TORRINGTON >> Wolcott Tech swept Classical Magnet 3-0 (25-13, 25-11, 25-19) Thursday in a match that documented how many ways experience counts in boys volleyball.
“We’re not young; we’re new,” said Classical Magnet coach Lou Lestini. “We started the program last year with just six matches.”
The Gladiators (1-3) have exceptional athletes and decent size, but, coming into Thursday, had nine matches’ experience at most.
The Wildcats (4-0) have excellent size and athleticism and made it to the Class M semifinals last year in a program that, along with girls volleyball, has been a jewel in Tech’s crown for years.
“Five of us have played together for five years,” said junior co-captain Matt Dell’Agnese.
“We run our program like a family,” said Tech coach Ray Tanguay, whose enthusiasm attracts volunteer coaches who act like the kids in their community spirit.
“(The team has) great balance with everything,” says Tanguay. “They’re friends on the court. They’re friends off the court. They know when to be serious or not serious. They self-coach with positive comments from teammates and then self-correct.”
“The most fun is communicating,” says Dell’Agnese, a 6-foot-1 setter.
“It keeps our energy level up,” said senior co-captain Ty Kackowski, a 6-foot-3 hitter.
If it sounds too good to be true, watch the match.
In game one, the Gladiators hang tough through 8-6, Wildcats, on the strength of their athleticism.
“For a second-year program, Classical passes well and digs well,” said Coach Tanguay. “Our kids didn’t have a free reign today.”
Gladiatior Jameal Cushnie went high above the net for a block at 7-4.
“Blocking was our biggest strength today,” said Coach Lestini. “We got in the way of their hitters.”
Straight up worked fine, but the Wildcats’ first lesson for the Gladiators was guile.
Dell’Agnese, the setter (25 assists), distributes the ball everywhere, but the best of his sets come with an extra twist.
At the net for Tech’s 17-10 point in game one, Dell’Agnese puts the ball up. Junior Evan Gazso (5 kills, 8 digs, 1 ace) jumps high, puts his arms down and Kackowski (14 kills) soars next to him, landing a gigantic kill, unopposed.
Both sides made miraculous digs. Tech’s lesson was, “Don’t settle for one great play in a volley.”
Kackowski (10 digs), in the back row for a cannon shot by Classical Magnet at 22-12, comes up with it off the floor. Several exchanges later, Wilcats Kevin Fogarty and Ryan Lojewski are above the net together for a block that finally wins the point.
Game one went down 25-13, Wildcats.
Game two had both sides warmed up.
A takeaway from Tech this time is, “Everybody contributes on the court.”
Junior Taegan Murphy, a 5-foot-7 starter (7 kills, 9 digs), soars high for a kill at 8-3, game two.
“He came to me and said he wanted to play varsity,” said Tanguay. “I told him he would have to work real hard on his vertical jump. He’s been in the gym working every day since soccer season ended.”
Sets, kills and blocks are glory skills; digs can make the real difference in a match. Everybody does it for Tech.
Dell’Agnese (13 digs) makes a great save in the back row at 10-3 in game two, keeping the ball alive for another huge kill by Kackowski.
Game two ended 25-11, with more offerings to come in game three.
Dell’Agnese set backwards for a big Kackowski kill at 3-2.
“My size is an advantage as a setter,” said Dell’Agnese. “They don’t know if I’m going to dink it over the net or set it. And it’s easier to see the whole court.”
Kackowski showed mastery of one more skill at 12-4.
He rips four straight jump-serve bullets to the back row, untouched, before Coach Tanguay takes him out at 15-4.
Tech substitutes come in; starters cheer them as they head for the bench.
It’s family. Game 3 ends 25-19.
“Today, we were overwhelmed by a team with lots of experience,” said Coach Lestini. “It’s exceptionally hard to be a talented athlete and show up for a sport you don’t know well. Our goal is to take a beating and learn, not take a beating and be depressed.”
Wolcott Tech 3, Classical Magnet 0
(25-13; 25-11; 25-19)
At Wolcott Tech High School
Highlights: CM—Kahlil Peters 22 assists. WT—Matt Dell’Agnese 25 assists, 1 kill, 1 block, 13 digs; Ty Kackowski 4 aces, 14 kills, 4 blocks, 10 digs; Taegan Murphy 7 kills, 9 digs; Evan Gazso 5 kills, 8 digs, 1 ace.
Records: Classical Magnet 1-3; Wolcott Tech 4-0.