By BRIAN JENNINGS
If you were to ask him how many sets a third meeting with East Hartford would go prior to Saturday’s match, Southington coach Lou Gianacopolos Sr. would probably tell you five, especially after the previous two meetings between both teams went five. The third meeting wasn’t even close to going five.
“Maybe the pressure wasn’t there in the CCC final when we still had tomorrow,” said Gianacopolos Sr. “There’s no tomorrow here, and maybe that was just too much pressure.”
Southington’s season came to an end after the fifth-seeded Blue Knight volleyball team was swept, 3-0 (25-21, 25-16, 25-19), at No. 4 East Hartford (17-1) in the quarterfinals of the Class L tournament.
“Their offense took control,” the coach said. “We controlled this match the entire way, but our offense was not alive today.”
JUNE 3—The Knights finished with just 18 kills and 22 hitting errors (-0.043 percent) against the high-powered Hornets, serving just two aces.
“You can’t win with that amount of offensive strategies,” said Gianacopolos Sr. “I told the boys not to serve to the libero, like we talked about. But it seemed like we weren’t fine-tuning our serves to spots. I think at some point, we were just thinking about not serving out of bounds and just getting it in there.”
The major point of conflict wasn’t necessarily that the Knights had trouble putting the ball away offensively. Some of the Southington players on the court were quiet throughout most of the match.
The Knights struggled with communication early in the season, but eventually overcame their mute style of play down the stretch with energy on the court. However, silence from specific players returned again on Saturday.
“I don’t know if having some young guys on the court made a difference,” the coach said. “But we had some guys that probably said three words the whole match. This is a sport where you need to feel connected with the other five guys on the court.”
Lou Gianacopolos Jr. dished out 13 assists and anchored the defense with 11 digs. Dan Hackerman paced the offense with four kills. Tim Walsh (6 digs, 3 kills) and Brian Durocher (5 digs, 3 kills) contributed as well.
East Hartford (17-1) will play top-seeded Cheshire (20-0) in the semifinals, as No. 2 Darien (22-1) awaits the winner with a spot in the final. Darien defeated No. 3 Ridgefield, 3-2 (23-25, 14-25, 25-23, 25-23, 15-13), in the semifinals.
Southington finished the season at 18-3 overall. The Knights are losing five seniors to graduation after this season, including Andrew Chavez, Durocher, Gianacopolos Jr., Hackerman, and Nate Simard.
“This year’s seniors dug that well so deep and really made it work,” said Gianacopolos. “I’m very proud of what my seniors contributed to the well and how our well is so much better this year than it was in the previous years.”
If the group returning can take the work ethic and passion during the regular season and offseason, as this senior class did, Gianacopolos Sr. said that they will be successful next season.
“These guys coming up know that they have responsibilities of what they have to give to the program, sport, and our family to better the well,” the coach said. “Whether they’re varsity or not, they will never be on a better team other than today because today is really the only moment you can guarantee and have.”
First round victory
MAY 31—The Knights advanced to the quarterfinals of the state tournament for the 12th-straight year by edging No. 12 Danbury by a point, 3-2 (25-18, 23-25, 25-14, 23-25, 15-4), at home in the first round on Wednesday.
The Hatters held a 23-15 lead in the fourth set when the Knights went on a 7-0 run to cut the deficit to a point. The Hatters managed to close out the set by winning the next two out of three points, but the Knights used the momentum from the fourth set to take the fifth with runs of 5-0 and 7-0.
Gianacopolos Jr. (10 digs, 7 kills) dished out 45 assists and went 19-for-23 serving with six aces. Walsh (10 digs, 2 blocks) paced the offense with 19 kills.
Chavez anchored the defense with 24 digs, and Hackerman (6 kills) and JJ Clark (3 kills) controlled the net with five blocks each, as Southington finished with 18 blocks total. Durocher contributed with 17 digs and 11 kills, going 27-for-28 behind the service line with four aces.
For this week’s box scores, click here: (southingtonobserver.com/2017/06/05/weekly-scoreboard-for-the-june-9-edition). To contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at BJennings@SouthingtonObserver.com.