Staples senior Harry Hlawitschka viewed Monday's match against unbeaten Ridgefield as an opportunity for the Wreckers to distinguish themselves as perhaps the state's best volleyball team.
"We knew that this was our season on the line," he said. "This was our chance to show everyone that even though we might've lost one game, we still are the top team in the state."
The Wreckers certainly didn't disappoint.
Fueled by Hlawitschka's 32 assists, Staples turned its showdown with rival Ridgefield into a clinic, surging past the Tigers 3-0 (25-17, 25-21, 25-17).
"I didn't know what to expect. Ridgefield's undefeated. I think when we play that way, we can beat anybody," Staples coach Jon Shepro said.
The Wreckers (14-1) have now won 14 straight since their season-opening loss to Southington, 3-1, and hold an unbeaten record in the FCIAC. Ridgefield fell to 15-1 (13-1 in conference).
"They did their job, we did not," Ridgefield coach Lidania Cibere said. "They shut us down."
Staples started fast, storming out to a 12-4 lead in game one before Ridgefield could get settled. Dominating points at the net and on the back line, the Wreckers led by as many as 10 points (16-6) early.
"We couldn't serve receive. We really weren't passing well," Cibere said.
Ridgefield got to within 20-16, but Staples responded, pushing the lead back to 23-17. Senior Lucas Carstens made it 24-17 with one of his 10 kills, and junior Todd Goldstein sealed the win with a block.
"We came out with a ton of energy," Shepro said. "We've been looking forward to this game for a long time. We were ready for it. ¦ We just kind of exploded onto it in that first game. I thought those first 15 points was one of the best we've played."
Goldstein, a middle hitter, recorded eight kills over the three games for Staples. Senior Jonathan Denowitz led the team with 12 digs, while adding eight kills and two aces. Carstens had six digs and two blocks.
"We kept our focus, we kept within ourselves -- we didn't play outside of ourselves," Shepro said. "We didn't try to do too much. We did what we had to do."
After trailing the entire first game, Ridgefield grabbed its first lead in the second at 4-3. The Tigers led by as many as four points at 10-6, before Staples answered back. The Wreckers held slim leads of 12-11 and 21-20 before grabbing the lead for good at 22-21 on an unforced error.
The Wreckers scored the final four points in the second game to go up 2-0.
"Our hitters played a great game," Hlawitschka said. "They kept everything in and we mixed it up a lot. We'd go to the middle, we'd go to the outside, we'd go to the weak side. I think that variety was the key."
The Wreckers again took control midway through the third game, expanding their lead from 12-10 to 21-13. Carstens sealed the match with a kill.
"I was hoping that we'd play a little better," Cibere said. "Obviously, we were undefeated, but it doesn't matter. Once we come to Staples, it's a big game."
Following the win -- Staples' 13th this year by sweep -- Hlawitschka spoke confidently about his team's chances.
"In my honest opinion, I think that there's not many other teams that can beat us, if any," he said.
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STAPLES 3, RIDGEFIELD 0
RIDGEFIELD 17 21 17 -- 0
STAPLES 25 25 25 -- 3
Records: Ridgefield 15-1, 13-1 FCIAC; Staples 14-1, 14-0.
Highlights: R -- Paul Cooke had 20 assists. Jonathan Hicks had seven kills and six service points. Griffin Jones had five kills and four blocks. S -- Lucas Carstens had 10 kills, six digs and two blocks. Jonathan Denowitz had eight kills and 12 digs. Harry Hlawitschka had 32 assists.