Blue Wave fall to Wreckers in four sets, drop to 3-1 on the season
Published 2:00 pm, Thursday, April 14, 2011
WESTPORT -- The Darien boys' volleyball team keeps getting closer to Staples but hasn't gotten over the hump yet.
Darien had a chance to grab a victory over the eight-time FCIAC champions Wednesday and was in position to take control of the match, but in the end, host Staples maintained its No. 1 ranking in the league with a 3-1 (21-25, 25-21, 25-22, 25-16) victory. The Wreckers raised their record to 2-1, 1-0 in the FCIAC and the Blue Wave dropped to 3-1, 0-1.
"It's nice to get any win but to beat Darien after losing to Masuk early in the season is special," Wreckers coach Jon Shepro said. "It was more of a playoff atmosphere here."
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Blue Wave senior co-captain Calder Billhardt said, "We kind of lost our fire after the second, third and fourth games and had too many unforced errors."
Both teams were evenly matched for the first three games. They made some nice plays on defense and hit well but also had some service and hitting errors in between, which helped keep the match close.
Billhardt (15 kills, 12 service points, two aces, 11 digs, one block) did everything for the Blue Wave, from finding the open spots as hitter and server to robbing Staples of kills. Complementing Billhardt was senior co-captain Austin Cockerill (20 kills, one block, seven digs, two service points), who was a force in the front row.
Junior setter Matt Lee (40 assists, three service points, two aces, eight digs) ably set up the captains.
The Wreckers countered with senior Drew Appleman (10 kills, nine service points) and junior Jonah Aelyon (11 kills, six digs, two blocks, five service points) delivering kills from the outside. Senior quad-captain Danny Fishman (40 assists, eight service points, three blocks) located Appleman, Aelyon and the other hitters in the right spots.
Darien sophomore libero Sean Lee (four digs, one service ace) made some nice defensive plays on Staples' hitters but the defense as a whole was only able to contain and not stop the Wreckers' attack. Junior Sam Bryant (six kills, 10 digs, eight service points) complemented Sean Lee on defense and also pounded home some hits in the front row.
Game 3 turned out to be the pivotal game in which there were 10 ties and four lead changes. The teams, for the most part, exchanged points until Darien inched out to a 12-10 lead on Cockerill's kill and made it 15-12 Billhardt's anvil-like kill from Lee.
Staples inched back and tied it on Appleman's kill and two Blue Wave errors on Wrecker senior AJ Green's (seven kills, one dig) serve.
Billhardt's tip kill ended the rally and started a 4-0 run which gave Darien a 20-16 lead. Following his kill, he served three straight points with Cockerill delivering kills on two of them.
"Matt Lee gave me good balls and our serve-receive was good in the first set and most of the third set," Cockerill said. "When it came down to it, we played like a team."
Appleman ended the rally with a kill and Wrecker senior quad-captain lefty Steven Denowitz (one kill, two digs, three blocks) served two points to cut it to one, 20-19. Cockerill's kill preserved the lead and Blue Wave junior Ryan Stracuzzi delivered a deep service ace to make it 22-19 and put the visitors on the brink of winning.
That changed when Fishman set up senior Andreas Bub (13 kills, five blocks) for a kill up the middle. This tandem also connected in the previous spurt that cut the lead to one.
The 6'6 Bub was dominant at middle hitter and had a few clutch blocks as well.
Enter senior quad-captain Jake McCambley, who began his service stint with an ace to make it 22-21. McCambley (nine service points, two digs) had five service points in the third game and closed it out with four more points to give the Wreckers the game and a 2-1 lead, putting them on the cusp of winning the game. He also had another ace, which gave Staples a 23-22 lead.
"When you serve, you want to put them on their heels and I tried to serve to a player who could not give them a strong attack," McCambley said. "I felt no pressure because I had the team support and going back there was calming."
Bub had a block and a kill off a return during McCambley's match-changing service run.
"Jake has a nice floater serve and Darien made nervous passes and we had some nice swings," Shepro said. "Volleyball is a game of momentum."
The butterflies may have affected the Blue Wave.
"We freaked ourselves out, got nervous and couldn't finish," Cockerill said.
"They caught us in a bad rotation," Billhardt said.
Darien took a 2-0 lead in the fourth game on a Cockerill kill to force a sideout and a Billhardt serveice point but Staples never looked back after senior quad-captain Ryan Winter (12 digs) tied it 3-3 with a service ace. The Wreckers took the lead for good, 5-4, on a Blue Wave error. Staples then built itself a 17-10 lead and dominated the final game.
Despite the loss, Darien remains poised and confident over the future and is looking forward to Friday May 6 when it hosts Staples in a rematch at 4 p.m.
"We're a young team with only two seniors who start," Billhardt said. "If we play our game, we can do a lot of damage."
"Our team chemistry fell apart. They kept firing on us and we had unforced errors. We have another shot at them at home and they have amazing players but they are beatable," Cockerhill said.