Staples volleyball repeats as Class L champs, tops Darien in 5 sets
SHELTON—It was a war of wills in a Roman Coliseum atmosphere.
The Class L Boys Volleyball title was the prize on the line Thursday night as Darien and Staples did battle for the third time this season.
And after five grueling, emotional sets, Staples wasn’t ready to relinquish the Class L Championship plaque. The Wreckers held off a furious Darien comeback to finally emerge with a 25-22, 25-23, 22-25, 15-25, 17-15 triumph.
"To hold another Class L Championship plaque to take home is the best feeling in the world," said Staples senior co-captain Logan Carstens, the Wreckers’ only returning starter from the 2018 FCIAC and Class L champion squad. "We overcame a lot of adversity to earn this title."
Indeed. No. 4 seed Staples (21-3 overall) lost 3-0 to Darien back on May 1. Darien topped Staples, 3-1 in the FCIAC Championship final.
For Darien, the Blue Wave iron-man seven left it all on the court and took their final bus ride home with their heads high.
"Staples came out hot. And we felt confident of winning a third time against them," said Darien senior co-captain Tyler Herget. "Then we realized we didn’t want our season to end. The comeback was done one point at a time. It was a great, great match to be a part of. Our team worked so incredibly hard all season. I am very sad that my high school boys volleyball career is over."
Even though, Staples won the opening two games Thursday night 25-22 and 25-23, the Wreckers knew they still had work to do.
"With the 2-0 lead, I wasn’t comfortable," said Staples first-year coach John Sedlock. "Darien is too good a team to become complacent against. I was nervous."
Of course No. 3 seed Darien, which entered with a 24-match win streak, did not go quietly. The Blue Wave, looking for their first Class L since 2017 and second since capturing the 2011 Class M crown, went to work.
Darien pulled away late to take Game 3 by 25-22. The Blue Wave owned Game 4 by 25-15.
"Darien is an amazing team," Staples’ Carstens said. "I expected nothing less than what they gave. I knew they weren’t going to roll over. I knew it would take an incredible effort to win."
The fifth game was a seesaw.
Darien led 4-1, 6-4, 12-9 and 13-12.
But Staples found the aggression and their heart.
Still Darien fought off two Staples match points. But the third time was the charm as junior Matt Epstein used his spinning serve to produce his most timely ace.
And another Staples’ Class L title celebration.
"We just came together after the timeouts," said Staples’ Carstens, one of three Wreckers’ seniors. "We realized we wanted this more than anything in the world. That’s how we won it."
CLASS L BOYS VOLLEYBALL CHAMPIONSHIP
STAPLES 3, DARIEN 2
STAPLES 25 25 22 15 17—3
DARIEN 22 23 25 25 15—2
Records: Staples 21-3 overall. Darien 24-2 overall.