Darien volleyball edges Staples in 5-set thriller
DARIEN — The Darien boys volleyball team extended its undefeated start to the season to 11 matches on Monday, but the Blue Wave have really had to earn the last three.
The latest tough test came from Staples, which pushed Darien to the absolute limit before falling in a five-set thriller (25-23, 18-25, 25-22, 19-25, 15-12) to the defending FCIAC champions. The Wreckers (6-3) had their five-match winning streak snapped while Darien fended off another challenge to improve to 11-0.
A five-set match with Trumbull followed a tight four-set affair with Ridgefield in the last several days as Darien is beginning to get the opposition’s best shots.
“There’s a good and bad about having a record like ours,” said Darien’s Alex Preston. “For one there’s a target on our back, everybody wants to beat us. Teams come in with a whole lot of energy to play us; we just have to adjust to that and match their energy.”
The tense final game Monday was as back-and-forth as the entire match. Darien jumped out to a 7-4 lead but Staples was five points away from winning the match while leading 10-9. The teams were tied at 11-11 before Darien closed with four of the last five points; the final came on a kill from Preston, who had 26 in the match.
“We’re able to contend to the No. 1 team in Connecticut right now,” said Staples coach Dan Cho. “We were right there; today was one of those days that any team could have taken this game today. Darien did a great job playing defense; we just made a few mistakes and it got a little bit away from us.”
The first game served as a foreshadowing for how tight the match would be as neither team led by more than three points. The set was deadlocked at 22-22 and 23-23 before the Blue Wave got the two crucial points to clinch it.
As they did all afternoon the Wreckers responded when things looked bleak. Staples inched ahead 13-9 before the Blue Wave rallied to even the set at 18-18. That would be the final point the hosts got as the Wreckers stormed with seven straight to even the match at 1-1.
“They dug deep and they fought hard,” Cho said of his team. “I kept telling them not to give up, fight for every point and make them deserve every point.”
Darien had its best effort in game three in immediately rebounding with an 8-3 advantage. The lead grew to 22-17 and, despite a late Staples rally, the set was closed comfortably.
The Wreckers responded with its best efforts in winning 25-19, setting up the race to 15 points. Staples was led by senior captain Jared Himmel, who had 23 kills and 11 digs.
“They did a great job taking the energy away from us in the fourth game,” Preston said. “Because we had just picked up the third and we just needed one more. It’s all about momentum and swings and it went our way in game five.”
The teams will meet May 16 as all of the top FCIAC squads play one another twice in the regular season.
DARIEN 3, STAPLES 2
STAPLES 23 25 22 25 12—2
DARIEN 25 18 25 19 15—3
Records: Staples 6-3, Darien 11-0. Highlights: S—Jared Himmel had 23 kills and 11 Digs. Ryan Angerthal had 17 kills and six digs Kenny Brill had 49 assists. D—Alex Preston had 26 kills and five points. Tim Herget had 20 kills and 16 points. Tyler Herget had 50 assists.