By KEVIN ROBERTS
It pays to be good, but a little luck doesn’t hurt from time to time. Late in the third set of their Nov. 10 Class LL girls volleyball state quarterfinal match, a lucky roll helped top-seeded Southington top eighth-seeded Conard and reach its second straight semifinal.
An Olivia Carpenter serve smacked into the top of the net. The ball hung on the net for what felt like several seconds, then dropped just over the net on the Conard side for an ace and a 24-19 Southington lead. The Chieftains had just erred on their previous serve to make the score 23-19.
Another Carpenter ace ended the set 25-19 and gave the Lady Knights a 3-0 victory (25-14, 25-17, 25-19).
“We always say those are dirty moves,” Brooke Cooney said with a smile after the match. “We don’t try to do them, but they help us out.”
Southington advanced to Wednesday’s semifinal match against No. 12 Darien at Shelton High School. The Lady Knights had a first round bye, then beat No. 16 South Windsor 3-0 (25-17, 25-20, 25-14) in the second round.
“Just play volleyball, survive, and advance,” coach Rich Heitz said after the Conard match. “We treated this like a four-team tournament. We’re playing South Windsor, then we have to play the winner of Conard and Fairfield Warde. We advanced, this was the final of the tournament, now we’re in another four-team tournament. That’s the way we’ve treated it.”
Next up was the biggest four-team tournament of Southington’s season. A win over Darien would put the Lady Knights in their first final since 2011. The other semifinal is between No. 3 Westhill and No. 10 Amity.
Knights sweep Bobcats
NOV. 8—The Lady Knights overcame a slow start and dispatched the No. 16 Bobcats in straight sets.
“I thought we were a little sluggish in the beginning, but that happens a lot when you have the bye,” Heitz said. “We didn’t play Monday [Nov. 5], they played Monday.”
Heitz felt like it took Southington about a set and a half to get into gear against South Windsor.
“We started playing with a little more of a sense of urgency,” Heitz said. “We missed a few more serves than I would have liked in the first set. We were a little bit better after that, taking them out of system.”
Cooney led Southington with 13 kills, four aces and four digs. Haley Larrabee had seven kills, three aces and five digs while Olivia Carpenter added 23 assists and five digs. Veronika Gorski tallied four kills, two digs and three blocks, Lynsey Danko chipped in 11 digs and Jenna Martin recorded seven digs.
NOV. 10—The Lady Knights and Chieftains met for the third time this season, and the team wearing blue and white won for the third time.
“I think we all played really well,” Cooney said. “There’s still things we can improve on, but we just need to focus on the game at hand and not come in with any preconceptions of any team that we play. We just want to bring the energy and bring our ‘A’ game.”
Cooney had eight kills in match. Haley Larrabee led Southington with 12 kills and had just one hitting error. Gorski had a monster night with seven kills and four blocks.
“I thought Veronika blocked exceptionally well today. Their middle [Fely Yigle-Kaljob] is a great hitter,” Heitz said. “For us to block her, that’s really the majority of their offense.”
One of Gorski’s blocks was one-handed and came on a Yigle-Kaljob hit that started in the middle of the Conard half of the court. The Lady Knights tallied seven blocks and had just two errors. Blocking is an important part of Southington’s game, and it was working well against Conard. Gorski and Carpenter combined on a block while Kayli Garcia, Larrabee and Martin each added a solo block.
“We’ve been having some trouble with keeping the block in the court,” Cooney said. “They’ll turn their hands, and it’ll go out, but I think today, [Gorski] really stepped it up, brought her ‘A’ game, especially blocking from everywhere.”
Southington also had a serving matchup with Jenna Martin that proved successful.
“They had some youth and inexperience that’s in the middle of their serve-receive, and Jenna could go right after that and take them out of system,” Heitz said.
Martin led Southington with five aces while Carpenter and Danko added four aces apiece. Martin also had 20 digs, and Carpenter tallied 32 assists.
Look for coverage of the semifinal and possible final match in next week’s edition.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Kevin Roberts, email him at KRoberts@SouthingtonObserver.com