Wrecker spikers fall short of Class L title
For the second straight year, Staples outscored its opponent in the Class L championship match. Unfortunately for third-seeded, Staples it's the second straight year it fell short of winning the title.
That's because top-seeded Cheshire knew how to close out the tight games and vanquished the Wreckers, 3-1 (12-25, 25-23, 26-24, 25-22) at Fairfield Warde Friday despite being outscored, 94-88 overall, and finished the year at 22-0. Staples finished the year at 18-5 and last year, outscored Southington 110-97 in the pinnacle game in a 3-2 loss.
"We can't hang our heads, we played well and everything unfolded according to plan in the first game," said Wreckers Coach Jon Shepro, who took over the program this year from longtime head coach Bruce Betts. "That first game wasn't them, they used a different lineup. They knew how to close it out."
Wreckers senior quad-captain Danny Fishman said, "They made it difficult for us to penetrate their blocks."
Staples took a 10-5 lead in the first game after scoring five points during senior A.J. Green's serve and controlled the game after that. Fishman (52 assists, seven service points, two blocks, two digs) deftly set up classmates Andreas Bub (13 kills, three blocks), Drew Appleman (14 kills, one hustle play) and Green (11 service points, six kills, one dig) along with junior Jonah Aelyon (17 kills, one block, two digs, two service points, one ace, one hustle play) for the Wreckers.
"I've been working on setting for five years and it's a matter of finding the best matchup for the hitters so they can put the ball down," Fishman said.
Aelyon and Appleman were Fishman's top hitter from the outside while Bub dominated inside.
"Our setter Danny Fishman did a good job of keeping it inside and I tried to hit it away from No. 5," Aelyon said.
Senior quad-captain lefty Steven Denowitz (four service points, four kills, four digs, two hustle plays, one assist) made some plays for Staples as well.
The 6-7 Bub was dominant in the middle and when he was in the rotation, he neutralized the aforementioned No. 5, the Rams' top front row player, 6-10 junior lefty Nate Howard. Bub had a big block and a few kills with gusto to ignite the crowd, including one he slammed down with authority to close out the game.
"I just made it my goal to make sure No. 5 [Howard] wasn't a factor and I think I was successful," Bub said. "He didn't get many kills. We came out psyched in the first game and they came out flat."
However, Staples began the second game with a rotation issue and Cheshire was awarded the free point to start. The Rams led most of the way but the Wreckers tied it three times, the last at 21-21. Staples never got over the hump because Howard (19 kills, three blocks) did most of his damage when Bub's spot rotated to the back row and he was off the court.
"We had unforced errors and service errors that cost us in the second game," Aelyon said. "If we won the second game, it would have been a different match."
Bub said, "The out of rotation call [on me] hurt us and set a bad vibe for the game."
The Wreckers led 20-18 in the third game and 20-17 in the fourth game but each time, Cheshire found a way to close them out. Staples also led 22-20 in the fourth game as well.
"Both teams had momentum but the difference was that they made one or two more plays down the stretch [in Games 2-4] than we did," Fishman said. "We needed one more kill and one more dig."
Rams senior co-captain Joe Bahgat (18 kills, 10 digs) and junior Ryan Cuppernull (12 kills, six digs) delivered timely kills and senior co-captain Ken Philcox (eight kills, eight blocks) had a few big blocks. Junior setter Ray Brumleve (50 assists) setter Ray Brumleve (50 assists) deftly fed Howard, Bahgat and Philcox.
Howarde served out the final four points and Cuppernull ended any hopes of a Staples title with a kill to ice the match.
Wrecker senior quad-captains Jake McCambley (eight service points, two aces, two digs) and Ryan Winter (one service point, one dig) also contributed.
"I expected to win this because we matched up well with them," Bub said. "It's disappointing not to get anything [an FCIAC or state title] but we weren't blown out in the FCIAC finals and we outscored Cheshire tonight. This wasn't a typical 3-1 match. Volleyball is a funny game."