By Rich DePreta
On paper, the Darien High School boys volleyball team is Generation Next with five freshmen, three sophomores and one lonely senior co-captain in George Phillips.
On the court, however, the Blue Wave roster is a group of energetic and wily veterans.
Archrival New Canaan was Darien's latest victim Friday, losing 25-15, 17-25, 25-22, 25-16 in the Class M quarterfinals at a raucous Blue Wave gym.
"This was a superb team victory. Everybody on the court was working hard and trusting each other. That was the key," Phillips said. "We all stepped up to the challenge."
Well, it certainly won't get easier for the No. 3 seed Darien -- looking for its first boys volleyball state crown since 2011. The Blue Wave will battle No. 2 seed and defending Class M champ Oxford n the M semifinals either Monday or Tuesday at a site and time to be determined. Oxford ousted No. 7 Masuk, 25-20, 18-25, 25-18, 25-14 Friday.
For No. 6 seed New Canaan, which ends a successful 2014 campaign at 12-7 overall, it was like a rerun of "Groundhog Day."
Friday was the third meeting this season with Darien. And the third time the Rams lost.
"We fought very hard," said New Canaan head coach Katie Bakes. "But Darien was more consistent."
New Canaan was unable to dictate at any point in the match.Darien used a trio of mini-runs to capture Game 1, 25-15. New Canaan responded with a 25-17 triumph in Game 2.
However, in Game 3 Darien used a 4-0 surge for a 12-8 edge. New Canaan closed to 13-12 but had a point taken away for using the wrong server giving Darien a 14-11 edge.
New Canaan got no closer falling 25-22.
In Game 4, Darien led 5-1 and 11-3 and New Canaan had nothing left, losing 25-16.
"We never got a lead the entire match. We were digging ourselves out of a hole the whole time," Bakes said. "I had high expectations entering the season. And the kids rsponded. We're all happy to have qualified for both the FCIAC and state playoffs."
For Darien, tradition marches on. On the stat sheet, Phillips collected 17 kills (most at crucial moments), 10 service points, four aces and a block. Freshman setter Tim Herget had 37 assists. Junior Todd Herget finished with 12 kills and nine service points. Freshman Alex Preston contributed seven kills and four blocks for the Blue Wave.
"They might be young guys on paper. But they all learn fast," Phillips said. "I'm not surprised we're in this position. The preparation we get from our coaching staff is so key. We played well today but we know we have to be even better going forward."
Class M Quarterfinals
NEW CANAAN 15 25 22 16 --1
DARIEN 25 17 25 25 --3
Records: New Canaan 12-7; Darien 18-5.
Highlights: NC -- Tyler Edwards 3 aces, 15 kills, 12 digs. Isaac Fishman 2 kills, 19 assists, 1 block, 8 digs. Eugene Constandaki 6 digs. Sterling Guynn 5 kills, 2 blocks. George Herde 4 kills. D -- Alex Preston 7 kills, 4 blocks; George Phillips 17 kills, 4 aces, 10 service points; 1 block. Tim Herget 37 assists, 2 kills, 1 ace. Todd Herget 12 kills, 1 ace, 9 service points.
Darien will face No. 2 seed and defending Class M champ Oxford in the Class M semifinals.