During a preseason interview about the Darien boys volleyball team on the HAN Network, junior Tyler Herget spoke about and what it would take for the Blue Wave to overcome the loss of five senior starters from last year’s incredible team.
“Sadly, they all had to go, but as a starter last year, I’m trying to carry on their mentality, their drive, and their hard work to bring to all the new players, the returning players, and everyone else,” Herget said.
Now that’s a job well done.
Following a regular season which saw them go 15-4, the Wave kicked off the postseason with a 3-0 shutout of the New Canaan Rams in the FCIAC playdown round Monday at DHS. New Canaan pushed Darien, keeping each set close, but the Wave pulled out each frame for a 25-21, 25-20, 25-20 victory.
For Herget and the Wave, getting to this point and advancing to the FCIAC semifinals is a big step for a virtually all-new squad.
“It means a lot,” Herget said. “I know a lot of people who were not thinking we were going to be good this year because we lost pretty much our whole starting lineup. It’s all about our drive, your own personal drive, and that converts into team chemistry. That’s something we proved this year.”
The win over sixth-seeded New Canaan (13-8) was the third of the season for No. 3 Darien (16-4), which moved into the semifinal round for a clash with the No. 2 Ridgefield Tigers. That match was held yesterday, Wednesday, and results can be found at DarienTimes.com.
One key against the Rams: Whenever New Canaan made a run and Darien’s veteran head coach Laurie LaRusso called a timeout, the Wave came back strong, reeling off three or four straight points to regain control of the match.
“Every time our coach talked about how we were hurting ourselves,” Herget said. “We were making mistakes and we need to fix them. We focused on our mistakes and trying to make it better; try not to focus on the last three points that they scored on us, but try to move forward and playing our game.”
“She’s an amazing coach,” junior co-captain Piers Roofthooft said. “She tells us what we need to work on and we always give it our best to come out and execute what she said.
“She knows what she’s doing,” he added with a smile.
The Wave had numerous strong performances. Herget racked up 22 kills to go along with five aces, nine points, 10 digs, and one assist.
Roofthooft added seven kills, three aces, three digs, and three assists; and sophomore setter Jackson Leone collected 29 assists along with eight points and five digs.
For New Canaan, Cam Nelson had 13 kills and six digs; Zach Fishman had eight kills and nine digs; and setter Ben Fishman had 27 assists and seven digs.
Herget said it wasn’t so much the rivalry as it was the postseason atmopshere that had the Wave playing so well.
“Just that it’s the playoffs brings more intensity,” Herget said. “We practice harder, we play harder — we want to win. We want to make it as far as possible.”
“Whenever we’re playing as a team and we come into it with a drive, that’s when we truly have our maximum performance,” Roofthooft said. “That’s when we find the outcomes that we’re looking for.”
Down 1-0 overall, the Rams had a 17-14 lead in the second set, but after a timeout, the Wave scored three straight points to tie it. Sophomore Jackson Roberson started the short run with a kill and an ace for Roofthooft knotted the score at 17-17.
New Canaan briefly regained the lead, but a kill by Herget and a service winner by Roberson put Darien ahead for good en route to a 25-20 win and a two-set lead.
In the third set, the Wave had the early lead, before the Rams closed in and tied the score at 9-9.
Again, LaRusso called a timeout and again, Darien responded with a run, scoring five straight points for a 14-9 lead. New Canaan closed the gap late, but the Wave had too much at the end, as Herget closed out the match with a kill.
When they take on Ridgefield, Darien will be facing a team which has beaten it twice this season — 3-2 in April and 3-0 in May.
“We lost to them twice this year and the first game was close, but the second game wasn’t so close,” Herget said. “It was mostly our mistakes in that second game, so we need to work on them and focus on the simple things and the key things.”
“We need to focus on playing as a team,” Roofthooft said. “If we show our best and work together, we could beat them. We’ll see.”
Either way, the Wave has already proven the preseason predictions wrong.
“We came in with a lot of new guys who have never played before,” Roofthooft said. “So to see us come this far, is amazing. It’s a great feeling.”