By KEVIN ROBERTS
The Southington girls volleyball team has made it through three big tests in a row, including two over the past week. With big wins over RHAM and Farmington, the Lady Knights are off to a strong, 6-0, start.
The Lady Knights started with a stunning 3-0 blanking of RHAM on Sept. 17 in Hebron, which ended a 46 match in-state winning streak for the Sachems. On Sept. 19, Southington battled another undefeated foe, Farmington, and emerged with a hard-fought 3-2 road victory.
Lost in the celebration was the fact that Wednesday’s win over Farmington was the 300th career victory for Lady Knight coach Rick Heitz. Now in his 18th year, Heitz entered the season with a 294-85 record.
The Knights will try to maintain that momentum this week with another tough match on Monday to start the week. Southington will face Glastonbury and Newington before traveling out of state to play in the John Jay Invitational on Saturday in Cross River, N.Y.
Southington is the defending champion at the elite New York tournament.
Big win over RHAM
SEPT. 17—Southington took on RHAM in a battle of undefeated teams in Hebron, and each of the three sets played were fiercely contested.
When the last point was scored, however, the Lady Knights emerged with a huge 3-0 victory over the Sachems. The set scores were 27-25, 25-20 and 25-20. RHAM is the two-time defending Class L state champions.
Senior Lynsey Danko had a monster match with 26 digs to lead Southington. Junior Brooke Cooney finished with nine kills and seven digs. Senior Haley Larrabee contributed eight kills and 12 digs. Sophomores Kayli Garcia and Veronika Gorski both had big matches for the Lady Knights. Garcia had seven kills and three blocks while Gorski added six kills and three blocks. Senior Olivia Carpenter tallied 32 assists.
“It’s a lot, but that’s what we need,” Larrabee said on Sept. 19. “We really just want to keep going, so a test like this is perfect for future matches.”
Larrabee was talking about the Farmington match that occurred on Sept. 19, but she could have just as easily been referring to the RHAM match that took place two nights earlier, or the Bristol Eastern battle the Friday before.
RHAM had Southington down 22-17 in the first set, but the Lady Knights ripped off five straight points to tie the score at 22-all. RHAM had set point at 24-22 and 24-23, but back-to-back errors by the Sachems tied the set at 24. After Cooney atoned for an error on the previous point and tipped the ball over the net to tie the first set at 25-25, Danko came up with a big dig. Fellow senior Jenna Martin got the ball over the net, and a RHAM error gave Southington a 26-25 lead. Danko had another dig on set point, which Cooney ended with a spike.
Southington saw a seven-point lead evaporate in the second set, then watched as RHAM took a 20-19 lead. The Lady Knights rebounded and grabbed the final six points to win the set. An error tied the match at 20-all, then Garcia came up with a huge block for a 21-20 Southington lead. A Cooney ace and another RHAM error made the score 23-20. Danko provided digs on the last two points while Larrabee recorded a pair of kills to close out the set.
RHAM held a 19-18 lead in the third set, but Southington took seven of the final eight points to win the set and close out the match. Carpenter picked up points on a dump shot and a block, sandwiched around a Larrabee kill, to help the Lady Knights to a 22-19 lead. A Gorski block on match point clinched the Southington victory.
SEPT. 19—Southington won the first two sets against Farmington by scores of 25-18 and 25-23. The host Indians took the next two sets, 25-23 and 25-21, to tie the match at 2-2. Farmington nearly rallied to win the second set, but Southington was able to win that one, or it could have been a completely different match.
“Somewhere in the middle of the second set, we started to lay back on our heels a bit,” Heitz said. “It took the second, third, fourth, even into the fifth set to get it back. We were lucky in the second set. “
Southington jumped out to a 12-5 lead in the fifth set, where the first team to 15 points and a two-point margin wins, but Farmington closed the gap to 12-8. A Larrabee spike started the final Lady Knight push, and a Gorski block on match point gave the visitors the set 15-10 and the match by a score of 3-2.
“I’m happy with the intensity level that they came out with in the last set. Haley Larrabee had a great game, and our defense was good,” Heitz said.
Larrabee had 15 kills and 18 digs in the match.
“It was definitely one of the toughest matches we’ve had thus far in the season,” Larrabee said. “We just needed to keep pushing, we really wanted to bring the intensity, and I think we did that.”
Gorski ended the night with a team-high four blocks, including the big one to end the match.
“It was insane. She’s really one of the key players,” said Larrabee about Gorski. “She really turns the momentum for us sometimes.”
“I had a feeling we were going to get a block on that last play,” Heitz said while looking directly at Gorski. “I just felt it.”
Garcia contributed three blocks to the Southington effort at the net. Cooney had 10 kills, followed by Jenna Martin with seven, Gorski with six and Garcia with five. Danko tallied 24 digs, Martin had 23, Cooney had 15 and Olivia Carpenter added 14 to go along with her 40 assists.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Kevin Roberts, email him at KRoberts@SouthingtonObserver.com.