Twice during the regular season, the Staples High School boys’ volleyball team took FCIAC rival Darien to five games, only to fall short.
The Wreckers were hoping the third time would be the charm when the Class L state tournament semifinal round match went the distance, but Darien again prevailed, winning Tuesday’s matchup, at neutral site Fairfield Warde, 3-2 (25-19, 24-26, 22-25, 25-19, 15-13).
The second-seeded Blue Wave move on to Thursday’s championship against Ridgefield, which dominated previously unbeaten East Hartford, 3-0. Thursday’s championship match will be played at Fairfield Warde at 6 p.m.
Sixth-seeded Staples certainly didn’t go down without a fight against Darien.
In the decisive game of Tuesday’s match, Jared Himmel’s kill gave the Wreckers a 7-6 lead. After the Wave went ahead 8-7, another Himmel kill knotted the score, and Stedman van Arsdale’s kill gave the Wreckers a 9-8 lead. Darien, however, got the next four points to go up 12-9, and didn’t relinquish the lead the rest of the way.
Keiran Simunovic had several blocks at the net throughout the match, including a block/ kill to close out game three, and a block/ kill of an attempt by Darien’s Alex Preston for a point to make it 14-12, and stave off defeat for the moment. Preston’s long kill attempt made it 14-13, but Preston ended it with a soft-touch kill just over Staples’ front row.
Both teams played outstanding defense with players diving on the floor to keep balls in play.
Himmel had 19 kills, Kenneth Brill had 24 assists to go along with 18 digs, and Daniel Brill had 12 kills, 18 digs and two aces. Ryan Angerthal also had several key plays in the match.
Staples was on the cusp of advancing by claiming the lead two games to one, as the Wreckers overcame a four-point deficit.
“In the end it was small mistakes that kind of piled up,” said Staples Coach Dan Cho, whose team, along with the Wave, gave away points with unforced errors at times during the match.
Cho considered the season to be an overall success. After all, the Wreckers won 13 regular-season matches and nearly knocked off a Darien team that lost only once during the campaign.
“They came in motivated,” Cho said of his players. “It wasn’t all words. They showed me every day in practice with their actions on and off the court.”