Staples volleyball parlays momentum into Class L semis victory
Once the Staples boys volleyball team got going, it was unstoppable Tuesday.
Third-seeded Staples lost the first game and was locked in a point-for-point battle in the second game before pulling it out and taking control of the match with a 3-1 (23-25, 25-22, 25-11, 25-17) victory over second-seeded Southington at Shelton Intermediate School.
"Once we started to go downhill, we could do no wrong," Wreckers Coach Jon Shepro said. "We hit well and blocked well. When you get good passing, you're able to set up the offense, which was key."
This was a rematch of the Class L finals from 2007-10, the first three won by Staples. Southington won last year. The Wreckers raised their record to 18-4 and play top-seeded Cheshire (19-0) tonight for the Class L title at Fairfield Warde. The Blue Knights ended their season at 17-3.
On April 29, Staples won 3-0 at Southington. The Wreckers saw a different Blue Knights squad at Shelton.
"We didn't see their best game the first time and we knew they were a better team," Shepro said. "They played great the first two games and we made adjustments after that. We keyed on their outside hitters and tried to block them."
Staples took the lead for good at 20-19 in the second game when senior A.J. Green (eight kills) delivered a kill. Classmate Drew Appleman (12 kills, three digs) was a good outside force and had two straight kills off sets from senior quad-captain Danny Fishman (55 assists, three digs, two blocks, one kill) to make it 23-20.
"I was able to connect with Danny more," Appleman said. "I was able to see the blockers and get around it."
Junior Jonah Aelyon (19 kills, three digs, one block, one hustle play) closed out the game with a kill and the Wreckers had the momentum.
"As a team, we gained confidence in the second game and once we were in the fourth game, we were a whole new team," Appleman said. "They caught us by surprise in the first game. We had nerves but pulled it together just in time."
After Southington tied it 4-4 in the third game, Aelyon took charge, starting with a kill to force a sideout. Fishman then served nine straight points to break it open and give Staples a commanding 14-4 lead. Aelyon had four kills during this surge.
"Our back row did a good job passing and Danny Fishman did a good job setting," Aelyon said. "The sets were great and I did my job."
Staples was definitely in control after that.
"We were low in energy the first two games," Aelyon said. "We tried to focus and get pumped up and picked it up in the third and fourth games."
Fishman said, "The momentum switched in our favor and we gained confidence. We lost confidence in the first two games and we went back to the fundamentals."
Senior 6-7 middle hitter Andreas Bub put away the Blue Knights in the third game with a dominant performance in the front row. Bub (16 kills, three blocks) controlled the net with a combination of kills and blocks.
"The first two games were even but when I came in and had three straight blocks for us, the match turned for us," Bub said. "Each time I had a chance to block, I had the attitude that they won't move around me. I put my hands up, focused on the ball and moved around."
He credits the friendly rivalry with Southington senior middle hitter Zach Nichols for motivating his play.
"My attitude wasn't as good as it could have been," Bub admitted. "I credit Zach Nichols because he was able to get around my blocks and I got around his weaknesses. There was a little back and forth between us. When I had to, I was able to tip it around the blocks."
Bub also slammed home kills with authority, which got the crowd into the match.
"When I got the thunderous kills, I was feeling it," Bub said.
Senior quad-captain lefty Steven Denowitz (four kills, one dig) opened the fourth game with two service points. Appleman had kills on both points.
Staples slowly built its lead to 11, 23-12. Senior quad-captains Jake McCambley (three digs, two aces) and Ryan Winter (three digs) and classmate Jordan Goldstein (one dig) did well defensively. Fishman deftly ran the offense.
"We had good hitting and good passing," Fishman said. "One of our biggest concerns was passing but our back row stepped it up. It allowed me to open up the court for the hitters and it was easy to adjust."
The match ended with Bub slamming home a kill from Fishman with authority.
"I called for it and I said, `give it to me,'" recalled Bub.
The Wreckers feel like they exorcised last year.
"It feels really good, considering we lost to them last year in the state finals and it's good revenge," Fishman said.