Staples volleyball team headed to Class LL semifinals

By Andy Hutchison

WESTON >> It wasn’t easy, at least not quite what the 3-0 final score indicates, but the second-seeded Staples High School girls volleyball team got the job done and defeated the No. 7 Simsbury Trojans in the Class LL state tournament’s quarterfinal round at Weston High on Nov. 9.

The Wreckers had to work hard in each of the three games to win by scores of 25-21, 25-20, and 25-23, advancing to the semifinals. The Wreckers will tangle with No. 3 Greenwich on Nov. 14. The Cardinals, an FCIAC rival of Staples, is the only team to defeat the Wreckers this fall – doing so once in the regular season and again the conference championship match.

Amelia Brackett compiled 23 kills – eight of which came in the close-out game – to go along with three digs and a pair of serving aces.

“She’s all over the place and she wants it so bad – she really does. She’s an unbelievable competitor,” Staples coach Jon Shepro said. “She always wants the ball; she knows she can put it down.”

Lauren Mushro had 10 kills, nine digs, two aces, and a half block. Setter Ariana Sherman registered 37 assists, and also had two kills and two aces. Knox McKay had five kills, and libero Valerie Kirsch had 10 digs and an ace.

Shepro noted that Dayna Gelman did a nice job defensively in the back row, and that Elizabeth Knoll made good plays to help set up kill opportunities and blocked well.

The Staples coach was happy to have quasi home match since plenty of Staples supporters packed the bleachers. “It was nice to have a good crowd here close to home,” he said.

Staples opened up some breathing room in a tight game two, with Mushro’s block/kill giving her team a 13-10 advantage. An ace by Gelman followed. Schieffelin answered a Simsbury point with a kill for a 15-11 advantage. The Trojans got to within 16-14 before a pair of service errors spotted the Wreckers a four-point lead. Brackett and Mushro both had key hits – mixing booming kills with nicely-placed soft shots – to help the Wreckers put the game away.

In game three, the Wreckers withstood a 6-0 Simsbury run that gave the visitor’s a 10-7 lead. Brackett’s ace ended the string a points and the teams went back and forth throughout the remainder of the game. Mikaela O’Kelly’s kill evened the score at 18 apiece and a diving save by Kirsch led to a Brackett go-ahead kill. Then, a diving play by Mushro kept the ball alive and led to yet another Brackett kill for a 20-18 lead. Timeout Simsbury.

Brackett extended the lead to 21-18 when she used a soft touch to place the ball over the heads of jumping Simsbury defenders at the net. An ace by Mushro made it 22-18. Brackett’s kill answered a Simsbury point, making it 23-19. The Trojans reeled off four straight points to draw even but back-to-back kills by Brackett ended things.

“Simsbury put up a fight,” Shepro said.

The Wreckers know the second rematch with Greenwich stands to be a fight as well. “That’s kind of an emotional match since we lost to them twice,” Brackett said. “Third time’s the charm – hopefully we’ll win.”

So what will it take for Staples to prevail this time around?

“It’s not going to be our offense – it’s going to be our defense,” said Shepro, adding that it is imperative for his squad to get to balls it can keep in play, and to put forth a strong serve-receive game.

The winner advances to the Nov. 16 championship match, set for 7 pm in Berlin.

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