Girls Volleyball: Lady Knights pass the test at John Jay Invitational

Brooke Cooney, above, scores a kill against Glastonbury at the week’s start but suffered an injury in a weekend tournament. (Photo by Kevin Roberts)

By KEVIN ROBERTS

STAFF WRITER

The Southington girls volleyball team continued its winning ways in-state with victories over Glastonbury and Newington, then traveled out of state for a premier tournament.

The Lady Knights faced some adversity during the John Jay Invitational, but worked their way through it. Southington was already without Lynsey Danko, then Brooke Cooney went down early in the day with an injury. Still, the Lady Knights won their five-team pool and played until they lost a one-set championship quarterfinal to East Lyme.

“I think they learned they’re resilient and there’s always going to be someone there who’s going to pick a teammate up,” coach Rich Heitz said.

Here’s a look at how the week went:

Knights win sloppy affair

SEPT. 24—Lady Knight coach Rich Heitz expected a tough match from Glastonbury, but it turned out to be a sloppy one because of some sluggish play. Southington won in four sets, with scores of 22-25, 25-18, 25-15 and 25-19.

“Yeah it’s a ‘W’ and you move on, but sometimes you see more intensity in practice when they’re playing against their teammates,” Heitz said afterward. “We’ve got to stay aggressive. If we don’t play aggressive, we’re going to have some problems.”

Missed serves in the first set hurt Southington as Glastonbury took a 1-0 lead overall. The Lady Knights want to be aggressive serving, but they also need to be under control, Heitz said. In the second set, Heitz brought in reserve Keishla Rosario and she gave her team a spark as they evened the match at 1-1.

“Keishla Rosario, when she went in there for Kayli Garcia, brought up the intensity level and helped push us through Set Two,” Heitz said.

In the third set, the Lady Knights put the ball down against the Tomahawks with some spikes, and they also took advantage of some errors from the visitors to win and go up 2-1 in the match.

Lynsey Danko provided the highlight of the night in the fourth set when she went all out for a ball with a dive. Danko got the ball before it hit the ground, and Southington wound up winning a big point with an extended rally. That point got the Lady Knights to within 13-11 of the Tomahawks, and the rally continued after that.

“A ball that other kids would have let go, she made a phenomenal play and then we won the rally. I think that gave us a little boost of momentum that we needed,” Heitz said.

Three aces, two blocks and two spikes gave Southington seven of its points in a 14-6 run following Danko’s dive to close out the fourth set and the match.

Haley Larrabee and Brooke Cooney each had 10 kills to lead the Lady Knights. Cooney and Danko each had four aces and Veronika Gorski added five blocks. Danko had 19 digs, Jenna Martin tallied 18 digs, and Olivia Carpenter dished out 29 assists.

Win over Newington

SEPT. 28—The Lady Knights swept the Indians, winning by the scores of 25-14, 25-23 and 25-19.

Heitz thought Southington could have played stronger, but the Lady Knights were also coming off of a four-match gauntlet against Bristol Eastern, RHAM, Farmington and Glastonbury.

“Every game is a learning experience and trying to figure out what you can learn and what you can do better,” Heitz said.

Heitz liked the effort he received from his middle hitters, especially Gorski, who had five kills with no hitting errors to go along with four blocks. Garcia had three blocks in the middle as well. Cooney and Larrabee contributed two blocks apiece.

“I knew Newington would be scrappy, I knew they would play hard,” Heitz said. “We were able to withstand them and come out with a win.”

Cooney posted six kills and four aces while Larrabee added five kills. Danko tallied 14 digs while Cooney and Martin posted 12 digs apiece. Carpenter had 23 assists in the victory.

The win improved Southington’s in-state record to 8-0.

John Jay Invitational

The teams were split up into four pools of five teams each at the tournament held annually in Cross River, N.Y. Different teams meant adjusting on the fly, and Southington had the added issue of missing personnel. Danko was already out, then Cooney went down early in the day.

“We had four teams from New York in our pool, so it was nice to see different teams,” Heitz said. “I thought the kids battled to come out first in our bracket.”

Heitz tried some varied lineups, including different liberos and outside hitters.

“You try to learn, the players try to learn and adjust on the fly,” Heitz said.

Matches held in pool play were limited to two sets, and Southington started out with 2-0 wins over North Rockland and Fox Lane. The Lady Knights tied Mahopac and Millbrook 1-1, but they finished as the top team in their pool and moved on to the championship rounds. Southington was the No. 4 seed and drew fellow Connecticut team East Lyme, the No. 5, in a one-set quarterfinal. The Vikings won to end the day for the Lady Knights.

“Coach Jack Biggs has got a very nice team,” Heitz said.

Southington may not have defended its John Jay Invitational title, but it battled adversity and learned some things about itself.

Up next: The Lady Knights began the week with an away match against Platt. Southington was scheduled to host Northwest Catholic on its “Dig Pink” night on Wednesday. The Lady Knights play E.O. Smith on Friday at home at 6 p.m.

To comment or contact staff writer Kevin Roberts, email him at KRoberts@SouthingtonObserver.com

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