By KEVIN ROBERTS
Southington girls volleyball began last week with a rough 3-0 loss to Avon at home on Oct. 1. The set scores were 25-17, 25-22, 25-12.
The Lady Knights had another home match on Oct. 4 against New Britain, and this time the home side came out on top by a score of 3-0. The set scores were 25-16, 25-12, 25-12. Southington is 5-3 on the season.
The energy, effort and positive emotions that weren’t present against Avon showed up in abundance against New Britain, who had a 6-2 record entering the match. In a practice on Oct. 3, coach Rich Heitz decided to change things up a little bit.
“We’ve been working through some things, and we did a drill yesterday. It was called pursuit,” Heitz said following the win over New Britain. “I’ve never run it before, and I was looking to get something for us just to speed up the tempo a little bit. They loved it, and I saw it in the some of the effort tonight. It seemed to be a direct byproduct of that drill.”
In pursuit, a ball that hits the floor counts as one point. The more times a ball bounces on the floor, the more points you give up. If a team gets to 25 points, it loses. Heitz said players were flying all over the court to keep the ball from hitting the floor.
The Knights carried the energy from the Oct. 3 practice into the Oct. 4 match against the Golden Hurricanes. Everyone was going after the ball to keep it alive.
“I thought Era [Pasha] played really well tonight. I thought Kaley Smith and Bella Myrick did a nice job,” Heitz said. “The whole team did a nice job, and everybody made some key plays at one point. Mackenzie [Coppola] had a dig earlier in the first set, I don’t think she saw the ball. Brooke [Cooney] made a play going out of bounds.”
Even at times when Southington lost the point, it still received cheers from teammates, an appreciative home crowd, and applause from Heitz for the effort.
“It was fun to watch,” Heitz said. “The girl on the other team [senior Raven Jarrett] was phenomenal. A lot of the kids hadn’t seen her before. I saw her play in a tournament earlier this year down in Woodbridge. I said this kid can jump out of the gym, but she just sees and reads so well.”
Jarrett and New Britain didn’t yield easily, which led to a bunch of long volleys. Southington won a majority of the long points, however, and took control of the match, starting in the second set.
“They were scrappy and there were some long volleys there. It was a fun match to be a part of,” Heitz said.
Cooney finished with seven kills, eight aces on 16-of-18 serving (88.9 percent) and eight assists. Katie Gundersen tallied five kills, six aces on 18-of-20 serving (90 percent) and seven digs. Coppola had three aces on a perfect 14-of-14 serving to go along with 18 assists and four digs. Southington’s serves gave New Britain fits throughout much of the match. The Knights didn’t allow the visitors to get into their offensive system, which would have given Jarrett more opportunities to put the ball down. The serves Southington was missing against Avon on Oct. 1 were there against New Britain on Oct. 4.
“Katie Gundersen, Brooke Cooney and Mackenzie Coppola served well. The whole team served well,” Heitz said. “I don’t know what we served as a percentage, but it’s up there, and that makes a big difference.”
Pasha recorded three aces on 12-of-13 serving (92.3 percent) and 10 digs. Smith had six digs; Veronika Gorski added five kills and three blocks; and Kayli Garcia chipped in five kills and four digs.
The emotion that Southington didn’t show in the third set of the Avon sweep on Oct. 1 re-emerged in a big way in the New Britain victory on Oct. 4. The effort displayed against New Britain is what Heitz wants to see more of. Southington will need that kind of effort in upcoming matches.
Up next: The Knights hosted NW Catholic on Monday. Southington was scheduled for a big home test on Wednesday against Bristol Eastern. The Lancers were 9-0 and near the top of the Class L state playoff standings entering this week’s action. Eastern hosted Bristol Central (7-2) on Tuesday before going to Southington on Wednesday.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Kevin Roberts, email him at KRoberts@SouthingtonObserver.com