Darien Spikers cruise into playoffs, take aim at FCIAC Title
Darien High School's boys' volleyball team capped off a 17-win regular season with its 14th 3-0 win of the campaign at home against Harding of Bridgeport on Wednesday afternoon. With the win, the Blue Wave carry a 14-match winning streak into the postseason.
Austin Cockerill compiled 16 kills and had four stuff blocks; Calder Billhardt had 11 kills to go along with his 15 service points, including two aces; Matt Lee had 10 service points, including a pair of aces; Sam Bryant had seven kills and six service points, including two aces.
"It's definitely a nice feeling to go 17-1 and have the best record the program's ever had," said Billhardt, noting that the Blue Wave have put together solid winning seasons for years but that he's seen the program improve throughout his four years with the team.
Darien was 12-6 a year ago and reached the Class M state tournament's semifinals and conference championship match. The almost-perfect winning ways in 2011 have made for an enjoyable, confidence-building time for this year's version of the Wave.
"It's been really, really fun. We've been working really hard and putting in a lot of time. I love these guys," Cockerill said.
"We've worked really hard all season and we're a really close-knit team," Lee added. "We're all friends and I think it shows on the court."
Darien will enter into the FCIAC tournament as the top seed. The Blue Wave and Staples -- each of which beat the other 3-1 in a pair of regular-season meetings -- shared the same conference record going into Wednesday's season-ending action. Staples beat visiting Darien on April 13 and Darien returned the favor with a victory on its home floor on May 6. Staples, however, lost an out of conference match against Masuk on April 11.
Chances seem pretty good that the rivals will meet again in the conference championship, and the Wave players acknowledge that a rematch of last year's finale -- won by Staples -- could very well happen. The team members appear have the confidence that they can avenge last year's loss.
"I feel like if we play our game and play as one unit we can beat Staples in the finals," Cockerill said.
The Blue Wave players, having lost to and beaten the Wreckers, know what they will have to do to pull through if the teams meet up again.
"We definitely have the ability to beat them," Lee said. "Serving is key. We need to be aggressive with our serves and be concerned with what's going on on our side of the net, not the other side."
First things first, of course, as the Wave and Wreckers will both have to concern themselves with their opening round opponents and, eventually, advance to the final round to set up another rematch between the familiar foes. Ridgefield, Bridgeport Central, Danbury and Greenwich are all among other tough teams in the FCIAC which have posted winning records.
Regardless of their opponents, the Darien players aren't anticipating an easy time.
"Those are all really, really great teams. We can't take those teams lightly. We definitely have to play our game and play at the level we can play at," said Cockerill, adding that the blockers have to block and the passers have to pass. "As long as we play the game to the fullest of our ability then nobody's going to stop us."
"I think if we play our game and if we play well we can go the whole way," Billhardt said.