t go our way.”
Southington rebounded on Friday with a 3-0 sweep against CCC North leader Glastonbury. The Knights allowed just 43 points in three games as they won in straight sets, 25-9, 25-23, and 25-11.
Romano paced the way with 11 kills. Downes (12 digs) and Emily Mankus (11 digs) anchored the defense, and McCarthy distributed 30 assists.
Now, Heitz is looking to carry that momentum into the final week of the season with games against Newington, New Britain, and Norwich Free Academy.
“It was a fun week. Granted, the losses hurt, but we played a lot of competitive volleyball,” he said. “Now, I want to improve our state tournament seedings. That loss to Simsbury could cost us a home game, but we’ll play it out and see what happens.”

By John Goralski Sylwia Lewkowicz blocks a Glastonbury hitter during a 3-0 sweep on Friday, Oct. 17.

By John Goralski
Sylwia Lewkowicz blocks a Glastonbury hitter during a 3-0 sweep on Friday, Oct. 17.

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