By BRIAN JENNINGS
The girls volleyball team (8-1) did something against Farmington (7-2) at home on Wednesday night, Sept. 30 that none of Farmington’s opponents were able to do against them in their first seven matches. Coming into the match, the Indians hadn’t surrendered a single game against their first seven opponents, but Southington rattled off two straight wins on their way to a 3-1 victory.
“We passed serve-receive better than we have been, and that was helpful,” said Southington coach Rich Heitz. “We had some issues in the beginning, establishing the middles. They blocked us a number of times, and we had to adjust a little bit. They have some great servicing passers, and we tried serving it to their third best. I think we did that effectively tonight.”
After taking the first two games, the Knights dropped the third, adding the possibility for a long night. However, Heitz talked to his girls before the fourth set.
“I said that we have to come out and play our game,” said Heitz. “We have to play aggressively. This is our gym. Let’s come out here and play as hard as we can. Don’t let up. It’s like a chess match. They’re trying different things. Sometimes they get away with it and sometimes they don’t.”
The Knights were able to hold on though, taking the fourth game and defeating Farmington, 3-1 (25-23, 25-21, 20-25, 25-19), handing them their first loss of the season.
“We grabbed momentum when we needed it,” said Heitz. “The first few sets were choppy with respect to the momentum, and I think we grabbed it. We were down five points, and we grabbed it, came back, and won that. It’s a game of momentum and when you grab it, you want to protect that for all it’s worth.”
Emily Mankus was 28-of-29 serving with 13 digs, 12 serves received, and three aces. Morgan Raymond was 8-of-10 serving with 16 serves received, 15 digs, 11 kills, and two assisted blocks. Stephanie Zera was 11-of-13 serving with 39 assists, 14 digs, and two aces.
Nicole Groll was 10-of-10 serving with 30 serves received and 14 digs. Kelsea Allen was 21-of-24 serving with five aces. Sam Lohneiss was 19-of-20 serving with eight digs. Sylwia Lewkowicz led the offense by attacking the net with 23 kills on 46 attempts and had four solo blocks on defense.
“I don’t think Steph could have gone for a fifth set,” said Heitz. “She’s pretty beat. She’s been running around all night. I thought Emily Mankus was a key tonight with her serving and some of her passing. When the game got on the line, Emily served very well serving, hitting her spots. That really kind of held a lot of it together. Nicole did a great job as well. Lindsey had a couple, really big kills for us.”
Heitz went on to say that he thought his girls learned a lot from the Glastonbury loss, which helped in the win.
“That stung for a while,” said Heitz. “That stung the coaches and the players for a while. I think there’s a good learning lesson, and this was a good opportunity for us tonight.”
A couple nights earlier on Monday, the Knights defeated NW Catholic (5-5), 3-1 (25-12, 25-21, 15-25, 25-11), on the road.
Lewkowicz led the offense with 15 kills on 28 attempts and also had six blocks (three solo, three assisted) on defense. Allen was 21-of-23 serving with nine kills, five aces, and four blocks (three solo, one assisted). Groll was 10-of-10 serving with 18 serves received and 16 digs. Raymond was 14-of-14 serving with 20 serves received and eight digs. Zera was 9-of-10 serving with 21 assists. Lohneiss was 18-of-19 serving with 18 assists and three aces.
The Knights topped off the week with a 3-0 (25-12, 25-18, 25-17) win at home against Tolland (3-7).
Lohneiss was 19-of-21 serving with nine assists and four aces. Raymond was 9-of-9 serving with 11 serves received and nine digs. Zera was 11-of-12 serving with 19 assists and three aces. Groll was 12-of-12 serving with 12 serves received and seven digs. Mankus was 10-of-10 serving with 13 digs. Allen was 10-of-15 serving with four kills. Lewkowicz attacked the net with 13 kills on 19 attempts and had five blocks on defense (one solo, four assisted). Michelle Stublarec had eight kills on 19 attempts.
The win over Tolland qualified the Knights for the Class LL state tournament.
The Knights currently sit in second place in the Blue Division of the Central Region behind Glastonbury (7-1) and will fight for better seeding in the tournament when they travel to Glastonbury on Wednesday, Oct. 7. Glastonbury won the first meeting last month, 3-0. Glastonbury’s only loss came from Bristol Eastern (8-0) in a 3-2 defeat.