by John Goralski
With a 17-9 lead in game three, Coach Rich Heitz signaled for the curtain call. Over the next five minutes, he paraded his seniors off the court in pairs as the underclassmen finished what the upperclassmen started.
Speculation about the postseason is just beginning. Questions about the upcoming CCC tournament remained unanswered after the win, but Heitz shrugged it all off after the game to talk about his senior class.
“I’ve known these kids since fourth or fifth grade through the Parks and Rec program, and they’re a really good group of kids,” said the coach. “I got to see them grow up, and it’s nice to see them play together like they did tonight. It was a really good team effort.”
Southington won the game easily, even though Heitz shuffled his lineup around to showcase his seniors. The first game featured a make-shift lineup of upperclassmen. The second game featured next year’s senior class, and Heitz began the third contest with his seniors circling the court without substitutions to set up his choreographed exit at the end.
The seniors won the first game, 25-14. The juniors outlasted New Britain’s varsity starters, 25-19, and the senior night exit didn’t mar the final game as Southington rolled to a 25-19 win.
Kateri Downes led the seniors with 13-for-13 serving, six digs, and a trio of aces. Maryssa Romano scored seven kills. Seniors Morgan McCarthy (18 assists, 3 kills, 2 aces), Julia Tinyszin (4 kills, 2 blocks), Caroline Barry (5 kills, 3 digs), and Danielle David (3 kills, 3 aces) each contributed as the Knights scored their 11th sweep of the season.
“It was nice. The numbers worked well this year so that I could sub them out in pairs. I wanted them to get recognized by the crowd for all their work,” said Heitz. “Everyone was playing around, but they were up to the task. Most of them were playing a little different positions than they are used to playing, but they all did well.”
The victory came on the heels of a 3-0 sweep of Newington on Monday. Romano had seven kills with no hitting errors. Nicole Groll anchored the defense with seven digs. McCarthy and Sam Loehneiss combined for 10 assists apiece. Michelle Stublarec had six kills, and Emily Mankus scored four assists.
Southington won easily, 25-15, 25-11, and 25-20.
On Friday, the Knights capped their regular season with a 3-1 win over NFA. Barry (15 kills) and Romano (12 kills) led the Knights at the net. Groll (16 digs), Downes (12 digs), Romano (11 digs), and McCarthy (10 digs) anchored the defense, and McCarthy marshaled the attack with 40 assists.
Southington won the first game, 25-16. NFA tied the series in game two, but Southington rallied for two wins to put the series out of reach.
With the victory, Southington improved to 15-4 to claim the No. 8 seed in the upcoming Class L tournament. More importantly, it secured Southington a bid into the CCC championships, winning the tie breaker over Simsbury for the final spot.
Southington will travel to Farmington on Wednesday for the first round.
“Hopefully, we can have a little bit of a run in the tournament,” said Heitz. “We can play with anyone. It’s just that we have to keep the pedal to the metal and not let up. That’s something that we’ve been trying to get better at.”
by John Goralski