By BRIAN JENNINGS
Southington fell one match short of making an appearance in the final of the Class LL tournament for the first time since 2011. The second-seeded Lady Knight volleyball team cruised to a lopsided win in the first game, but dropped the next three sets to lose their semifinal match-up against No. 6 Greenwich, 3-1.
On Thursday, Nov. 15, the Knights rallied for a 25-14 victory in the first game at Bunnell High School in Stratford, but fell, 25-19, 25-21, and 25-14 to lose the series. The loss marked the end of Southington’s tournament run.
“We played really well in that first set,” said Southington coach Rich Heitz. “We gave some points up at the end, along with the momentum, and then we just never grabbed it back. It was like two different teams. We had the intensity in the first set, and then we didn’t follow through in sets two, three, and four.”
The Knights cruised through the first set on the heels of 13-1 run. Greenwich didn’t salvage runs any greater than 4-0 in the next two sets, but the Cardinals began squirreling away points by picking out holes in Southington’s defense and winning the battle at the net, spiking the ball off Southington blockers out of bounds.
“Our blocking was not very good tonight,” the coach said. “It was late and angled outside. We weren’t exercising the basic fundamentals.”
Greenwich eventually took the wind out of Southington’s sails in the third set, capping off the victory with runs of 7-0 and 5-0.
Team leaders from the match included the following: Sarah Myrick (11 kills), Haley Larrabee (14-for-14 serving with 3 aces), Nolyn Allen (18 digs), and Stephanie Zera (40 assists). Southington did not record any blocks in the match.
Greenwich went on to claim their second CIAC Class LL title in their third appearance with a 3-1 (25-18, 26-28, 25-6, 25-18) win over No. 5 Amity in the title match at East Haven High School on Saturday. Amity advanced to the final by upsetting top-seeded Cheshire, 3-0, in the semifinals.
Southington finished the season at 18-3. The Knights are losing the following eight seniors to graduation after this season: Nolyn Allen, Erica Bruno, Cassidy Herrick, Sarah Myrick, Emily Tinyszin, Julia Wells, Hannah Zelina, and Stephanie Zera.
Looking forward to next season, Heitz is looking at mostly a whole new crew for the fall of 2018.
“I have eight seniors, and they’re great kids,” said Heitz. “I’ve been able to have the bulk of them for the last two years, and certainly, Steph’s been setting for three years. So , we have a lot of holes to fill, but we have some good, young kids coming up.”
Although the Knights were eliminated from the state tournament, Zera’s season continued after she was selected to play in the 2017 Connecticut High School Coaches Association (CHSCA) Senior All-Star Game at Plainville High School on Monday, Nov. 20. The prestigious event featured 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.
“It’s such an honor,” said Zera. “I was so excited when my coach told me. I was just really excited to play with other girls in a really competitive game.”
Zera also reached a Southington milestone of recording over 2,000 career assists during the regular season, finishing the season with 979 assists in her senior year.
“It means a lot,” Zera said. “Coming off my injury, I didn’t think I was going to be able to do it. I talked with my parents, and that was my goal. It was just amazing to actually get it.”
For this week’s box scores, click here: (southingtonobserver.com/2017/11/20/weekly-scoreboard-for-the-nov-24-edition). To contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at BJennings@SouthingtonObserver.com.