WATERBURY — Southington boys volleyball coach Lou Gianacopolos wasn’t sure what to expect from his three seniors this year, but Dave Shaughnessy, Peter Masters and Dan Connolly gave their coach a year he’s unlikely to forget.
Although the season ended Thursday night with a sour 3-0 loss to No. 1 Ridgefield in the Class L final at Kennedy High School in Waterbury, nothing could take away from No. 3 Southington’s 19-4 season that brought the Blue Knights to their first state final since the championship season of 2010.
Gianacopolos said the team’s three seniors led the way this spring.
“The three of them are the best leaders I have ever had,” the Southington coach said. “These guys here took a young team that we knew would be solid to the state finals. They did great with leadership.”
With just three seniors, there were some questions the Knights had to answer before the season got rolling.
“In the beginning, when we had our senior meeting, we weren’t sure how the younger class was going to absorb the older class,” Gianacopolos said. “Are the younger guys going to work hard for the older guys? Are they going to get their respect? It was amazing how the underclassmen responded to the older guys because the seniors were such great kids.”
Masters said the Blue Knights instantly meshed.
“Honestly, we did so much better than I ever could have imagined,” the senior setter said. “I’m satisfied with what we have done this year. We all played like a team; we worked very well together.”
Shaughnessy said the seniors’ message to the team all season was to have fun.
“We wanted to enjoy ourselves,” he said. “This isn’t a chore to be here. It’s supposed to be fun and I hope they younger players use that for next year.”
Team camaraderie and defense got the Blue Knights on the doorstep of a state title.
“This is the best defensive team I have ever coached for Southington,” Gianacopolos said. “The three seniors are the reason why we are. They are so passionate about defense.”
Shaughnessy said Ridgefield was the better team on Thursday.
“You have to hand it to Ridgefield. They played well and better than us today,” the outside hitter said. “It was still a great season. Sweeping Staples in the semifinals is something that I will never forget. The team chemistry on this team is what made it us so good.”
The 2014 Southington Blue Knights became the first boys volleyball team to ever sweep the Wreckers in the postseason.
“We are all very close and we connected very well with the junior class,” Connolly said. “When you are that close to your team, then it’s just a team game and you are going to do great.
We are proud that we made it this far to the state playoffs,” he added. “It’s disappointing but I think we all played great out there. I would love to have a rematch, but it is what it is.”