If the Staples girls volleyball team need any reminder that the state tournament is a completely different animal to the regular season, its second round opponent offered just that.
Danbury, which did not qualify for the FCIAC playoffs but entered the contest fresh off a win in its first round match, gave the Wreckers a moderate scare before the hosts found their groove down the stretch.
Amelia Brackett (22) and Lauren Mushro (11) combined for 33 kills as No. 2 Staples advanced to the Class LL quarterfinals with a 3-1 (25-15, 21-25, 25-16, 25-14) win over No. 15 Danbury on Thursday night. The Wreckers will be at home against Simsbury Saturday in the next round.
"I thought we played pretty well tonight," Staples coach Jon Shepro said. "We have a lot to clean up, mistakes to be fixed. Danbury really stepped up; they match up well with us. Overall it was a good match."
Danbury hung tough with Staples in the first game, trailing 11-9 before the Wreckers went on an 11-4 run to comfortably take the set.
It appeared the Wreckers would cruise to an easy win after finding their footing in the back half of Game 1, but Danbury dominated the second, leading by as much as 19-11 behind the powerful arm of Karyssa Miguel before earning a 25-21 win.
"I think we lost our communication in the second game," Mushro said. "We all relied on each other to bring each other up at the end, which definitely added to getting our serves in getting our kills down, tipping in the right spot."
Danbury jumped out to a 5-2 lead in Game 3 before Brackett, who also had five aces and four digs, took over. The senior had seven kills during the crucial set that saw the Hatters claw to within 17-14 before Staples scored five of the next six points.
"I was very happy with the way we played," Hatters coach John MacMillan said. "We fought, we were a little overmatched. (Brackett) hurt us, she was very versatile. A few mistakes in bunches hurt us but I was happy with the performance and the effort."
The Wreckers left no doubt in Game 4, leading from wire-to-wire and never allowing the visitors to get a sniff of the lead. Staples setter Ariana Sherman had 10 of her 37 assists in the final game.
"I thought we pulled it together at the end," Mushro said. "We had some struggles, (Danbury) really gave us a fight, which we knew coming in. None of the seniors want to lose; we knew it would be a battle."
The Hatters finished their season at 14-8, their highest win total since 2007.
"Terrific season for us," MacMillan said. "A No. 15 seed against a No. 2 seed, we battled them, took a game for them. It's hard for us to compete with teams that have some height but overall we started the season saying we were going to attack and we did. No regrets."