By BRIAN JENNINGS
Southington coach Rich Heitz stated that he wouldn’t have wanted to face any other team than RHAM following the loss to the Sachems in the conference tournament title match. That might have been just what the Lady Knight volleyball team needed in preparation for the Class LL tournament.
Because Southington is on a roll.
“It definitely prepared us for when we get blocked,” said Heitz. “We worked a lot on that the last couple of practices.”
After receiving a bye in the first round, Southington advanced to the semifinals for the first time since 2015 and dropped but one set along the way in both state tournament matches combined. In short, the Knights are rolling, and Heitz said that the girls are beginning to break out into a postseason groove.
“They’re generally mentally tough,” the coach said. “You’re not seeing a lot of mental miscues.”
The Knights will be back on the hardwood this week when they play No. 6 Greenwich (19-4) in the semifinals at Bunnell High School in Stratford on Wednesday, Nov. 15. Match time is 6 p.m. Southington is currently 18-2.
The Cardinals advanced to the semifinals by pulling an upset at No. 3 Ridgefield, 3-0, in the quarterfinals. Southington fell, 3-0, to Greenwich in the 2015 quarterfinals.
With a win against the Cardinals, the Knights would return to the Class LL final for the first time since 2011.
“I told them that it’s a tough road, and it’s going to get tougher with each match,” said Heitz. “But you have to play who’s on the schedule, do your homework, and take it one round at a time.”
The other semifinal matchup will feature top-seeded Cheshire (20-0) against No. 5 Amity (17-3) at Naugatuck High School, scheduled for Wednesday at 6 p.m. as well. Cheshire defeated No. 8 Glastonbury, 3-0, and Amity defeated No. 20 Conard, 3-0, in the quarterfinals.
NOV. 9—The second-seeded Knights began their state tournament run with a 3-0 (25-17, 25-16, 25-15) sweep of No. 15 Staples at home in the second round on Thursday, advancing to the quarterfinals for the fourth-straight year. The victory was also their 16th shutout of the season.
The Knights commanded the opening sets with runs of 5-0 in the first set and 10-0 in the second set, but the Wreckers wouldn’t go away easily and made the match interesting in the third set. With the score knotted at 20-20, the Wreckers went on a 4-1 run to take a 24-21 advantage and possibly keep the match going. However, the Knights secured the third set and the win on the heels of a 4-0 run that featured points from Brooke Cooney, Sarah Myrick, and a spike error committed by the Wreckers.
Stephanie Zera helped anchor the defense with nine digs and dished out 43 assists, going 17-for-19 serving with three aces. Other team leaders from the match included the following: Brooke Cooney (14 kills), Erica Bruno (3 blocks), and Nolyn Allen (9 digs).
Hannah Zelina did not play in the match, due to illness. Sophomore Katie Gundersen stepped into Zelina’s spot as a middle blocker.
NOV. 11—The Knights advanced to the semifinals for the first time since 2015 by earning their second-straight win with a 3-1 (25-21, 25-18, 23-25, 25-17) victory over No. 10 Trumbull at home on Saturday.
The Knights took the first two sets with late 5-0 runs. The Eagles took the last three points of the third set to avoid a shutout.
“In the second set, we were serving a lot more aggressively to take them out of system,” said Heitz. “We had to take them out of system because they did a nice job out there. We had to amp up our serving a little, but by doing that, we missed a few more.”
Southington held a one-point lead, 23-22, in the third set until the Eagles knotted the score on a dig error and took the next two points to clinch the set on a spike error and a ball that went untouched on miscommunication after a defensive dig. However, the Knights stormed back with runs of 4-0 and 5-0 midway through the fourth set and secured the win on a ball handling error following a late 4-0 run by the Eagles.
“I think Cassidy Herrick coming in there really changed the momentum in that third set when we really needed that push,” the coach said. “She had a couple nice serves.”
Bruno paced the offense with 16 kills and anchored the defense with three blocks. Other team leaders from the match included the following: Haley Larrabee (16-for-17 serving with 3 aces), Jenna Martin (20-for-21 serving with 3 aces), Allen (23 digs), and Zera (46 assists).
CHSCA All-Star Game
NOV. 6—Coach Heitz announced on Monday that Zera has been selected to play in the 2017 Connecticut High School Coaches Association (CHSCA) Senior All-Star Game. The prestigious event will feature a five-set match played between some of the top high school players in the state. Only 24 players from the state of Connecticut, 12 per team, are selected for the game.
The game is scheduled to be played at Plainville High School on Monday, Nov. 20. at 6:30 p.m.
For this week’s box scores, click here: (southingtonobserver.com/2017/11/13/weekly-scoreboard-for-the-nov-17-edition). To contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at BJennings@SouthingtonObserver.com.