Coming off a campaign in which it knocked Cheshire from the unbeaten ranks in the Southern Connecticut Conference championship match, Shelton High’s boys volleyball team is again looking for more of the same in 2018.
Despite the loss of a trio of starters, including the team’s two middle hitters, the Gaels believe they have enough experience and defense to challenge for another conference title.
“It will have an impact on us,” Shelton coach LeAnne Bianchine said of the losses of graduates Matt Wojslaw, Patrick Devaney and Ryan Stachelczyk. “The good thing is we have a lot of kids who played varsity last year.”
The Gaels went 14-5 during the regular season and followed up their SCC title with a first-round win over Conard, before falling to eventual Class L champ Darien in the quarterfinals.
This year’s senior captains are setter Tyler Nolan, middle hitter Austin Viveiros and outside hitter Jarrett McCurdy.
“We lost two middle hitters and we’re kind of rebuilding this year, but I think we can repeat,” Nolan said.
“We hope to repeat. It will take hard work and dedication,” Viveiros added.
Among the returnees are sophomore outside hitter David Niski, who gained varsity experience in his first yearl, as well as juniors Max Klein and Skylar Kim.
“I’m looking forward to watching so many of the younger kids from last year really shine,” Bianchine said.
Tough SCC squads include Cheshire and Daniel Hand of Madison. Among the top teams in the Class L state bracket are Darien, Southington and Staples of Westport.
“I think if we stay on task, stay focused, work as a team we should be very successful this season,” Bianchine said. “Our strengths will be outside hitting and defense.”
And the latter can be a difference-maker in any sport.
“Defense wins championships,” the coach points out.
The Gaels will have to work on passing and serve-receive but, with enough effort, have plenty of talent in the fold to again make some noise in the postseason, they believe.
“We definitely want to win the SCC again this year. It’s going to take all of us playing with the same amount of effort,” McCurdy said.
Joining Bianchine to serve as an assistant is Tim Zaprzalka, who previously coached at Oxford High, but is very familiar with Shelton volleyball, having won a pair of state championships with the Gaels (the Class of 2006 SHS grad won titles in 2004 and ’05).
Shelton begins the campaign Monday, April 2, when Fairfield Ludlowe visits at 6 p.m.