Boys volleyball: Oxford's twin towers too much for Shelton

OXFORD — Shelton High has had to deal with a few obstacles so far in the season.

The Gaels entered Thursday evening's match at Oxford in the midst of a four-game losing streak. Then they had to deal with a pair of 6-foot-4 hitting machines in Patrick Mucherino and Tanner Soracco.

The two juniors dominated at the net, combining for 27 kills (14 by Soracco and 13 from Mucherino) as the Wolverines swept, 3-0.

Oxford won on game scores of 25-22, 25-22 and 25-17 and, in the process, pushed their record over .500 at 5-4 to snap a two-game skid.

Even though they held a lead throughout most of the first set, the Gaels couldn't hold on when they needed to.

Up by three, 13-10, after a kill by Jack Gangi, the Wolverines narrowed the margin to 16-15 on a well-placed ball by Mucherino, who followed that with a block.

Tied at 16, the Gaels won the next three points; two on Oxford errors mixed in with a kill by David Niski (who had 16 for the match).

That run came to an end as Oxford outscored the Gaels 9-3 for the win.

"That's pretty much the only stretch where we played with any consistency tonight," said Shelton coach LeAnne Bianchine. "We gave up too many easy points. You can't be doing that against a team which has two kids who can put the ball down like that."

Oxford opened the second set with three straight points and eventually extended its lead to six, 13-7.

It created a mini wake-up call for the Gaels.

Consecutive kills by Jordan Peck (eight for the match) allowed the Gaels to first tie it at 13-13 and then to go ahead 14-13.

But again, the Gaels couldn't match their opponents shot for shot.

Oxford took the lead at 16-15 on a block by Simon Smith and kept it for a four-point win (25-21).

Shelton fell behind early in the third set and could only get as close as three points before losing by eight (25-17).

"The nice thing about this team is the fact that it's very young," said Oxford coach Rob Shumann. “We're very junior heavy and have only two seniors. Both Patrick and Tanner can handle themselves in and around the net. But we're only good there because of our setter, Spencer Suttile. He knows when to move the ball and where to place it."

Suttile wound up with 25 assists.

Shumann serves as one of the high school's assistant principals and came back to coaching after a 14-year absence. He held previous positions at Amity Regional and Woodland.

"There was an opening and these kids talked me into coming back," he said. "It's fun to be back."

Bianchine and her team must re-group quickly. They'll be heading off to Rhode Island on Saturday for a match against West Warwick High.

"We have nine games left and we need to pick it up," she said. "We have to clean up our service game, stay positive and keep on trucking along."

Along with his 16 kills, Niski had two service aces and four digs.