By BRIAN JENNINGS
Despite a first round loss in the Central Connecticut Conference (CCC) boys volleyball tournament, Coach Lou Gianacopolos expects that his Blue Knights (12-7) are prepared for the Class L state tournament. The sixth-seeded Knights lost to No. 3 East Hartford (17-3) in the first round of the conference tournament, but the coach is already looking ahead to the state competition.
“I’m very proud of my team,” the Knights coach said. “They’ve made such good growth this season. I think we’re really ready to go into the playoffs.”
The Knights took the first game of the conference tournament series, 25-16, but would go on to drop the next three, 25-22, 25-19, 27-25.
Horanzy led the Knights on the attack with 15 kills and served up three aces. Viviano set up 39 assists and dug six balls on defense. Del Buono dug eight balls and Horanzy dug seven. Jack Dietz had two solo blocks.
“The momentum was amazing,” said Gianacopolos. “We were playing so well in the first game and momentum was going with us. We were up and excited. Then game two came in and we went in with that same momentum, playing well and executing still, but it seemed like something change. We always talk about finding ‘it,’ whatever ‘it’ is, but we lost a piece of ‘it.’ Toward the end of game three, we started coming back and the momentum started to change. If the momentum had changed three points sooner, I think we could have taken game four to push it to game five.”
The Knights head into the first round of the state tournament as the No.10-seed and have a match at No.7-seed Staples (14-4) this week. The Knights played Staples during the regular season in a 3-1 loss. Ridgefield (19-0) and Darien (18-2) have first-round byes as the No.1 and 2-seeds. Shelton (16-2) comes in as the No.3-seed.
“When teams come to play us, they bring their A-game. We never get anyone’s second-best effort,” said Gianacopolos. “I know that when we play Staples, we’re going to have our A-team. We are now the underdog, which makes someone play better. It makes all of us play better.”
Regular season finale
Before heading into the conference tournament, the Knights finished off their regular season on a high note with a 3-0 home win over Lewis Mills (9-11) on senior night, Thursday, May 28.
Adam Brush stormed the net with 10 kills. Mark Horanzy was right behind with nine kills. Adam Viviano set up 32 assists. Dan Normandin served three aces on 10 attempts and blocked four balls up front (three assisted and one solo).
Curtis Topper had a kill in the third game toward the end of the match that was a moment he won’t forget in his high school volleyball career.
“I saw Curtis Topper play well in the off-season, and he normally is a defender for us, but we had him hit outside today,” said Southington coach Lou Gianacopolos. “He had one great kill where he actually turned around and said, ‘Wow, I’m happy with that one.’ The whole place went crazy because they knew that he was a defender, but he was playing in an offensive role. You knew that it was the swing that he’ll remember forever.”
Although he was thought to be lost for the rest of the season due to an injury, Tom DelBuono returned to the starting lineup, and he was a major factor on the defensive side with 11 digs.
“I would say that today’s win was a different success than the first win at Lewis Mills,” the coach said. “The scores were good and we were doing well. Today, we were an amazing team. We didn’t have any individual and we played all of our seniors. I was very proud the way the boys worked together. They appreciated the small stuff today. Today is the first day of the rest of our season.”
To comment on this story or to contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at BJennings@SouthingtonObserver.com.