Class C boys volleyball: Granby falls to Southwick in first-ever postseason match (PHOTOS)

By HANNAH BEVIS

Staff Writer

Published: 05-23-2023 9:02 PM

GRANBY – Earlier in the year, the Granby boys volleyball team played a marathon five-setter against Southwick, going into extra time in the fifth and final set before clinching victory. 

Southwick was looking for some redemption from that match, and it found it in the Western Mass. Class C semifinals on Tuesday evening.

The No. 3 Rams sprung the road upset over No. 2 Granby in four sets (25-23, 25-18, 19-25, 25-20) to advance to the Class C finals against the winner of No. 1 Frontier and No. 4 Ware, which will play on Wednesday. 

Both teams were fairly evenly matched on the court Tuesday, but the home team made a few more mistakes than Southwick did, and it cost them in the long run. 

“We definitely have a bright future and the nerves are something you have to learn how to deal with. Unfortunately, you have to learn the hard way sometimes,” Granby head coach Chad Gagnon said. “We fought hard, but they ultimately played a better game. We made some errors we don't normally make.” 

Those costly errors were the difference in Granby’s first set loss – five of the final seven points that Southwick scored came off of mistakes from the Rams, whether it was out of bound serves or kills or calls from the referees on the court.

Granby jumped out to a 10-3 lead and looked untouchable in the beginning of the set, but Southwick reeled it in slowly, capitalizing on errors as the visitors found their footing. 

“I think it's just the experience, they have that mentality. They've been in the finals last year in Western Mass.,” Granby’s Robert L’Abbee said of Southwick. “They're ready to go.” 

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Michael Swanigan led the Rams with 13 kills and six digs across the four sets. L’Abbee posted 10 kills, setter Jake Gagnon had 31 assists and Samuel Weatherbee added five kills in the defeat. 

The second set was a much more tightly-contested affair than the first, with both teams going back and forth early on. Neither was able to get more than a two-point lead early, but Southwick began to pull away in the middle of the set, and outscored the Rams 5-1 at the end of the set to secure the win. 

Down 2-0 and needing a win badly, Granby went into the third set with a mission and pressure oddly lifted from their shoulders. 

“You’ve got nothing to lose,” L’Abbee said. “Down two, you’ve just gonna play as hard as you can. It’s a tough job to do, coming back from 0-2… we brought it.” 

The Rams flew out of the gate in the third set, racing out to an 8-2 lead that forced an early Southwick timeout in an effort to slow their momentum. Granby built up a 10-point lead late (22-12), and though Southwick made an effort to come back, scoring seven of the next eight points to make it a 23-19 game, Granby was able to close it out to get the third-set win. 

“All season we’ve talked that you have to forget, you have to forget about the bad plays, you have to forget about the bad games, because you have to win three out of five,” Gagnon said. “We did a good job of just letting that go and getting out there and doing what we do… we got out there, we played aggressive. We put the ball down, we made them make the mistakes that we were making. It shows a lot of character.” 

The fourth set was another close frame, but Southwick had the edge over the home team to secure the win. 

Though the Rams fell in Tuesday’s semifinal round, their season isn’t over yet. The team qualified for the MIAA Division 2 state tournament and are currently ranked No. 22 in the MIAA power rankings. It will be their first time in the state tournament; Tuesday’s match against Southwick was also the team’s first ever postseason tilt, as the program didn’t qualify last season in its inaugural season. 

“I hope we can do well in states. That was my goal all along, was to make it to states this year and make a decent push in states,” Gagnon said. “I believe in these guys wholeheartedly. They're an awesome group of kids that really wants this and they're capable of this, especially in this short period of time.”

Hannah Bevis can be reached at hbevis@gazettenet.com. Follow her on Twitter @Hannah_Bevis1]]>