Darien tops Shelton to reach state volleyball final
FAIRFIELD -- In the end, it is about the work.
It is about the long hours and seemingly endless days of practice that add up to a special commitment.
It is about every part of the group coming together into one big fist to achieve.
On Tuesday night, the Darien High School boys volleyball team received another reward for the time and the effort expended over the past three months.
The Blue Wave returned to the Class L championship final by ousting No. 3 Shelton High, 21-25, 25-17, 25-20, 26-24 in the state semifinals at Fairfield Ludlowe High.
"On the court we look like a bunch of misfits," Darien senior co-captain Todd Herget said. "But volleyball is about doing the little things. We start to communicate. We play stellar defense. All for a great coach (Laurie Larusso). When we do that we can accomplish great things."
And so, after a three-year hiatus, Darien boys volleyball is back playing for a state title.
The No. 2 Blue Wave (23-2) will meet No. 1 Ridgefield Friday night at 7 p.m. at Shelton High for the Class L crown.
It will be the third meeting between Ridgefield and Darien. Ridgefield won the regular season meeting while Darien won in the FCIAC finals.
"Darien vs. Ridgefield. It will be a grand battle," Shelton coach Leanne Blanchine said. "It's going to be at our gym. I can't wait to see what happens."
Darien will be looking for its first state title since winning Class M in 2011 and 2008.
On Tuesday night, Shelton did not make it an easy journey for Darien.
The Gaels (21-3) used a late surge to capture Game 1 25-21 and quiet the Darien fans on hand.
Darien did not panic, however. The Blue Wave instead went to work.
Knotted at 10-10, Darien fashioned a 6-1 run for 16-11.
Shelton got as close as 22-17 before Darien's Mitchell Albarron served out to 25-17 win to even things at 1-1.
In Game 3, Darien used a 9-0 surge to build a 16-6 cushion that became a 25-20 win and a 2-1 edge.
But Shelton responded in Game 4. The Gaels forged nine ties including the last two at 22-22 and 24-24.
But Darien's winning pedigree would not be denied as the Blue Wave closed it out at 26-24.
Ultimately, it was Herget, a senior co-captain, and sophomore co-captain Alex Preston who proved to be unstoppable.
Herget, with his brother Tim (a sophomore) doing most of the setting, swoops in high like a 747 to get on top of his power spikes.
Preston uses his long 6-foot-4 frame to spike -- and dink -- from all angles.
"Todd is a great player. He is the Connecticut Boys Volleyball Player of the Year in my mind," Shelton coach Blanchine said. "I've been here at Shelton for four years. I've tried to model myself and model the program just like what Laurie Larusso has done at Darien."
For Shelton, playing in the L state semifinals was a major accomplishment and another high point in a special season.
Seniors Grant Fevrier (21 kills, 16 service points), Erik Kocur (13 kills) and Rhodric McCurdy (40 assists, 20 service points) were valiant in defeat.
Shelton last won a Class L boys volleyball state titles in 2005 and 2004.
"Our kids fought hard. They won Game 1. And never gave up. The kids worked so hard to get here," Blanchine said. "Our program has gone from 1-17 to 3-15 to 5-13 to 10-8. This year we finished 21-3. We won the SCC league title. Erik Coker and Grant Fevrier leave here as All-State players. (Former Shelton High standout) assistant coach Bryan Coloma has been so instrumental in our success.
"We might be feeling some disappointment now. But our future is bright," Blanchine continued. "We have put life back into the Shelton boys volleyball program. We are a threat again."
Meanwhile, Darien has one more step left on its journey.
Darien 3, Shelton 1
SHELTON 25 17 20 24--1
DARIEN 21 25 25 26--3
Records: S (21-3); D (23-2).
Highlights: S--Rhodric McCurdy 40 assists, 20 service points. Grant Fevrier 21 kills, 16 service points. Erik Coker 13 kills. D--Darien will play No. 1 seed Ridgefield for Class L title Friday at 7 p.m. at Shelton High.