By John Goralski
Southington opened the week with a 3-0 loss to Farmington. They ended the week with a five-game loss at Bristol Eastern. Nestled in between was a victory over Hall that pushed the Knights to four games.
Most teams have to wait for the postseason to be pushed to their limits. The Knights just had to wait for week two.
“We have a rough stretch of about five or six games in a row, but we knew that,” said Lady Knight coach Rich Heitz. “It’s a great opportunity when you play teams this good.”
It didn’t take long. Farmington rolled out to an 8-3 lead to force a timeout, and midway through the first contest, the Indians forced another one with an 18-6 lead.
On Monday, Sept. 15, the Knights squared off in their first of two attempts at one of the top teams in the state, and it allowed Heitz to get an early measure for his team’s development.
“Farmington is just so strong that they give you a couple a lot of challenges,” said the coach. “You have to work through not second guessing yourself and just play your game, but Farmington’s so strong that they impose their will on you.”
Southington faltered in game one, but seemed to find their rhythm midway through the second game of the series. Farmington won easily, 25-15, 25-17, 25-17, but the Knights matched the Indians late in each contest.
“We can’t give a team like this too many points, and we had something like six or seven net touches tonight,” said Heitz. “At this level of play, you can’t be doing that if you want to be successful.”
As a team, Southington rallied for 20 kills, 6 blocks, and 50 digs, but it wasn’t enough against the formidable Farmington squad. Maryssa Romano paced the offense with six kills and eight digs. Emily Mankus added four kills. Morgan McCarthy paced the attack with 13 assists. Nicole Groll (15 digs) and Kateri Downes (11 digs) anchored the back row but it wasn’t enough.
“We’ll still have to play at a little higher level than we played tonight because I expect to compete,” said Heitz. “Yeah, Farmington’s great, but we could have played better. It might not have made much of a difference, but I’m always looking for effort.”
Two days later, the Knights took to the road to face Hall. Southington raced to a 2-0 lead before Hall answered back, and the Knights held on for a 3-1 victory.
Southington set the pace at the line, serving 88.3 percent as a team. Mankus led the way, going 16-for-17 with seven aces. Groll (6 digs) added five aces, and Lindsey Witte scored three aces on eight attempts.
Once again, Romano powered the attack with eight kills and six digs, but Sylwia Lewkowicz anchored the middle with six kills and three blocks. Michelle Stublarec contributed 7 kills, and Southington won, 25-12, 25-18, 20-25, 25-8.
On Friday, Southington led in all five games but couldn’t come away with a win at Bristol Eastern. The Lancers erased deficits in game one, game four, and game five to take the best of five series.
“We came out strong, but we got back on our heels and let them run by us,” said Heitz. “We’ve got to close the door. We started to play a little safe, but we have to play aggressive.”
Bristol came back from an early deficit to score a win in game one, but Southington held on for wins in the next two games to take a 2-1 lead.
In game four, Southington squandered a five point lead with a series of small errors around game point, and Bristol responded with a victory in game five. Southington led early in the final match, 8-5, and 10-9, but the Lancers took the series with a 15-1 win.
“With two more points in set four, we would have been out with a 3-1 win,” said Heitz. “That was the margin of error, but we would probably feel a little different about ourselves. We’re doing a lot of good things, but our defense needs to be a little stronger sometimes.”
Once again, Romano led the charge with a game-high 16 kills and only four hitting errors. Mankus (18-for-20) and Witte (14-for-17) scored four aces apiece. McCarthy finished with 32 assists and 13 digs, while Groll led the back row with 17 digs.
The Knights will try to get back on track this week against Simsbury (5-0), Maloney (4-1), and Newington (5-2).
By John Goralski