By BRIAN JENNINGS
The Lady Knight volleyball team competed in their second out-of-state tournament of the season and qualified for the Class LL tournament with a pair of victories over top opponents this past week. This marks the 14th consecutive season that the Knights have clinched a postseason berth.
“It’s obviously a goal in the beginning of the season,” said Southington coach Rich Heitz. “We want the opportunity to play in the postseason, and I think it’s a testament to how hard our kids have worked over the years to have every class experience playing in the state tournament since that year.”
OCT. 10—Southington began the week in Springfield, Mass. for the VolleyHall Classic at the International Volleyball Hall of Fame. The Knights went 3-1 in pool play with victories over East Lyme, 2-0, Westfield (MA), 2-0, and Frontier Regional (MA), 2-0. Their only blemish was an opening-round defeat to Barnstable (MA), 2-0.
The Knights drew a tie with Greely (ME), 1-1, in the quarterfinals of the playoff bracket, before eventually falling to Minnechaug Regional (MA), 1-0, in the semifinals of the Bronze Bracket. The Knights missed the silver and gold brackets by a point. Southington won the bronze bracket last year.
“We did some things better than last year, but just didn’t win the Bronze Division,” said Heitz. “I actually think the teams were stronger in the Bronze Division this year than last year. It’s helped prepare us for some strong regular season opponents that we’ve had to play against.”
Win vs. Bristol Eastern
OCT. 13—The Knights returned home to their regular season schedule a few days later and earned a berth for the state tournament with a 3-0 shutout (25-23, 25-21, 25-14) over Bristol Eastern.
“Games like that become a little bit almost like a chess match,” said Heitz. “You have to try to contemplate what the other team is going to do and react to it before.”
Southington advanced to the semifinals of last year’s state tournament for the first time since 2012 as a No. 3 seed and eventually fell, 3-0, to No. 10 Greenwich.
Erica Bruno (2 digs) powered the offense with 11 kills and attacked the net with five blocks. Morgan Raymond (12 digs, 7 kills) went 15-for-16 serving with a pair of aces. Raymond also finished with three blocks. Hannah Zelina (4 kills, 4 blocks) went 12-for-13 serving with two aces as well. Nolyn Allen anchored the defense with 16 digs. Stephanie Zera (3 digs) dished out 35 assists. Megan Mahon finished with nine kills and six digs, and Kelly Kritz contributed with seven kills and seven digs.
“I think we hit our spots serving very well,” the coach said. “Their libero is a good passer, and we knew two of their three receivers in every single location were good passers. We were trying to serve to the third one, which might not have been as strong as the other two. We did an effective job in that, taking them out of their system.”
Zera achieved her 1,000th assist in the match as a setter for the Knights. Dani Kaminsky was the last Lady Knight setter to achieve 1,000 assists.
Ironically in the same week, Kaminsky, who was a three-year starter as a setter for Southington’s 2011 state championship runner-up team, attained her 3,000th assist as the setter of the Western Connecticut Colonials.
“Here are two of the best setters that we’ve had in the time I’ve been here,” said Heitz. “For both of them to accomplish a significant career milestone in the same week was pretty neat and special.”
Win at Avon
OCT. 14—Southington got a preview of the CCC tournament when they hit the road on Friday and achieved their fourth-straight win with a 3-1 victory (25-18, 25-19, 19-25, 29-27) at Avon, handing the Falcons their first home loss of the season. The final rounds of the conference tournament was held at Glastonbury last year, but will be held at Avon this year.
“It’s a nice gym, but a tough gym to play in,” said Heitz. “The sound reverberated pretty well in there. It didn’t seem like a packed crowd, but it sounded packed.”
Bruno (3 blocks) paced the offense with 12 kills. Raymond (17 digs, 6 kills) went 16-for-18 serving with five aces. Allen went 9-for-13 behind the service line with four aces and anchored the defense with 20 digs. Kritz (9 kills, 12 digs) went 15-for-17 serving with three aces. Kritz also finished with a pair of blocks. Erica Daigle (2 digs) was perfect from behind the service line, going 18-for-18 with three aces. Zelina (9 kills, 2 digs) stood tall in front with four blocks. Zera (8 digs) set up the outside hitters with 34 assists. Mahon contributed with six digs, five kills, and two blocks.
Southington is currently 9-3 overall and 4-2 in the CCC Central Blue. The Knights have five matches left to improve their tournament seeding. They’ll face Glastonbury (10-3), Maloney (7-8), and Windsor (4-9) this week.