Calder Billhard got a sweet birthday present Friday. Just two sets into the boys volleyball matchup between Darien and Staples High School, Darien had already made history. The Blue Wave had never taken two sets from the eight-time state champions, but suddenly it found itself one set away from defeating its longtime nemesis.
Staples would not go quietly, rebounding in the third set. But Darien would not be denied as birthday boy Billhard led a dominant fourth frame, finally beating Staples for the first time the program's history, 3-1 (25-19, 25-17, 22-25, 25-20).
"We came so close to beating Staples last year in the FCIAC finals, so to finally do it in my senior year is an incredible feeling" Billhard said. "We wanted it so much and we worked so hard for it. We just were patient today and it paid off."
Darien jumped out to a 21-12 lead in the deciding set, but Staples kept the larger-than-normal crowd on the edge of their seats. Staples managed to cut Darien's lead to three at one point, but the Blue Wave would not be denied. Matt Lee perfectly set up Billhard, who faked out Staples with a gentle tap over the net instead of a spike. Staples was caught off guard and the match belonged to Darien at long last.
The trio of Billhard, Lee and Austin Cockerill led the way on this historic afternoon for the Blue Wave. Cockerill led the team with 14 kills, while Billhard, committed to play volleyball for Carthage College in Kenosha, Wis., racked up 10 kills. Lee came up huge defensively with 19 digs.
"We don't usually have this kind of crowd for our program, so that made the mood ridiculous and helped us out so much," Cockerill said. "There was a raw energy that we all fed off of and I think that made us successful today."
Darien's only loss on the year had come against Staples early in the season. The Blue Wave (12-1) will travel to Ridgefield on Monday for a 5:30 p.m. game.
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