DARIEN — It was a loud statement that ultimately should benefit both teams down the road.
The Darien boys volleyball team knocked Staples from the unbeaten ranks Wednesday by posting a 25-22, 25-23, 25-20 sweep before a thrilled partisan crowd.
The loss ended Staples’ quest for back-to-back unbeaten seasons. The Wreckers were 26-0 last year and 11-0 before Wednesday’s defeat.
“Losing is not ideal. But if we were going to get beat, this was a good time for it,” said Staples’ new first-year head coach John Shulock. “Defeats are when you learn from mistakes. We’ll go back home, make adjustments and be ready for the postseason (in 21/2 weeks).”
Darien (12-1, 9-0 FCIAC East) was definitely the hottest team in the FCIAC and one of the hottest squads in the state. Since a season-opening 3-2 non-league road loss at Newtown on March 30, the Blue Wave have collected 12 straight victories and have won 36 straight sets.
“We needed to see what a fundamentally solid team looked like. And Darien has been all that since Day 1 this season,” Staples coach Shulock said. “They have their entire (starting seven) back from last year. No question Darien was the biggest challenge we’ve faced so far this season. Now we know what’s waiting for us in the postseason.”
With Staples’ loss, there are only two unbeaten boys volleyball teams left in the state. Both Newtown (12-0) and Southington (11-0) were in action Wednesday night.
Game 1 Wednesday in this battle of FCIAC Division leaders was a grinding affair. Darien led 20-19 when it put together three straight points for 23-19. Jackson Leone was serving and senior co-captain Tyler Herget had a kill and a block in the surge.
Darien went on to capture a 25-22 win to grab the early edge against Staples (11-1, 8-1 FCIAC West), which had lost just one set in the last 27 sets dating back to April 5.
Staples took leads of 3-0 and 16-13 in Game 2. However, Darien responded immediately each time.
The Blue Wave had a 5-0 run for 5-3. Then trailing 17-14 fashioned a 7-2 surge for a 21-19 edge.
Tied at 23-23, Herget stood tall again with a dink and a power ace for 25-23 and a 2-0 match lead. Herget finished with 21 kills and four aces.
“Staples is very talented. They were undefeated. We know we could meet again in the FCIAC finals. So we had to prove ourselves today,” Darien’s Herget said. “We were aggressive. We showed who we are and what we’re made of.”
In Game 3, Staples led 6-2 and 14-13. Darien put the hammer down on a 7-0 surge with Nik Tinaj serving for 20-14. Fittingly, it was Herget who closed out the 25-20 sweep with a power kill.
“We were all hyped today,” said Darien senior co-captain Piers Roofthooft. “Everybody stepped up to be leaders.”
“We love to play great teams,” Herget said.
As for Staples, which graduated nine seniors from the 2018 unbeaten squad, the Wreckers will wait for the expected rematch in the postseason.
“I told the guys they were facing a big challenge. They didn’t rise to the occasion today,” Staples coach Shulock said. “They’re upset now. But I have great faith in the group.”