By BRIAN JENNINGS
The Lady Knight volleyball team captured the bronze title at last year’s Spalding VolleyHall Classic tournament, and Southington advanced to the gold bracket semifinals at this year’s event.
Southington blew Simsbury out of their gym with a 3-0 victory the next day, and then Class L powerhouse Avon came to town. But the Knights finished the week with a crushing 3-0 defeat to the Falcons at home.
The loss not only ended the team’s seven-match winning streak, but it left Southington coach Rich Heitz with a big question mark about the future of his squad.
“This wasn’t Southington girls volleyball, and I haven’t seen this in practice either,” the coach said. “I don’t know what it was. I think it got to be a certain point when the other team started playing close to us, and we just started doubting ourselves. We can’t do that at this level.”
The Knights will be back on the hardwood this week with contests against Rocky Hill (6-9), nonconference NFA (5-8), and divisional Conard (9-5). Southington is currently 10-2.
OCT. 9—While most high school sports teams were off from school and competition on Columbus Day, the Knights weren’t. They began the week with a trip to American International College for the VolleyHall Classic on Monday. This year’s tournament featured 24 of the top girls high school teams from throughout the Northeast, including state champions from Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Maine, New York, and Washington D.C.
Southington went 6-0 in pool play and 4-2 in the playoffs, piling up 2-0 wins against Frontier Regional (MA), 25-13, 25-13; Scarborough (ME), 25-19, 25-21; Central Catholic (MA), 25-13, 25-23; Coventry, 26-24, 25-23, and Medway (MA), 25-20, 25-16. The Knights suffered their first loss, 2-0 (25-22, 25-15), to St. John’s (MA), but managed a 1-0 victory (25-21) over Hopkinton (MA) in the quarterfinals before they ended their day with a 1-0 loss (25-9) to eventual tournament runner-up, Hollis-Brookline (NH), in the semifinals of the gold bracket. Southington was the only Connecticut team to make the gold bracket.
“We played strong defense throughout the day and were able to stay in system pretty much, which helped our offense,” said Heitz. “Later in the day, we were playing teams that were bigger than us. Hopkinton was a lot bigger than us, and we were able to beat them, but Hollis-Brookline was a little overwhelming for us.”
Team leaders for the day included the following: Brooke Cooney (26 kills), Jenna Martin (53-for-56 serving with 20 aces), Hannah Zelina (7 blocks), Nolyn Allen (49 digs), and Stephanie Zera (99 assists). Martin paced the Knights with 10 aces in their match against Medway, going 17-for-17 behind the service line. Hailey Larrabee posted 12 digs against Scarborough.
“The goal was to try to be a little stronger of a team by the end of the day than we were when we got there,” the coach said. “I think we accomplished that. We saw levels of volleyball that we don’t see during the regular season, outside of RHAM, and I think it’s going to help us prepare for the postseason.”
Barnstable (MA) was crowned tournament champions by beating out Hollis-Brookline. Central Catholic won the silver bracket, and Joseph Case (MA) won the bronze bracket.
Win at Simsbury
OCT. 10—Back at it were the Knights the next day, as they earned their seventh-straight win and seventh shutout of the season with a 3-0 sweep (25-19, 25-9, 25-20) of Simsbury on the road.
Team leaders from the match included the following: Sarah Myrick (8 kills), Zelina (4 blocks), Allen (16 digs), and Zera (28 assists). Zelina also went 14-for-14 serving with three aces. Cooney went 11-for-12 behind the service line with three aces.
Loss vs. Avon
OCT. 13—In a match where both the division and home-court advantage in the Class LL tournament were on the line, Southington’s seven-match winning streak was snapped on Friday after the Knights were swept, 3-0 (25-18, 25-18, 25-13), by Avon at home for their second loss of the season. The Knights suffered shutouts in both of their losses on the season. The Falcons are currently second to the top team in the state, RHAM, in the CCC and tied for fifth in Class L.
The Knights surrendered 6-3 and 12-9 leads in the first set and slowly unraveled as the match progressed. Heitz contributed the loss to a lack of mental focus.
“Once we gave those leads up, it seemed like we started second-guessing ourselves,” said Heitz. “Once they saw that they had us, they just started playing looser and more comfortable, making some great plays.”
Allen anchored the defense with 13 digs and went 9-for-10 serving with a pair of aces. Other team leaders included Zelina (9 kills), Myrick (2 blocks), and Zera (22 assists).
“Avon’s very good, but I think Glastonbury and Farmington are stronger,” the coach said. “I think we beat stronger teams in these tournaments we played in, but I just don’t know what happened tonight.”
For this week’s box scores, click here: (southingtonobserver.com/2017/10/17/weekly-scoreboard-for-the-oct-20-edition). To contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at BJennings@SouthingtonObserver.com.