By KEVIN ROBERTS
Southington boys volleyball’s preseason scrimmage schedule read like a Class L state tournament bracket. The Blue Knights hosted East Hartford and Newington, along with Westfield, Mass., on March 24. Staples came to town on March 26 for varsity and junior varsity scrimmages. It served not only as a competitive matchup, but as a history lesson.
“Our goal here was to be competitive, and not lose sight of the win. It doesn’t matter which personnel you have out there,” coach Lou Gianacopolos said after the Staples scrimmage. “And having an opportunity, this is Southington-Staples, there’s a history that these guys don’t know about. Seeing these guys in the finals for so many years, being Southington, playing them in 2010. They were coming into the finals with 101 wins in a row, and we beat them.”
The Westfield team Southington played on March 24 was the best so far, and the work continued on March 31 in Windsor during an eight-team tournament..
“I’m hoping to be successful, but we’ve got to grow and gel,” Gianacopolos said. “Right now, we’re working our tails off and trying to learn. Once we get that learning, we can get into complex learning more and more, but right now you don’t want to start running before you walk.”
The Knights lost several seniors to graduation, led by captains JJ Clark, Niko Sophroniou. There was also Will Pfanzelt.
“JJ Clark, a big presence in the middle. Niko was a super, super leader,” Gianacopolos said. “Will was my right side, did really well there.”
Returning for Southington are seniors Tim Walsh, Zack Morgan, Rocco Possidento, Brett Hunter and Adam Hunter. The Knights will also look for seniors Justin Miranda and John Idian to make an impact, along with junior Brandon Wolf.
Walsh, an All-CCC West selection the past two seasons and all-state last year, is a big key. He routinely put Morgan’s sets away with powerful hits against Staples. Morgan takes over control of setting with Gianacopolos’ confidence, and Brett Hunter moves to the middle for the first time. Walsh, Morgan and Hunter all played in the offseason and are coming in ready to go. Possidento and Adam Hunter didn’t play in the offseason, but both are working hard. That’s an attitude shared by the whole Southington roster.
“It’s not just the first team that makes it strong, it’s the second team that pushes them every day knowing that they want that first spot,” Gianacopolos said. “That’s what makes it competitive.”
Southington will need to be ready for its always-challenging schedule. The Knights open on the road with matches against Simsbury on April 3 and Glastonbury on April 5. The home opener is April 8 against Maloney.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Kevin Roberts, email him at KRoberts@SouthingtonObserver.com