Darien boys volleyball rides 43-match win streak into playoffs

Luke Bradbury was answering a question about the success of the Darien boys volleyball team when he said something which might scare potential playoff opponents.

“We’re in a really good place, coach has prepared us well,” Bradbury, a senior tri-captain, said. “But there’s still room for improvement because we can always get better.”

That attitude is likely a key reason the Blue Wave has managed to compile a state-best 43-match winning streak dating back to the start of the 2021 season.

Darien wrapped up a 20-0 regular season with a 3-0 victory over Staples on Wednesday — the Wave’s 19th shutout in 2022. They’ve dropped just one set — that coming in a four-set win at Trumbull on Monday — and, during the past two seasons, have won 129 sets while losing just five.

The only program close to those numbers is Joel Barlow, which has won 41 straight matches, and won SWC and Class M titles last spring.

Darien’s numbers are staggering, but Bradbury said the players keep their focus elsewhere,

“It can’t not be brought up, but we try and stay focused on who we’re playing and give it as much as we can,” Bradbury said. “We try to stay grounded, stay humble, and when we keep that mindset, we can do even better things in the future.”

The Wave is led by the legendary Laurie LaRusso, who has coached the boys program since 2006, winning four state and six FCIAC championships.

LaRusso has coached the Darien girls volleyball program since 1982 and has led the Wave to 742 wins, along with 23 FCIAC and 17 state titles.

Trevor Herget, a junior tri-captain, said LaRusso keeps the team grounded through all the success.

“I give credit to my coach for that,” Herget said. “She keeps us at a high standard in practice, she makes sure we work really hard, and that carries into games. That’s what helps us keep winning.”

Herget, a 6-foot-3 outside hitter, is following in the footsteps of older brothers Tim and Tyler, each of whom won state titles in the program.

Herget leads the Wave in several categories, including kills (353), aces (101), blocks (22) and digs (146).

Bradbury, a 5-foot-10 outside hitter, is another weapon, racking up 203 kills, 59 aces and 124 digs.

Sophomore setter Griffith Crouse has collected 584 assists, including 42 in the Wave’s four-set win over Trumbull, along with 70 digs and 44 aces.

That’s not including junior tri-captain Isaac McMullin, who made 150 digs last spring, but has been sidelined much of this season due to a knee injury.

Despite not being on the court, McMullin said he’s remained involved with the team as a captain.

“We’re kind of a young team, so we’re all hungry to win because of the new guys,” McMullin said, “They want to know what it’s like to win a championship like FCIACs and states. What me, Luke, Trevor and Griff try to do is make these guys better mentally.”

The Wave’s roster includes just four seniors: Bradbury, middle hitters Daniel Morrissey and Lucas Smith, and Will Dehmel. They feature five juniors with Herget, McMullin, the 6-foot-6 Austin Black, Jeff Nduati and Trey Davenport, and Crouse is the lone sophomore.

The Wave has secured the top seed in the FCIAC and Class L tournament, with Trumbull (18-2) likely to contend in both tournaments. Ridgefield (15-2) and New Canaan (12-5) have also had solid seasons in the FCIAC.

Facing Trumbull as playoff primer late in the season could be a boost for the Blue Wave.

“That’s a game I was looking forward to and I hope we see them again,” Herget said. “That was a really fun game on Monday and it’s a great match-up.”

“That was a really good wake-up call for us, knowing that they took a set from us,” Bradbury said. “That’s going to be helpful for us as we continue to the playoffs.”

Bradbury is about to embark on the final weeks of his Wave career, a moment which is filled with mixed emotions for the senior.

“It’s bitter because I don’t want it to end, it’s been so great, coach is awesome and I love the team and the brothers that we have,” Bradbury said. “But it’s also sweet because we’ve been doing well and there are also great things in the future for us.”

david.stewart@hearstmediact.com; @dstewartsports