By BRIAN JENNINGS
The Blue Knights (4-1) were undefeated walking into Friday’s match, set to square off with arguably one of the top teams in the state: East Hartford (5-0).
But the mishaps of surrendering a 24-21 lead in the second game pestered Southington throughout the rest of the match. And the high-flying, athletic ability of the Hornets in front of the net swarmed the Knights, handing them their first loss on the year, 3-1.
However, Southington coach Lou Gianacopolos reflected on the defeat after the match and stated that his team would see East Hartford again down the road before all was said and done.
“Tonight, we were just not able to execute,” said Gianacopolos. “And don’t get me wrong, East Hartford’s a very good team. We knew coming into this match that East Hartford’s the best team in the state, and rightfully so.”
Wrecking the Wreckers
The Knights began the week at home against Staples (4-2) on Monday, April 11. And after defeating the Wreckers in the first round of last year’s Class L state tournament, Southington picked right up from where they left off. Southington bounced back from a loss in the opening set to win, 3-1.
The Wreckers took the first game, 25-22, but the Knights rallied back to close out the match by taking the next three games, 25-15, 25-16, 25-23.
Jack Dietz anchored the team up front with 16 kills on 25 attacks (.56 hitting percentage) and four blocks (3 solo). Brian Durocher backed Dietz with seven kills, eight digs, and 20 serves received.
Mike Aberizk went 17-for-21 serving with five aces, six kills, and three digs. Louis Gianacopolos Jr. went 20-for-24 from the line with three aces, 20 assists, three kills, and two blocks. Tim Cocozza went 14-for-15 serving with two aces, six digs, and 28 serves received.
Devin Prive contributed with four kills and four blocks. Jordan Meier dished out 16 assists and recorded two blocks.
Raiding the Raiders
A couple days later on Wednesday, Southington picked up their fourth straight victory in a 3-0 shutout, 25-20, 25-10, 25-20, at home over Enfield (2-2).
Aberizk paced the Knights offensively with six kills on 11 attacks. Dietz recorded four kills and two blocks. Meier contributed with eight assists and four digs. Prive posted four kills as well.
Gianacopolos Jr. went 17-for-20 serving with three aces, 11 assists, three kills, and two blocks. Tim Cocozza went 12-for-13 from the line with two aces, six digs, and 22 serves received. Durocher went 8-for-10 serving with four kills, three digs, and seven serves received.
Stung by Hornets
All of the anticipation came to a head at the end of the week in a long-awaited match that featured two of the top teams in the state. East Hartford knocked Southington out in the first round of last year’s CCC tournament, eventually winning the conference title. But the Knights were looking to avenge their loss in a home matchup on Friday though.
East Hartford came out on top by the end of the first game, 25-22, but it was Southington that dominated most of the second game. The Knights built a lead of 24-21 with the help of a 5-0 run midway through the game. However, the Hornets capitalized off of unforced errors committed by the Knights and produced a 5-0 of their own, snatching the game from Southington, 26-24. Southington coach Lou Gianacopolos called for two quick timeouts in between East Hartford’s run.
“We weren’t able to side out the ball,” the coach said. “We do get stuck in certain rotations at some point, where we do have to work hard on getting that side-out ball. Sometimes, we’re forcing the ball. When our setters go in a pattern of going with what’s hot and keep setting it, the other teams are going to keep on finding it.”
The Knights battled and fought through 10 tie scores to take the third game, 27-25. But East Hartford continued to capitalize off of Southington’s unforced errors and sustain their potent offense, taking the fourth game after going on 6-0 and 4-0 runs, 25-15. One of the Southington players committed six net violations in one game.
“Three of those games could have gone either way,” Gianacopolos said. “If you work on that in practice and eliminate it the next time we play, I can get you five or six points out of either one of these games, if not every single one of them next time we play these guys. This is the best scouting report I can have.”
Durocher and Aberizk led the Knights offensively with 10 kills apiece. Aberizk went 15-for-16 serving with 11 digs and 19 serves received. Durocher went 18-for-20 serving with 17 digs and 20 serves received.
Cocozza went 10-for-11 from the line with 14 digs and 25 serves received. Meier went 11-for-14 from the line with 22 assists. Gianacopolos Jr. contributed eight kills, 18 assists, and 15 serves received. Prive posted six kills and five solo blocks, and Dietz finished with five kills and six blocks (5 solo).
Gianacopolos said his team may have two more chances to face East Hartford before the season’s over: once in the CCC tournament, and once in the state tournament.
“I’m pretty confident that I can teach these guys what they need to know,” the coach said. “And I’m pretty confident that I have the guys, who want to learn the things to get better.”