Staples High's boys volleyball team won its Class L state tournament quarterfinal round match Friday, besting visiting Cheshire 3-0 (25-15, 25-8, 26-24).

The third-seeded Wreckers advanced to Tuesday's semifinals where they will face No. 2 Ridgefield at Fairfield Warde High School at 6 p.m.

The Wreckers won with relative ease in the first game against No. 6 Cheshire, dominated the second game, then overcame a suddenly revitalized Rams squad to close out the match in a back-and-forth third game.

"Cheshire's a really good team. They were prepared for us coming in so it was nice to jump on 'em early and not really give them a chance to breathe," Staples coach Jon Shepro said.

The Rams did find a little life in the third game, but never were able to seize a lead of more than two points.

"They couldn't put a run together and that's what was important," Shepro said.

There were 16 ties in the third game. The Wreckers used the height of Lucas Grevers and Nicolas Cohen at the net to make things difficult for the Rams. Captains Jonathan Denowitz and Lucas Carstens both led the Wreckers with 10 kills and had 11 and eight digs, respectively.

Down 21-20 in the third game, consecutive kills by Denowitz and Carstens gave the Wreckers a lead. Cheshire tied it before the Wreckers benefitted from a long Cheshire serve for a 23-22 edge. Cheshire's Evan Colehia (11 kills and two digs) had a kill to draw his team even at 23 apiece. A Carstens shot made it 24-23.

An errant hit by Staples tied the score for Cheshire, but Carstens followard with a kill for a 25-24 lead. Patrick Connolly (12 digs and three aces) served on the match point and the ball was misplayed by the Rams, ending the match.

The Wreckers hustled for loose balls and kept volleys alive with diving and lunging plays throughout the match, making points hard to come by, and hard to earn, for the Rams.

"They took us right to the wire. We knew they weren't going to quit and we closed them out," Carstens said. "We had a lot of hustle plays. That definitely gave us a lot of momentum and took some steam out of Cheshire."

Shepro thought his team made a few mistakes in the third game, allowing the Rams to hang around. Cheshire's coach believed her team forced the Wreckers into those miscues.

"Once we started to pressure them in the third game a little bit we exposed weaknesses and caused some errors, which is what we needed to do from the start," Cheshire coach Sue Bavone said. "It took us a little while to settle in."

Ryan Peterson had eight kills and five digs, Harrison Hlawitschka compiled 40 assists, Todd Goldstein had five kills, and Grevers earned five kills, four digs, two blocks and two aces. Aside from the occasional mistake, the Wreckers were in control with a use of a variety of booming kills and soft touches at the net.

"Our hitters were really on today," Shepro said.

The Wreckers had lost to Cheshire in the state championship two years ago.

"It was nice to get a little bit of revenge," Shepro said.

Tuesday, the Wreckers would have an opportunity for a little more redemption -- as would the Tigers, actually. Staples lost to Ridgefield in last year's state tourney semis, but defeated the Tigers twice this season, including in the FCIAC title match.

Shepro noted that it would be a challenge to defeat the Tigers three times in one season because "sometimes the ball doesn't bounce your way."

Andy Hutchison is a freelance writer


CHESHIRE 15 8 24 -- 0

STAPLES 25 25 25 -- 3