Mired in a three-game losing streak, the Shelton High boys volleyball team got a pep talk from head coach LeAnne Bianchine prior to facing Lewis Mills of Burlington on May 1.
The Gaels responded in a big way, sweeping the Spartans, 3-0 (25-13, 25-21, 25-15), at Murray Gymnasium to improve to 3-8.
“Yesterday, I put them on the orange line and gave them a speech,” Bianchine said. “I gave them the old coach’s speech about decades of banners on the wall… They said it was so inspirational.
“I asked them, ‘Did it work?’ They said look at how well we played, it worked.”
Mike Torres had 10 kills and 13 digs and Ben Malay added eight kills.
Craig Packnick had seven kills, while John Hunter chipped in 11 digs.
Hunter, a junior libero, helped Shelton burst out to an 11-0 lead by rattling off 10 straight service points.
Packnick capped the run with a spike off of Jan Kocur’s set, leading to a Lewis Mills’ timeout.
Kocur’s ace then pushed Shelton’s margin to 15-3.
“He’s the blood, sweat and tears of our team,” Bianchine said of the senior.
The teams traded points from there, with the Gaels closing out the 25-13 first-game victory.
Torres controlled the middle during the stretch, sending a block back over the net and hammering a shot through the center of the Lewis Mills’ defense.
“He’s come so far,” Bianchine said. “He’s doing a great job.”
In the second game, the Spartans jumped out to a 9-7 edge, then extended their lead to 15-12.
Shelton responded with a 6-2 burst, before Lewis Mills’ Matthew DiSorbo tied the game at 18 with a tip.
Torres notched a block, Donegan sent a shot down the line and Mac Thompson fired in an ace to make it 21-18 Gaels.
Lewis Mills called a timeout before scoring back-to-back points to get within 21-20.
But, Shelton pulled together and reeled off a 4-1 run to secure the 25-21 win.
“I said to them we’ve had some tough losses, games we’ve pushed and we’re right there on the edge,” Bianchine said of holding on late for the victory.
Lewis Mills (7-4) looked to stave off the sweep in the third game, taking a 10-6 advantage on Benjamin Lewis’ service point.
Once again, Shelton battled back.
The Gaels tied it up at 11 on a Torres kill, before Hunter stepped to the line and served them to an 18-11 lead.
Hunter slammed down two aces in the flurry, while Packnick and Kocur converged on the net for a double block to stake Shelton to the seven-point edge.
With Thompson and Torres leading the way, the Gaels finished off the 25-15 victory to close out the sweep.
Bianchine hoped the victory could be a starting point for her relatively inexperienced squad to make a run at the postseason — where it can still qualify for the Southern Connecticut Conference and Class L tournaments.
“A lot of them came to this team last year,” Bianchine said. “They aren’t sure of their skills. To come out and play like they did today, I think that will help them know who good they can be.”
Shelton travels to Redding today to face Joel Barlow (4-9) at 5:30 p.m.