Spikers look for positive attitude and winning results

WESTPORT -- It shouldn't be surprising to many people that the Darien High School's boys volleyball team lost to Staples on Monday afternoon.

The Wreckers, after all, haven't lost a match in four-plus seasons, during which time they have won seven straight FCIAC titles and four consecutive state championships. What Staples is in boys volleyball Darien is in girls.

All of that history and success, Darien coach Laurie LaRusso believes, intimidated her players before they stepped foot on the Staples court on Monday. That fear factor, she also believes, left her team no chance in what turned out to be a 3-0 Staples win.

The Blue Wave players may have surprised themselves by hanging tough in the first two games before ultimately falling 25-16, 25-15 and 25-9. Calder Billhardt and Austin Cockerill had 10 and seven kills, respectively, and setter Matt Lee had 19 assists in the match.

The Wreckers, though, continued their trend of winning every match by a 3-0 score.

Darien's coach and players won't just chalk this up as a loss to better team.

"My guys didn't come out with the right attitude today," LaRusso said. "We kind of gave up before we started."

And Cockerill owned it as well.

"I personally had the wrong attitude. I just think we thought they were going to blow us out," the senior captain said. "I think we just lost our competitive edge."

Although the Wreckers have proven to be unbeatable in recent memory, the Blue Wave has also continued to be pretty successful in its own right. Staples improved to 10-0 and Darien saw its six-match winning streak come to an end as the Wave fell to 6-4 overall. Two of those defeats were to non-conference foes Masuk and Lewis Mills.

The Wave hadn't lost since an April 14 clash with Ridgefield.

"Other than today, things were going in the right direction. We just had a meltdown today," LaRusso said.

Things weren't expected to get much -- if at at all -- easier for the Wave this week. Darien, on Wednesday, was scheduled to host Ridgefield (after press time) and will visit another of the FCIAC's better teams, Greenwich, on Friday.

Darien isn't looking past any team but the players do have another opportunity to show what they are capable of in a rematch with Staples at home on May 17. LaRusso and company are looking forward for a chance at redemption -- not necessarily winning but competing better.

"I want to see us play a little bit better. I want to see us play the way we can play," LaRusso said.

Mindset is the key, and now this team knows how crucial the hours and minutes leading up to the rematch -- which will be at home -- against the Wreckers will be. Though Staples has superior talent, who's to say what Darien could do with a little momentum and heads held high.

"I think, definitely, if we come in with a good attitude next time we can do better," Cockerill added.

Following the Ridgefield and Greenwich matches, the Wave will face the Fairfield Warde/ Ludlowe co-op team at home on May 10 and visit Trumbull and Harding on May 12 and 13, respectively. Darien defeated Harding 3-1 on April 21.

The Wave also has rematches with Bassick, a team they knocked off 3-1 on April 19, and Lewis Mills, which topped DHS 3-2 in Darien's second match of the campaign.