There was a little evidence of a post FCIAC championship hangover as the Staples boys volleyball team took the court seven days later in the Class L quarterfinals. The Wreckers, chasing their second straight state title, got a stern test from an unknown opponent as a result.
The No. 2 Wreckers, despite some early cobwebs, came away with a 3-0 (25-22, 25-20, 25-14) sweep of Southern Connecticut Conference member Xavier on Friday afternoon. The Wreckers, who had a first round bye, advanced to the semifinal round and will meet Southington on Monday night at 7 p.m. at Shelton High School.
"It's the state tournament, you have to be pretty good to be here," Staples coach Jon Shepro said. "We don't see teams from upstate so you never know what to expect. I wasn't surprised; they have some players and we were well prepared."
Staples got 10 kills and four aces from Lucas Grevers, six kills from Ian Grimes and 36 assists from Andrew Marriott. The Wreckers survived an inconsistent performance to advance as the Falcons made the first two games competitive.
"We were a little off today," Grevers said. "We were able to win; we still did well, but we did not play like we had the past few games. We have to pick it up if we want to keep winning."
No. 7 Xavier made all of the plays in the first game, putting a serious scare in the Wreckers before Grevers got the Wreckers out of their malaise. Trailing 19-15, Grevers delivered two aces and kill to help Staples draw level at 19 before serving out another two points to give his side the lead. The Wreckers built their lead to 24-20 before ending the game three points later.
"I've known (Grevers) for a while," said Xavier coach John Post, who coaches some of the Staples players during the club season. "I've never seen him serve like that before. He had five or six jump serves in a row that we struggled with and knocked us off."
The Falcons jumped out an 8-3 lead in the second game. After a Wreckers rally made the game 15-15, Staples recorded five of the next six points to take a 20-16 lead. With the advantage at 23-20, a double block by Grevers and Marriott and a tip by Grevers sealed the game for Staples.
"We came right back at them" Post said. "We had to play at an exceptionally high level and we weren't able to maintain it for long enough. (Staples) is a great team; there's a reason why there are all those banners on the wall."
The Wreckers started out far better in the third and final game. Staples led 9-4 and didn't look back, making fewer errors as the Falcons increased their own. The Wreckers quickly increased their lead to 19-8 before cruising to a match-sealing win.
"Our passing started off a little off tonight," Grimes said. "Once we were able to get into the flow we got more precise with our passing. That's the key to our offense."
Since dropping its season opener, the Wreckers (18-1) have reeled off 18 straight wins. Two more and the season would end exactly like it did a year ago: a Class L title to go with an FCIAC championship.