Southington volleyball’s chance at a run in the Class LL tournament was cut short on Nov. 14, as the No. 23 Blue Knights lost to No. 7 Fairfield Ludlowe, 3-0, in the second round.
Southington tried to make it two upsets in a row after eliminating Newington in the first round. Unfortunately for the Knights, they were without Katie Gunderson due to a leg injury. The Falcons proved to be too much for Southington in the shutout victory.
“They were literally a tall order,” coach Rich Heitz said. “In this sport, height is going to present a challenge. I thought we did alright given the circumstances.”
Southington fought all the way through the third set, and even had a chance to take the first. Here is what happened:
Southington’s best chance to win a set came in the first set. After trailing 11-5, they were able to shorten their deficit to one when it was 17-16, thanks to some key spikes from Rachel Possidento, Kayli Garcia, and Katie D’Agostino.
Fairfield Ludlowe would then score four straight points on the way to a 25-20 win in the first set.
After the Falcons dominated in the second set, Southington hung tough in the third set, trailing just 16-13 at one point. Fairfield Ludlowe would pull away for the 25-17 set win and advanced to the quarterfinals.
Fairfield Ludlowe went on to beat No. 2 Conard two nights later. Heitz said despite some miscues, the team did some things well against a dominant opponent.
“With their size advantage, I thought we did a good job blocking,” Heitz said. “There were some errors on our side of the net but we did some good things. I thought we served very well, but they are a very good team. You got to give it to them.”
Veronika Gorski had five kills and six blocks, while Garcia had four blocks and three kills.
Mackenzie Coppola, Brooke Cooney, Possidento, and D’Agostino each had three kills. Possidento also had three blocks while Coppola had 15 assists.
The Knights fought some adversity throughout the season, including an injury that kept Coppola out quite some time, and a four-game losing streak after a 7-4 start.
Heitz said that the team came closer together through that adversity. The Knights were able to turn it around after the losing streak, winning three of their next four, including their first-round upset.
“We talked about those issues at that time in the season, and I think it brought the team closer together,” Heitz said. “Like I said before, high school sports is about building relationships and through it all, they stuck together.”
Southington will lose many key players to graduation including Coppola, D’Agostino, Cooney, Gunderson, Era Pasha, and Isabell Myrick. Cooney had been a starter since her sophomore season.
The Knights will return juniors Rachel Possidento, Veronika Gorski, and Kayli Garcia. Each were top-three on the team in blocks. Possidento and Gorski were both top-five on the team in kills.
“Anytime you lose a three-year starter like Cooney, it is going to be a huge hole to fill,” Heitz said. “Katie and Mackenzie are also big losses for us. We got some big holes to fill, including some of our defense. But we have some young and strong players coming up who played on JV this year and they will be up to the task.”
The loss marked the end of Southington’s fall campaign. The Knights finished the regular season with a 9-9 record and went 1-1 in the postseason.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Spencer Dreher, email him at SDreher@SouthingtonObserver.com.