By BRIAN JENNINGS
The Lady Knights volleyball team returned to the semifinals of the Class LL state tournament for the first time since 2012, but came up short to the No.10-seed Greenwich (17-5), 3-0 (25-22, 25-16, 25-18), at Trumbull High School on Thursday night, Nov. 19.
Southington kept it close in the first set, tossing points back and forth with Greenwich to an 18-18 tie. But the Cardinals would pull away with a 7-4 run to take the set.
After a 1-1 tie to start the second set, Greenwich would take the lead and wouldn’t look back, building their biggest lead of eight before eventually taking the set.
The third set saw three lead changes, but after a 15-15 tie midway through the set, the Cardinals went on a 10-3 run to take the match.
Emily Mankus (2 blocks) attacked the net with six kills on 18 attempts. Morgan Raymond (5 digs) contributed with five kills. Sylwia Lewkowicz (4 blocks) contributed with three kills.
Stephanie Zera (4 blocks) went 15-for-15 behind the line with two aces and balanced the offense with 19 assists. Zera was also a force on defense with 16 digs. Nicole Groll contributed with 15 digs. Kelsea Allen (4 kills, 3 digs) stood tall up front with five blocks.
“I don’t think we played with the intensity we needed to beat a team like that,” said Southington coach Rich Heitz. “We struggled in some key moments. We had a couple errors late in set one that set the tone for the rest of the match. Unfortunately, we were just a little bit slower. A lot of unforced errors made the difference.”
No.9-seed Fairfield Ludlowe (19-4) eventually defeated Greenwich, 3-0 (26-24, 25-23, 25-16), in the championship match at Berlin High School on Saturday night, Nov. 21.
Heitz said that looking past the semifinal match, his girls can take a lot of positives out of a successful season.
“It’s a great bunch of girls,” said Heitz. “We had a good season. These seniors, a lot of them three-year varsity players, have improved a little bit each year. They have a lot to hold their head high on. This has probably been one of the best senior classes that I’ve had here. They’re not just nice volleyball players. They’re nice people too. That’s what makes nights like tonight tough because it’s over. Had we won, I would have only seen them in the gym one or two more days. I knew it was coming to an end at some point. That’s the hardest thing. I really like this group of kids.”
The loss marked the end of Southington’s fall campaign. The Knights finished with a 19-4 record.
To comment on this story or to contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at BJennings@SouthingtonObserver.com.
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