A few years ago, pushing perennial powerhouse Darien in a state tournament match would have been a dream for Shelton High’s boys volleyball team.
On June 9, it became reality in the Class L semifinals. The third-seeded Gaels gave the No. 2 Darien Blue Wave all it could handle in a hard-fought four-game loss. The Wave lost the first game but prevailed 3-1 (21-25, 25-17, 25-20, 26-24).
“We pulled ourselves basically out of the gutter in the last three years,” said Shelton Coach Leanne Bianchine, noting that five years ago the Gaels posted just one win, before winning only three and five times in the following two seasons. “I’m extremely proud of this team.”
After a solid 10-8 mark a season ago, Shelton reeled off 16 wins against just two defeats during this regular campaign.
With the semifinal match tied 1-1, Darien appeared on its way to taking control, but down 19-10 in game three, the Gaels used a 7-2 run to close to within 21-17. T.J. Nicholas, Grant Fevrier, Erik Kocur and Rhodric McCurdy all had key kills during the rally, but the Gaels couldn’t get any closer.
In game four, after the Wave seized a 12-8 lead, the Gaels scored three straight points to move to within just a single point. The teams traded points with Darien claiming a two-point edge only to see the Gaels answer for most of the game. Only a single point separated the teams until Darien went up 24-22. Back and forth the teams went – 13-12, 14-12, 14-13, 15-13 … until consecutive blocks at the net by Nicholas and McCurdy tied the score at 16 apiece then gave the Gaels a 17-16 advantage.
Darien’s Todd Herget had several clutch spikes to help the Wave go back in front. Down to match and game point, Shelton’s Fevrier had a kill to keep the Gaels alive, making it 24-23. An illegal Darien hit, following a pair of big saves at the net by the Gaels, evened the score. But the Wave put the match away with points on a Shelton service error and errant hit.
Fevrier compiled 21 kills, Kocur had 13 kills and Nicholas had five kills. Michael Scarpa had eight digs, Kocur had seven digs, Fevrier, Nicholas and Hunter Yocum all had five digs, and McCurdy added four digs.
Fevrier and Kocur earned All-State honors, and both of those players, along with Nicholas received All-Conference first-team accolades, and Scarpa took home All-Conference second-team honors.
“I can’t even tell you how much I’m going to miss the seniors,” Shelton’s coach said of Yocum, Fevrier, Scarpa, Nicholas, McCurdy, Kocur, Colin McNamara, Justin Cedeno and Nicholas Heanue.
“They brought back Gael pride – they’ve gotten people interested in volleyball again,” Bianchine said of what her players have accomplished at Shelton High during the turnaround throughout the past few years.