Volleyball: Shelton reach state semis

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Erik Kocur and T.J. Nicholas combined at the net against Glastonbury High in the state quarterfinals. — Andy Hutchison photo

Shelton High’s boys volleyball court has been home to the state tournament championship match for three years, and will host this year’s pinnacle game as well; this spring, the Gaels are hoping to be on the court for the final match.“We’ve been shagging balls and setting up games for a few years,” Shelton Coach Leanne Bianchine said after her team moved a step closer to the final match with a Class L quarterfinal-round win over visiting Glastonbury, on Friday.

The third-seeded Gaels defeated the No. 6 Glastonbury Tomahawks 3-0 (27-25, 25-21, 25-15). With the win, Shelton will play second-seeded Darien in the semifinals, at a neutral site, on June 8 or 9.

“We’re hoping for the home court advantage,” said Bianchine, alluding to the June 12 championship match.

Captain Grant Fevrier had 17 kills, six digs, and 10 service points; captain Erik Kocur had 12 kills, seven digs, and 10 service points – including a trio of aces; T.J. Nicholas had eight kills, two blocks, three digs, and 10 service points; Michael Scarpa compiled 14 digs and nine service points, including a trio of aces; and Rhodric McCurdy tallied 35 assists and six digs.

Fevrier noted that the Gaels have had matches in which some players haven’t been at their best, but felt that everybody contributed significantly in this win. “Not one person was lacking on the score sheet,” Fervier said.

A key to the across-the-board contributions was Shelton’s passing game.

“Our passing was really solid and we came out on top,” Scarpa said.

“We were definitely sharp on the passing. That enabled us to use our middles,” Fervier, an outside hitter, said of middle hitters Nicholas, Matthew Wojslaw and Patrick Devaney.

Bianchine noted that the Gales strive to take advantage of their strong middle hitters drawing double-team setups in which opponents bring an outside hitter into the middle. The result is an opening on the outside for Fevrier and Kocur to compile kills.

They did so with booming kills and tips, depending on the positioning of the Gaels and their opponents.

Shelton used a 10-0 run, aided by back-to-back kills by Fevrier, to turn a 10-9 edge into an 11-point bulge in the put-away game. Nicholas and Kocur had key tips between Glastonbury’s front and back row players to help put the match away.

The serving game was big for the Gaels. Bianchine pointed out that her team struggled in matches in which they didn’t serve well. The team worked hard in its practice time leading up to the Glastonbury match to work on serve placement.

“We kept the ball away from their libero – that was huge,” Shelton’s coach said.

The Tomahawks seemed to run out of steam as the match unfolded, a product of Shelton’s ability to keep its opponents moving around so much, Bianchine said.

“Beautiful win. I’m so proud of them,” she said.

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