By KEVIN ROBERTS
Losing the second set of a best-of-five volleyball conference championship match to fall behind 0-2 seems like a bad place to find momentum. On the other hand, the Southington boys did see something good coming out of their second-set loss to Newington.
The Blue Knights played better despite losing a second straight set, and they used the momentum they found there to battle back against the Indians. For the second time this season, Southington overcame a 0-2 deficit and beat Newington 3-2, but this time it was for the CCC Tournament championship.
It was the third and final meeting of the season between the CCC rivals, and it took place on May 23 at Maloney High School in Meriden. The set scores were 22-25, 20-25, 25-16, 25-13, 15-12. The Knights wrapped up their second straight CCC tournament title with the victory. Southington won all three matchups against Newington.
“It feels better than last year,” setter and senior captain Zack Morgan said. “Now we’re the No. 1 seed and we’re going to look to defend it in states.”
How did Southington overcome a 0-2 deficit against Newington for the second time in the same season? According to Morgan, it was Southington’s determination, relentlessness, and unwillingness to fade away in a battle between two great teams that knew each other well.
“We came up clutch down the stretch,” he said. “We’re just mentally tough. That’s how we are as the team.”
For a team that’s tournament-ready, this is just business as usual.
“We’ve been there before, we know what it’s like, and we know what we can do,” senior outside hitter Adam Hunter said about the 0-2 deficit. “We just pushed for as much as we could because we’re all just brothers on the court, doing whatever we need to do to get that win.”
And it all started in the second set.
“We had a timeout [with the score 13-22]. Our coach actually said, this game is over,” outside hitter and senior captain Tim Walsh said. “This set is done, we lost, we just have to try to get some momentum to carry over into the third game. That’s exactly what we did, everybody was contributing.”
For coach Lou Gianacopolos, the comeback started in the middle with senior middle hitter Rocco Possidento. Possidento had 15 kills and just two hitting errors in 21 attempts.
“Recognition isn’t always given to everybody all the time,” Gianacopolos said, “but today Rocco really took it on his shoulders and performed. I was very proud of Rocco.”
Possidento’s hitting in the middle opened it up on the outside for Walsh (18 kills), Brandon Wolff (10 kills) and Adam Hunter (8 kills). Brett Hunter hit from both the inside and the outside and finished with four kills.
“Brandon Wolff, Rocco, Brett and Adam were all doing phenomenal today,” Walsh said. “We all have our slip-ups, but the good outweighed the bad by far today. It was awesome.”
Morgan passed out 51 assists and was a perfect 28-for-28 on serves with one ace.
“Zack is just going to put it where we can hit, and we’re just going to do what we can do,” Adam Hunter said.
“That’s what this program is about,” Morgan said. “We’re not a one-trick pony with one guy pulling our whole team along. We can attack from everywhere, and that’s what makes us so successful this season.”
A team effort is how Southington overcame an 0-2 against Newington on the CCC’s biggest stage. John Idian had a high of 23 digs and was 17-for-19 serving. Sam Miranda was 12-for-13 serving while Justin Miranda was 10-for-12 with one ace. Adam Hunter tallied 13 digs and was 13-for-14 serving. Walsh had 13 digs and was 17-for-20 serving with one ace.
Here’s how Southington reached the CCC final:
MAY 21—The Knights were challenged again by the Chieftains, but dispatched the No. 8 seed 3-0 inside the Walt Lozoski Gymnasium at SHS. The set scores were 25-22, 25-17, 25-15.
Morgan had 26 assists, was 14-for-15 serving and tallied five digs. Walsh had 10 kills, was 10-for-12 serving, and posted nine digs. Adam Hunter recorded nine kills, was 9-for-9 serving, and added seven digs. Possidento had eight kills and just one hitting error in 17 attempts. Idian had 13 digs and was 13-for-14 serving with two aces. Sam Miranda was 11-for-11 serving with an ace, and Justin Miranda went 10-for-10 serving with six digs.
MAY 22—The Knights ran over the No. 5 Indians 3-0 in Southington. The set scores were 25-16, 25-23, 25-11.
Morgan had 36 assists, was 14-for-14 serving and totaled nine digs. Wolff recorded 11 kills without a hitting error in 21 attempts, and Possidento tallied 10 kills. Walsh had nine kills, two aces (16-for-17 serving) and seven digs. Adam Hunter had seven kills and seven digs. Idian tallied 18 digs and had one ace (9-for-10). Sam Miranda was 14-for-14 serving with an ace while Justin Miranda was 9-for-11 serving. Brett Hunter had four kills and a solo block.
Up next: After a first round bye, top-seeded Southington begins Class L state tournament play on Friday in a quarterfinal match against the winner of No. 8 Conard and No. 9 Fairfield Warde. The match is scheduled for 6 p.m.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Kevin Roberts, email him at KRoberts@SouthingtonObserver.com