By BRIAN JENNINGS
Defense was certainly there, and the block definitely made their presence known in the first two sets, helping the Knights jump out to a comfortable 2-0 lead, 19-25, 19-25 in the conference tournament finals. But then the Knights got too comfortable.
East Hartford took the next two sets, 25-13, 26-24, to force a decisive fifth set, and the Hornets used a trio of 3-0 runs and a 4-0 rally to win the fifth and deciding game, 15-10, to capture their third straight CCC title.
“We came out with that mentality in games one and two that there’s nothing to lose,” said Casey, pointing to a number of strong defensive stops in the first two games. “We said that they’re dangerous going into game three, and we needed to respect that and still keep pushing. I don’t know if we showed that.”
The coaching duties in the championship game were split between assistant coach Tim Casey and Gianacopolos. The head coach was delayed by his regular job, and Casey had built a 2-0 lead by the time he arrived.
“He can do that any day of the week,” said Gianacopolos Sr. “He can take over because he knows what we do. We’re on the same page. We don’t hide anything from anyone. We know our strengths and weaknesses.”
The Knights held close with the Hornets throughout most of the match. But two changed calls of 21-18 in the fourth set and 11-8 in the fifth set, both in East Hartford’s favor, could have accounted for part of the momentum swing of the Hornets.
“There were a few questionable calls by the officiating staff, which has been an issue in this state,” said Gianacopolos Jr. “Calls come in our favor and calls go against our favor. But it’s a game of momentum, and when calls like that happen, the momentum could change.”
Brian Durocher (9 digs) paced the offense with 14 kills and went 15-for-17 serving with a pair of aces. Lou Gianacopolos Jr. (16 digs, 8 kills) dished out 39 assists and went 15-for-18 behind the service line with three aces.
Andrew Chavez went 14-for-15 serving with three aces and anchored the defense with 19 digs. Dan Hackerman (3 kills) controlled the net with five blocks. Tim Walsh contributed with 11 kills, 10 digs, and four blocks.
Southington finished the regular season at 17-2 overall (9-1 home, 8-1 away), placing fifth out of 21 teams in Class L with a 14-1 record in the CCC. The Knights also won the CCC South regional title with an 8-0 record. Newington (13-7, 6-2) finished behind Southington as the CCC South runner-up.
The Knights will enter the first round of the Class L tournament as the fifth seed and are scheduled to host No. 12 Danbury (11-9) on Wednesday, May 31. Match time is 6 p.m.
Cheshire (18-0) is the top seed. No. 3 Ridgefield (18-1) is the defending champion.
MAY 24—The Knights advanced to the final of the conference tournament by earning their seventh-straight win with a 3-0 sweep of No. 4 Rockville at home in the semifinals on Wednesday, recording their 11th shutout of the season.
Durocher (3 digs) paced the offense with 12 kills. Zack Morgan (5 digs) went 17-for-20 serving with three aces. Gianacopolos Jr. dished out 28 assists.
Chavez anchored the defense with 15 digs, and Hackerman controlled the net with five blocks. Tim Walsh contributed with 11 kills and four digs.
MAY 23—The Knights began their conference tournament run the next day with a 3-1 victory over No. 8 South Windsor at home in the quarterfinals.
Gianacopolos Jr. (16 digs) dished out 36 assists and went 13-for-16 serving with three aces. Walsh (6 digs) paced the offense with 15 kills.
Chavez anchored the defense with 28 digs. Durocher contributed with 12 kills and eight digs.
Regular season finale
MAY 22—The Knights closed out the regular season and clinched the top seed in the CCC tournament by earning their fifth-straight win with a 3-1 victory over Glastonbury at home in the regular season finale on Monday.
Durocher (10 digs) paced the offense with 13 kills and went 20-for-23 serving with seven aces. Gianacopolos Jr. dished out 31 assists and went 15-for-17 behind the service line with three aces.
Walsh contributed with 14 digs and 11 kills, going 20-for-20 serving with four aces. Chavez anchored the defense with 17 digs.
For this week’s box scores, click here: (southingtonobserver.com/2017/05/30/weekly-scoreboard-for-the-june-2-edition). To contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at BJennings@SouthingtonObserver.com.