BY BRIAN JENNINGS
In their toughest test of the year, the Lady Knight volleyball team suffered their only loss and first shutout of the season to one of the best teams in the state, RHAM, at home on Tuesday. They made up for that loss by dropping just one out of eight matches played for the remainder of the week.
After rallying back to win at Glastonbury on Friday, the Knights never took their foot off the gas and beat out some of the best girls volleyball talent in the Northeast to be crowned champions of the John Jay Invitational, which was held at John Jay High School in Cross River, N.Y. on Saturday, for the first time in the program’s history.
“It’s an invitational, so you’re invited because they feel you’re going to add a competitive element to the tournament,” Southington coach Rich Heitz. “I’m very proud of the kids, but I’m also very happy for them.”
The Knights will be back on the hardwood next week when they return home to host Newington (5-2) on Tuesday, Sept. 26 and Farmington (5-0) on Friday, Sept. 29. Farmington is currently tied for first in Class L and the CCC. Southington is currently 4-1, tied for first in the CCC West Colonial Division and tied for fifth in Class LL.
Loss vs. RHAM
SEPT. 19—The Knights began the week by dropping their first contest of the season after they were swept, 3-0 (25-9, 25-16, 25-9), by RHAM at home on Tuesday. The Sachems are currently tied for first in Class L and the CCC and have yet to drop a single set.
“They’re just a phenomenal team, certainly to watch, not to be on the other side of the net against,” said Heitz. “My hat’s off to them. They played with a lot of composure and were confident. They are the best team in the state, and I don’t think anyone can question that.”
Although Southington came away without a single set in the match, Heitz said that the experience was a great learning opportunity for his girls.
“We have 12 young ladies back there that are going to say good,” the coach said. “This is an opportunity to get better and set the bar for where we want to go as the season progresses. Not a lot of teams have the opportunity to play a team as great as this, but we’re happy to have the opportunity.”
Sarah Myrick and Haley Larrabee led the offense with four kills each. Julia Wells went 8-for-9 serving with four aces. Nolyn Allen anchored the defense with seven digs, and Stephanie Zera dished out 14 assists.
Win at Glastonbury
SEPT. 22—A few days later, the Knights bounced back from their loss to RHAM to earn their fourth win of the season with a 3-1 (24-26, 32-30, 25-21, 25-13) victory at Glastonbury on Friday.
After dropping the first set, the Knights fell behind, 24-19, in the second set, but managed to go on a 5-0 run to knot the score at 24-24 and seesaw back and forth with the Tomahawks until they eventually took the set at 32-30. It was only the second time in Heitz’s coaching career that he had experienced a 32-30 set.
“We came out sluggish for the first and second sets,” said Heitz. “Once we took the second set, we were in a mode where we were playing at a level we needed to be at. We carried that into sets three and four.”
Heitz said that his girls were able to complete the rally by playing more aggressively in the second set.
“We were playing a little too safe in the first two sets, the coach said. “Then we just started to play volleyball. We took them out of system, got some free balls on our side, and were able to run our offense.”
Team leaders from the match included the following: Brooke Cooney (9 kills), Wells (13-for-15 serving with five aces), Erica Bruno (3 blocks), Allen (25 digs), and Zera (35 assists).
John Jay Invite
SEPT. 23—The Knights rounded out the week by going on a 6-0 run to take the John Jay Invitational title for the first time in the program’s history after dropping their first match of the day on Saturday. About 15 teams played in the tournament.
The Knights fell short, 2-0 (25-20, 25-22), to Hendrick Hudson (NY) in their first match of the day.
“Once we got to pool play, the goal was to play Hendrick Hudson again,” said Heitz. “We felt that there were some things we needed to clean up, and that we could have done a little better against them.”
Following their loss to Hendrick Hudson, the Knights went on to defeat Mahopac (NY), 2-0 (25-23, 25-23), Darien, 2-0 (25-17, 25-13), Glastonbury, 2-0 (25-19, 25-18), Pelham Memorial (NY), 1-0 (25-21) in the quarterfinals, Hendrick Hudson, 1-0 (25-18), in the semifinals, and Ridgefield, 2-0 (25-17, 25-18), in the final.
“We played a better level of defense and more aggressively certainly,” the coach said. “Our middles were a lot more of a force towards the end of the day, where at the beginning of the day, they were not. Once that happened, it opened up things for our outside.”
Glastonbury, Darien, Farmington, and Newtown all failed to qualify for the gold bracket.
Team leaders for the tournament included the following: Larrabee (30 kills), Wells (27-for-33 serving with 14 aces), Hannah Zelina (7 blocks), Allen (74 digs), and Zera (96 assists).
Larrabee also went 48-for-52 serving with 10 aces and had seven kills against Hendrick Hudson in the semifinals. Larrabee and Zera were the only Knights to play every point for Southington on Saturday.
Jenna Martin was perfect behind the service line (22-for-22) with six aces, and Cooney went 30-for-32 with eight aces.
For this week’s box scores, click here: (southingtonobserver.com/2017/09/26/weekly-scoreboard-for-the-sept-29-edition). To contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at BJennings@SouthingtonObserver.com.