By BRIAN JENNINGS
Coming off a title run in the CCC Tournament, the Blue Knight volleyball team experienced an early exit in the state tournament. For a team that had high expectations of possibly playing for another title, they met their exit in the quarterfinals against a CCC rival.
Southington’s conference-title hangover left them lackadaisical and out of synch at East Hartford. Passing and communication amongst players was erratic, and the blocking was off.
Southington coach Lou Gianacopolos said that his team looked tired against a team they handled pretty well during the regular season.
“On a normal day, we come in crisp and clear-minded,” said Gianacopolos. “Today, we had an hour-long bus ride here. The seniors had a two-hour bus ride home. They had their class day today. It wasn’t a normal day. Maybe it wasn’t our normal routine, but what I can say is that East Hartford looked fresh.”
After the Hornets took the first set, the Knights weren’t complete out of it. They battled back to knot the score at 20-20 in the second set, and Gianacopolos said that if they had taken that set, they would have had a better chance to win the match and move on.
“When momentum started changing, anything could have happened,” said Gianacopolos. “Had we won that game, we reset our minds and believe again. It’s 0-0 again. We get a second, first-time start.”
Tim Walsh paced the offense with seven kills and helped anchor the defense with four blocks. Rocco Possidento helped Walsh at the net with four blocks of his own. Niko Sophroniou went 12-for-12 serving with an ace and anchored the other half of the defense with 15 digs.
Will Pfanzelt was perfect behind the service line as well, going 7-for-7 with an ace. Justin Miranda went 7-for-8 serving with an ace. Zach Morgan distributed 13 assists.
Southington fell in straight sets, 25-16, 26-24, 25-17.
The loss marked the end of Southington’s spring run. The Knights finished the regular season at 15-3 before sweeping the conference tournament, but they went 1-1 in the Class L brackets. The Knights are losing seven players to graduation after this season, including Connor Brush, JJ Clark, Will Pfanzelt, and Niko Sophroniou.
“I really enjoyed this team,” said Gianacopolos. “This was probably one of my top two or three teams that I’ve ever coached at Southington. I would enjoy having all of these guys back in the gym as alumni. I have respect for every single one of them.”
MAY 30—The Knights advanced to the quarterfinals of the state tournament for the 13th-straight year on Wednesday with a 3-0 sweep (25-10, 25-19, 25-18) of No. 12 Shelton at home.
Walsh paced the offense with 13 kills and went 7-for-11 serving with four aces. Sophroniou anchored the defense in the back with 29 digs and went 20-for-21 from behind the service line with three aces. Pfanzelt went 8-for-9 serving with a pair of aces. Adam Hunter anchored the defense at the net with a pair of blocks, and Morgan distributed 17 assists.
For more in depth coverage, see our weekly print edition. To contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at BJennings@SouthingtonObserver.com.