It's been 21 years since the Staples girls volleyball team has been able to call itself FCIAC champions, but 2013 might be the best chance for the Wreckers to capture that elusive crown.
The roadblock to a conference title usually lies in Darien, winners of 19 of the previous 20. The Wreckers served notice to the competition with landmark 3-2 win over the Blue Wave Oct. 11.
"The Darien game was unbelievable," Staples coach Jon Shepro said after his team defeated Trumbull Wednesday 3-0 for their eighth straight win. "Talk about excitement: the atmosphere, it's a Friday night game, a big crowd, the girls were so excited and pumped."
Staples (13-1) overcame a 2-1 deficit in that match, despite winning game one.The Wreckers took the decisive fifth game 15-12. The win over the Blue Wave was the first since 1991.
"It was huge," outside hitter Amelia Brackett said. "I always wanted to be on the team that beat Darien and I was. I was so happy; it was monumental."
The Wreckers are led by Brackett, who had 24 kills and 11 digs in the win over Darien. The senior has improved immensely during her three years on varsity and has developed into one of the best ball strikers in the state.
"She plays so much volleyball," Shepro said of his co-captain "She loves it and gets into it so much. Any time you have that love of the game it's special."
Brackett has plenty of help. Also instrumental to the Wreckers' success has been Arianna Sherman. The setter had 45 assists in the win over the Blue Wave and Shepro has been impressed with her progression this season.
"We have plenty of hitters and blockers and girls that can make plays, but none of that matters if we can't put the ball in their hands," Shepro said. "(Sherman) is steady and gets the ball where it needs to be. She controls a very difficult offense with a lot of moving pieces. She has done a super job."
Hitter Lauren Mushro is one of the more versatile players the Wreckers have, and she credits the teams' success to a close bond both on and off the court.
"We all work well together, Mushro said. "And now that it is late in the season we all know each other well. We feel comfortable playing with each other; we mesh really well."
Sherman delivered the winning point in the match against Darien, tipping the ball over a pair of outstretched Darien blockers. Staples had stormed out to a big lead in the decisive game before the Blue Wave made one final push.
"Game fives are so weird," Shepro said. You have to get out to a fast start and control your excitement. Everyone is nervous; it takes experience. The more game five's you play in the better off your going to be."
The lone blemish on the Wreckers' mark is a similarly hard-fought 3-2 defeat to first-place Greenwich last month. Big matches with perennial contenders Ludlowe and Stamford are still left on the schedule. A strong finish to the regular season should put Staples amongst the favorites for the title.
"The top five or six teams are really tight together," Shepro said. "Anybody can beat anybody this year, which is great for the FCIAC, It used to be Darien and everyone else but now there are a lot of teams in contention."