Wrecker spikers ride the Wave
Updated 12:14 pm, Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Winners and still kings of the FCIAC -- for now -- is the Staples boys volleyball team.
After losing a non-league home game to Masuk on Monday, Staples, who has won eight straight FCIAC titles, knew it faced a big test Wednesday when it hosted Darien in a rematch of last year's FCIAC title game.
FCIAC supremacy was on the line and the Wreckers knew it. Despite losing the first game and trailing in the third, Staples refused to wilt under pressure and pulled out a 3-1 (21-25, 25-21, 25-22, 25-16) victory and raised its record to 2-1, 1-0 in the FCIAC. Darien dropped to 3-1, 0-1.
"It's nice to get any win but to beat Darien after losing to Masuk early in the season is special," Wreckers Coach Jon Shepro said. "It was more of a playoff atmosphere here."
Both teams were evenly matched for the first three games. They made some nice plays on defense and hit well but also had some service and hitting errors in between, which helped keep the match close.
Senior co-captain Calder Billhardt (15 kills, 12 service points, two aces, 11 digs, one block) did everything for the Blue Wave, from finding the open spots as hitter and server to robbing Staples of kills. Complementing Billhardt was senior co-captain Austin Cockerill (20 kills, one block, seven digs, two service points), who was a force in the front row.
Junior setter Matt Lee (40 assists, three service points, two aces, eight digs) ably set up the captains.
The Wreckers countered with senior Drew Appleman (10 kills, nine service points) and junior Jonah Aelyon (11 kills, six digs, two blocks, one hustle play, five service points) delivering kills from the outside. Senior quad-captain Danny Fishman (40 assists, eight service points, three blocks, two hustle plays) located Appleman, Aelyon and the other hitters in the right spots.
"Our defense was strong and gave me good passes and in turn, it opened up the game for our hitters," Fishman said.
Game 3 turned out to be the pivotal game in which there were 10 ties and four lead changes. The teams, for the most part, exchanged points until Darien inched out to a 12-10 lead on Cockerill's kill and made it 15-12 Billhardt's anvil-like kill from Lee.
Staples inched back and tied it on Appleman's kill and two Blue Wave errors on Wrecker senior AJ Green's (seven kills, one dig) serve.
Billhardt's tip kill ended the rally and started a 4-0 run which gave Darien a 20-16 lead. Following his kill, he served three straight points with Cockerill delivering kills on two of them.
Appleman ended the rally with a kill and Wrecker senior quad-captain lefty Steven Denowitz (one kill, two digs, three blocks) served two points to cut it to one, 20-19. Cockerill's kill preserved the lead and Blue Wave junior Ryan Stracuzzi delivered a deep service ace to make it 22-19 and put the visitors on the brink of winning.
That changed when Fishman set up senior Andreas Bub (13 kills, five blocks) for a kill up the middle. This tandem also connected in the previous spurt that cut the lead to one.
"Danny and I connected," Bub said. "I saw the blocks and it worked out."
The 6'6 Bub was dominant at middle hitter and had a few clutch blocks as well. Moreover, he performed with exuberance, passion and enthusiasm and displayed his pleasure after making a big play.
"Emotion is a big part of my game," Bub said. "It keeps me focused and it helps me get the other players psyched."
Enter senior quad-captain Jake McCambley, who began his service stint with an ace to make it 22-21.
McCambley (nine service points, two digs) had five service points in the third game and closed it out with four more points to give the Wreckers the game and a 2-1 lead, putting them on the cusp of winning the match.. He also had another ace, which gave Staples a 23-22 lead.
"When you serve, you want to put them on their heels and I tried to serve to a player who could not give them a strong attack," McCambley said. "I felt no pressure because I had the team support and going back there was calming."
Bub had a block and a kill off a return during McCambley's match-changing service run.
"Jake has a nice floater serve and Darien made nervous passes and we had some nice swings," Shepro said. "Volleyball is a game of momentum."
Darien took a 2-0 lead in the fourth game but Staples never looked back after senior quad-captain Ryan Winter (12 digs) tied it 3-3 with a service ace. The Wreckers took the lead for good, 5-4, on a Blue Wave error.
"It's so much easier going downhill than uphill and we went downhill after winning the third game," Shepro said.
Staples then built itself a 17-10 lead and dominated the final game. Denowitz injured his ankle in the game and was replaced by senior Jordan Goldstein (one block) in the front row and junior Emerson Lovell (one dig) in the back row.
"I'm very happy with the way we came back because it showed good fortitude and what we're made of," Fishman said. "The key for us was focus and not being distracted by the fact we lost the first game."