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Staples girls volleyball advances to FCIAC semifinals

Updated 8:16 pm, Monday, October 28, 2013
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The Staples girls volleyball team didn't have to look too far back in its film archive to scout its FCIAC quarterfinal opponents, St. Joseph.

After all, the two teams met in the regular season finale Friday and quickly had to come back to the Staples gym for an encore with far more on the line.

"You always get nervous about playing a good team twice in a row," Staples coach Jon Shepro said. "St Joe's is a good team. We recognized that we played them and they've seen us we tried to change speeds a little bit, attack the middle a little more and it seems to work out well."

Amelia Brackett led the way with 17 kills as the Wreckers cruised into the FCIAC semifinals with a 3-0 (25-7, 25-17, 25-13) win over St. Joseph at home. Staples will meet rival Darien at Ludlowe on Wednesday for a place in the final.

"It's right on our fingertips; we haven't won FCIACs since 92," Brackett said, staring at a banner in a corner of the Staples gym. "This is the closest we've been in a really long time and we realize that so we are taking it very serious."

Staples (18-1), which defeat St. Joseph (12-9) 3-0 Friday, showed why it's close to ending the championship drought.

"We can compete with anyone offensively with (Lauren Mushro, who had 13 kills and three digs) and (Brackett) hitting the ball, with (setter Arianna Sherman, who had 34 assists) setting, and Knox Schieffelin had a good game today," Shepro said. "When we pass the ball and serve-receive like we did tonight we're a tough team to beat."

The Wreckers stormed out to a 20-3 lead in game one. Playing virtually flawless volleyball, Staples dominated the action behind hitters Lauren Mushro and Brackett.

"That's probably as good as it gets from a coaches perspective," Shepro said of the first game. "I don't think a ball hit the floor in the first game; it was nice."

Without a senior in the rotation, the Cadets took a long time to overcome their postseason jitters. St Joseph made its first playoff appearance since 2010.

"In the time (his players) have been here they've never been to an FCIAC or state game St. Joseph coach Jeff Babineau said. "I put it down to inexperience; they're young and were intimated. Staples is a great program."

The Cadets kept things close in games two and three. St. Joseph trailed 16-11 in the second set before the Wreckers gradually pulled away and trailed 13-9 before the hosts went on a 12-3 run to close the match.

"You have to go in completely focused," Brackett said. "You have to know that's something you can do and once you get down you have to be determined to fight back."

Staples will enter the showdown with Darien having won its last 13 matches. The Wreckers have dropped just four games in that span.

"We think that we are all coming together at the same time," Mushro said. `I think we are ready to face the best teams."

After not defeating the Blue Wave for 21 seasons, the Wreckers will have to defeat them twice in three weeks to advance to the final after prevailing 3-2 Oct. 11.

"We know Darien is the crème of the crop in the FCIAC," Shepro said. "I don't care where they are seeded; to me they are the team to beat."

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