The Shelton boys volleyball team continues to steam roll opponents in its path on the journey to their best season since the glory days of back-to-back state championships in 2004-2005.
On Monday the Gaels picked up victory number 15 in a convincing 3-1 win over Masuk by scores of 25-19, 25-17, 22-25 and 25-14. It marks the highest win total in over 10 years since Shelton rattled off a 49 straight ending in 2006.
They did it the way they have been doing it all season long under the guidance of their fireplug head coach LeAnn Bianchine, with a dominating front row presence, a cover the floor at all cost middle row and a never say die back court.
There are very few holes to find on the Shelton side of the court and Masuk found that out for the second time this season. The 10-7 Panthers battled Shelton in a five game showdown in Monroe earlier in the season but this was a more defined Gales team on Monday.
“These boys are keeping me on my toes,” said Bianchine. “Actually I’m very proud of the strides they’ve made winning just three games as freshman and now as seniors they are back at the top where they belong.”
Shelton was certainly at the top of their game against the Panthers in game one with Grant Fevrier (15 kills, 10 digs) T.J. Nicholas (7 kills, 3 blocks) commanding the play in the front row.
Erik Kocur and Hunter Yocum scrambled to save every return over the net and Rhodric McCurdy steered the offense with 36 assists and three aces to lead the way.
Masuk put up a fight and actually took a brief 10-9 advantage when a block at the net from Matthew Wojslaw was deflected out of bounds. Kocur quickly changed that momentum on the next volley driving a side out kill to the floor.
Shelton chipped away at it gaining one and two points at a time until Mike Scarpa stepped into serve with the Gaels clinging to a 21-19 advantage. A four point service run closed out the 25-19 win aided by a pair of McCurdy to Nicholas blinding kills that Masuk never saw let alone return.
“They cover each other on the court,” said Bianchine. “They have tremendous camaraderie out on the floor and they know where everyone is going to be and they use that to their advantage.”
In game two Masuk tried to keep it close but the communication out on the court between the Gaels led to several inspiring plays that picked up the momentum. Wojslaw and Nicholas formed a wall at the net and Fevrier would come from mid court to slam kills in the back row. Yocum fired an ace down the sidelines that opened up a 10-7 advantage and that sparked a Shelton run.
Scarpa put together another successful run in serve and Patrick Devaney came on to give the Gaels an added dimension in the front row as Shelton opened up a 14-8 lead. By the time Masuk could answer the call the Gaels had a wide 22-13 advantage.
It took a reversed call by the referee to give Masuk new life and held off game point with Kocur in serve. But moments later Fevrier went hard to the net and caught Masuk by surprise dropping a dink in between two defenders for the 25-17 final margin.
In game three Masuk showed that their ten wins on the season was no accident and they began to pound the back row with shots that couldn’t be returned. J.J. Williams (10 kills, 4 blocks) and Matt Hornak (7 kills, 3 blocks) riled the troops as the Panthers moved ahead by a 16-13 margin.
Shelton aided their cause with too much emphasis on returns that went long out of bounds and suddenly the Gaels were in trouble trailing 21-16. It didn’t get any better as Kyle Lemos (6k, 2 aces) put on a service run to close out the 25-22 Masuk game three victory.
The Gaels wanted no part of any five game drama and quickly took matters into their own hands opening up a 14-9 advantage in game four. The returns from the Shelton side of the net took on a renewed purpose as Masuk had all they could do to protect itself let alone get a decent return.
The Panthers were never able to get settled as Shelton walked away with a 25-14 win to close out the 3-1 victory and head into the final week of the regular season.
“We are hosting the SCC tournament,” said Bianchine. “So I know the boys will be ready for this after losing out in the semis the last two seasons. And I’m sure our final game with Ridgefield will have us ready for the post season.”
“What’s going to be tough on me is our senior night. We have developed a close bond and I’m going to miss them all.”
Shelton is back at it on Wednesday for senior night against Newtown and then close out the regular season on Thursday at undefeated Ridgefield. The SCC tournament will be held in Shelton next week with the semifinals taking place on Wednesday with the finals set for Friday.