Volleyball preview: Boys are poised to attack

By BRIAN JENNINGS

STAFF WRITER

Two points. Two points. Two points. Just as it has been for the past couple years, Southington coach Lou Gianacopolos said that the team’s goal for the 2017 campaign remains the same; to find those two points.

The Blue Knight volleyball team fell short to Darien in the quarterfinals of the 2015 Class L tournament, and against by two points to Ridgefield in the in the quarterfinals of last year’s state tournament.

“Maybe it’s four points,” said Gianacopolos. “We are competitive, but maybe it’s mental toughness or how we’re going to prepare.”

The Knights finished last year’s regular season at 15-3 overall (9-1 home, 6-2 away) and won the CCC South title with a regional record of 7-1.

During the regular season, Southington coach Lou Gianacopolos stated that his team would see the state powerhouse of East Hartford two times again before the season had ended after his Knights fell to the Hornets, 3-1, at home in the fifth match of the season. One of those predictions came true.

With wins over Farmington and Conard in the quarterfinals and semifinals of the CCC tournament, the third-seeded Knights saw the top-seeded Hornets again, but were swept this time around, 3-0.

Southington entered the Class L tournament as the fourth seed and advanced to the quarterfinals for the 11th-straight year with a 3-1 home victory over No. 13 Fairfield Warde-Fairfield Ludlowe in the first round. Southington’s postseason run came to an end in the quarterfinals after the Knights fell, 3-2 (25-16, 25-15, 15-25, 22-25, 15-13), to No. 5 Ridgefield at home. Southington fell one match short of meeting up with East Hartford for a third time.

After finishing the regular season undefeated and taking the conference title, the Hornets entered the state tournament as the top seed. However, their perfect streak was spoiled by No. 5 Ridgefield, who eventually went on to claim their third-straight and fourth overall CIAC Class L title with a 3-2 win over No. 2 Darien.

Two points may have pestered the Knights in the past two state tournaments, but having confidence in individual abilities is what Gianacopolos believes will get the team over those couple points in close matches this season.

“Yes, they can all make each other better,” said Gianacopolos. “But at one point or another, you have to have that individual confidence to be successful.”

Looking at the team from a philosophical point-of-view, Gianacopolos said that the respect each of his players have for their own leadership will serve as a vital strength for the upcoming season.

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“You might think about serving, hitting, or attacking, but they all respect each other,” said Gianacopolos. “They’re all willing to play for one another. Rather than being that player that’s going to win the game for you, they want to make someone else better.”

Besides leadership, the service department and attacking will also serve the Knights well on the hardwood this spring.

“We will have to work hard for blocking because there’s going to be some big guys in this league,” said Gianacopolos. “This senior class throughout the entire state was a very good class.”

The Knights lost five athletes to graduation after last season. All were key contributors to the team: Michael Aberizk (OH), Timothy Cocozza (L), Jack Dietz (MB), Jordan Meier (S), and Devin Prive (MB). Aberizk, Dietz, Meier, and Prive were each selected for all-conference honors. Aberizk was also all-state.

Aberizk led the team in kills (225) and serving aces (44). Prive led the team in blocks (86), Meier in assists (642), and Cocozza in serve receptions (475).

Louis has been chosen, along with other seniors Brian Durocher (OH) and Daniel Hackerman (MB), as the team captains to lead the Knights this season. Louis is the only returning all-conference selection from last year’s team.

“Each of them have their own strengths,” said Gianacopolos. “Each of them are captains for their own reasons, and all of them have earned it.”

As a defensive force for the Knights on the court last season, Durocher led the team in digs (225). But he was also an offensive presence as well, finishing with 152 kills and 27 serving aces in 85 sets played.

Louis anchored the team defensively as well, garnering 181 digs and 35 blocks. On the offensive end, he finished with 129 kills, 40 serving aces, and 131 assists.

Andrew Chavez (DS/OH) and Nathan Simard (L) will compliment the three captains as the only other seniors returning to the team.

Returning juniors include Connor Brush (RH), Jonathan Clark (MB), Adam Faust (S), Daniel Hunter (OH), Spencer Perry (RH), Tyler Peruta (MB), William Pfanzelt (S/RH), Niko Sophroniou (L), and Jonathan Pierson (OH).

Timothy Walsh (OH) is the lone sophomore returning to the varsity roster. New additions to the team include sophomores Zachary Morgan (L/OH) and Rocco Possidento (MB).

Southington added Bloomfield, Amity, Wethersfield, Shelton, and Lewis Mills to this year’s schedule. Gianacopolos is entering his 15th year as head coach of the program and currently holds an overall coaching record of 214-72.

For weekly box scores and daily results, visit us throughout the week at www.SouthingtonObserver.com. Search “scoreboard.”

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