GIRLS VOLLEYBALL: Heitz & Blue Knights had the read on the VolleyHall Classic

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SOUTHINGTON — Southington girls volleyball coach Rich Heitz and his team are reading Hall of Fame basketball coach Pat Riley’s book “The Winner Within: A Life Plan for Team Players” together.

This week they are reading the chapter “Breakthrough.”

That’s apropos. The Blue Knights did just that on Sunday at the VolleyHall Classic in Springfield, Mass.

For the first time in program history, the Blue Knights won the championship of the one-day event by winning 10 of 11 two-set matches on the campus of American International College.

Heitz and his players had a full day. They left Southington High at 11 a.m. on Sunday morning and made their first stop the Volleyball Hall of Fame in Holyoke, Mass.

Then the bus headed to AIC in Springfield for the VolleyHall Classic.

The event opened with round-robin pool play. The Blue Knights went 9-1 there. Among the victories were 2-0 sweeps of Coventry, R.I. (25-18, 25-12), East Longmeadow, Mass. (25-8, 25-10), Reading, Mass. (25-23, 25-16) and Minnechaug, Mass. (25-10, 25-20).

Southington split with Danvers, Mass 1-1, rebounding to win the second set 25-10 after dropping the first 25-27.

The Blue Knights then advanced to the Gold Division final to face Lincoln-Sudbury, Mass. which had gone 8-2 in pool play.

Southington swept the final, 25-21 and 25-18, for the title.

Connecticut represented well on the day, as East Lyme won the Silver Division and Bristol Eastern nabbed the Bronze Division.

“It was a nice experience for the kids,” Heitz said. “The final was very loud and intense and I'm happy with the way the kids responded.

“It was a team effort. Everyone contributed.”

The numbers tell the story. Katrina Possidento and Adriana Palmieri had 20 kills apiece. Gabrielle Ferreira had 19 and Morgan Birdsey added 18.

Southington also played strong team defense.  Palmieri had a team-high 18 digs, followed by Haley Weiner (17), Makenzie Marek (16) and Emma Pfanzelt (16).

Weiner, the setter, was strong setting up her hitters. She piled up 69 assists. Megan Smith came off the bench and added 19 assists.

The Blue Knights also excelled at the service line. They served at an 89.5-percent clip, higher than their average for the season.

Southington had 47 team aces. Birdsey, Pfanzelt and Jessica Greco had 10 apiece to lead the way.

“I was just happy for them,” Heitz said. “They had a lot of fun. High school sports is about making relationships and making memories. It was good for the team to spend the day together. It’s good for bonding and they will always remember this trip.”

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