The Staples boys volleyball team gave Southington all it could handle at the beginning and at the close of the team's Class L first round matchup on Monday night. But in the middle, the Blue Knights showed why they might be a sleeping giant as a No. 10 seed.

Despite throwing away a 24-21 lead in Game 1, No. 10 Southington rallied to secure a 3-1 win (24-26, 25-21, 25-18, 25-23) win over No. 7 Staples, ending the Wreckers season at 14-5. Southington (13-7) will take the 60 mile trip to No. 2 Darien in the quarterfinals on Friday.

The Wreckers, who beat the Blue Knights 3-1 in the regular season, trailed 24-20 in the fourth game and notched three straight points to force a Southington timeout. The ensuing point lasted several rallies, but ended in a kill by Daniel Normandin ended the match.

"It's very pivotal for them to dig deep," Staples coach Dan Cho said. "My seniors showed leadership to bring the other guys up and I'm proud of them. It takes a lot (to come back), they're already exhausted and for them to get that fuel is great."

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Staples once led the set 17-14, but the Blue Knights recorded seven of the next eight points to take control.

The Wreckers capitalized on several Southington errors to take the first set, netting five straight points to overturn a 24-21 deficit coming out of a timeout.

The momentum didn't last long as second and third sets belonged the Southington, which made few errors and controlled both games from start to finish. The Wreckers closed to within 23-21 in the second game, but the Blue Knights prevailed. Mark Horanzy paced the Southington offense with an astounding 25 kills.

"(Southington) was doing a very good job opening their offense," Cho said. "They were spreading our defense apart; they just made the court too big for us to cover. We were having trouble with serve-receiving."

Staples and Southington met in the Class L final for four straight years from 2007-10, but entered Monday's showdown with a combined 11 losses in a tribute to the increased competition across the state.

"Our teams in the north are playing more, it's a more even playing level," Southington coach Lou Gianacopolos said. "With all of our guys and all the Staples guys playing the offseason it makes Connecticut volleyball that much better, and that's our main goal."

The loss concluded the season for Cho, a previous assistant who took over the Staples program from Jon Shepro.

"The season went by really quick," Cho said. "I still have a lot to learn as a coach, especially with this team. I hope I do my best to continue the legacy this program has.",


SOUTHINGTON 24 25 25 25--3

STAPLES 26 21 18 23--1

Records: Southington 13-7, Staples 14-5. Highlights: Southington--Mark Horanzy had 25 kills. Tom Del Buono had 15 digs. Adam Viviano had 49 assists. Staples--Chris Delaurentis had seven kills, one ace and two blocks. Jared Himmel had 14 kills. Jason Bernstein had 25 assists and six digs.