Back at full health for the Class LL tournament, Southington girls volleyball showed last week that they can beat anybody, regardless of their seed.
The No. 23 Blue Knights traveled to CCC foe No. 10 Newington in the first round on Monday, and pulled off the upset, 3-1, to advance. They were scheduled to play at No. 7 Fairfield Ludlowe in the second round on Thursday.
“I think the kids were eager to prove what they can do when they play as a team,” coach Rich Heitz said.
With their setter, Mackenzie Coppola, back at full health, the Knights avenged an early season loss to Newington, a match in which Coppola didn’t play.
“We didn’t have Mackenzie that night,” Heitz said. “She is our best server. She went on a couple of runs tonight and made some nice decisions down the stretch for us.”
Southington started the night strong with a 25-15 first set win. After they were leading 11-9, the Knights went on a 5-0 run before a Newington timeout, thanks in part to two aces by Brooke Cooney and a key spike by Rachel Possidento.
Newington would respond in the second set. After Southington was up 14-13, the Indians went on a 5-0 run. The Knights shortened their deficit to one when it was 20-19, but Newington would hold on for the 25-22 set win.
Southington did not allow Newington to gain any more momentum in the third set. They went up 13-6 and never looked back, with Cooney recording three more aces in that run. They would win the set 25-16.
Heitz said that he told the team to not worry after the second set loss and continue to play their game.
“I told the kids that in volleyball, every now and then, you have a few plays that go one team’s way,” Heitz said. “There were a couple that went their way in that second set, and we were a little tentative on some of the easier balls going over the net. We were playing good defense. Some things went their way, but I told them that now, it is a best of three. Let’s just come out and play our game.”
Both teams were neck-and-neck to begin the fourth set as it was tied at 10. But the Knights won six unanswered points, thanks in part to some errors by the Indians. After that, Southington’s lead was never less than three as they won the set, 25-19, and the match.
Veronika Gorski had nine kills in the match to go with two blocks. Possidento had ten kills, two aces, and a block. Cooney had seven kills and six aces. Katie Gunderson had three kills, three aces, and a block.
If Southington advanced past Fairfield Ludlowe on Thursday, they might have to go by another CCC rival in the quarterfinals. If the Knights advanced, they would play the winner of No. 2 Conard and No. 15 Amity tomorrow.
When asked about the tough road ahead in the tournament for the Knights, Heitz said “It not only gets tougher. It gets taller.”
While Fairifeld Ludlowe is seeded higher, Heitz believes that their level of competition all season long has them prepared for any opponent.
“If you look on Max Preps, we had one of the toughest schedules in the entire class,” Heitz said. “The CCC is loaded especially when you start talking about Avon, RHAM, and Bristol Eastern. Those teams may have put a licking on us but we get the opportunity to see some of the best volleyball in the season.”
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Spencer Dreher, email him at SDreher@SouthingtonObserver.com.