After going 26-0, and winning both the FCIAC and state class L (large schools) boys volleyball championship last spring, everyone was gunning to take down Staples.
Their route to back-to-back titles was complicated when head coach Dan Cho — who lived and worked far upstate — resigned.
Of course — this being high school sports — the Wreckers also had to replace graduating seniors. There were 9.
But new coach John Sedlock — and the new squad was up to the task.
Last night at Shelton High School, the Wreckers faced longtime rival Darien. The Blue Wave had beaten them twice this year — including the FCIAC finals.
This time, the Westporters got revenge. It took them 5 long, nail-biting sets. But — once again — Staples is state champs.
Staples’ state champion boys volleyball team … (Photo/Gayle Gabor and Tom Carstens)
That’s not all.
Coach Paco Fabian’s girls tennis team completed a perfect 24-0 season with a 5-2 win over Wilton, to earn the class L state title. Alyssa DiMaio went on to become the first Staples girls player to win the state open singles crown.
The Wreckers are a very young squad, so the future looks bright indeed.
… and the state champion girls tennis team …
That’s not all.
Coach Kris Hrisovulos’ boys tennis team won the state championship too — for a remarkable 4th consecutive year. Robbie Daus and Tighe Brunetti then captured the state open doubles title.
… and boys tennis, also state champs.
That’s not all.
Senior Chet Ellis set a boys outdoor track state open meet record with a phenomenal high jump: 7 feet, 1/2 inch. Obviously, that’s a Wrecker record too.
That’s not all.
There’s a chance for one more state championship this spring at Staples. Tomorrow (Saturday, June 8, 12 p.m., Palmer Field, Middletown), the Wreckers plays Southington for the LL (extra large schools) baseball crown.
Chad Knight, meanwhile, was just picked — by the New York Yankees — in the 31st round of the Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft. You won’t see him in pinstripes any time soon, though: The Connecticut Gatorade Player of the Year will continue his baseball career this fall at Duke University.
Congratulations, guys and girls! There’s only one thing left to say:
Early last month Will Hotch captained the Staples High School volleyball team to an undefeated season, and the state Class L championship.
A couple of weeks later, Will graduated from Staples. He headed off for a summer as a counselor at an overnight camp. He looked forward to college in the fall.
Will Hotch (left) in action for the Staples volleyball team. (Photo/Justin Weekes for Meriden Record-Journal)
Suddenly last week, he became gravely ill.
His body and immune system were adversely affected by Epstein-Barr virus. Antibodies attacked his immune system, leading to post-infectious myelitis.
Will’s spinal cord was damaged, causing severe numbness below his neck. He cannot feel or move his legs at all.
He will undergo a second procedure as soon as possible, to stabilize him and start him on his road to recovery.
Will hopes to attend college, and return to his active lifestyle.
He and his family have endured a lengthy ICU stay. It will continue for the foreseeable future, with several expensive procedures. When he starts to improve, he will require in-patient rehabilitation.
A GoFundMe page has been created to help defray those costs. It will also be used to help with missed wages for his parents as they support him during this difficult time. Many Westporters know Will’s mother Denise — she’s a group fitness instructor at the Westport Weston YMCA.
In 2015 — straight out of college — Danny Fishman landed what many Westporters consider a dream job: Goldman Sachs.
It seemed like the perfect segue: from Staples High School and Tufts University, to prestige, stability and happiness.
Except it wasn’t.
Fishman had always been successful. At Staples, he was part of state and FCIAC championship volleyball teams. He snagged a Goldman internship in college, the summer before senior year.
Danny Fishman, Staples High School volleyball star.
Yet, he says now, that internship — and the subsequent job offer — was just “a retreat to safety.”
His good friend Andrew Accardi died during Fishman’s junior year at Tufts. “I did a lot of soul-searching,” Fishman says. “I felt lucky for my own life, and terrible that his had been cut short. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I just knew I didn’t want to drift passively.”
He set his sights on finance, as “a challenge. I thought I’d find purpose and direction there.”
He moved to Battery Park. He was assigned to the prime brokerage branch in the securities division. He learned the ropes and earned greater responsibilities, including client interaction. There was plenty of socializing with his fellow hires.
However, he says, “I didn’t identify with the values of the people around me. The uniformity, the hive mind, the mentality of what success looked like — it was omnipresent.”
He did not fit in.
“From an abstract point of view, I don’t disagree with the sense of vicious competitiveness,” Fishman explains. “I just didn’t see myself that way.”
He felt “beat up, exhausted. I didn’t know if I had a ton to offer, or if I should offer what I had.”
Though it was “a pretty miserable experience from the get-go,” he does not want to exaggerate the experience. Half of his best friends now are people he met at work.
He had made a commitment to himself to stick it out — “if I get good at this, will I feel better about it?” he asked himself — but when he got a how-you-doing postcard from Accardi’s mother, he took it as a sign.
After a year and a half at Goldman Sachs, he quit.
Fishman moved back home to Westport (an option he knows is not readily available to many). He “let go of the fear of trying to pursue something in music” — a hobby that had always brought him joy and energy, but that he had never committed himself to.
He studied the craft of performing. He wrote music. He took a cross-country trip, crashing on friends’ couches and stepping up at open mic nights in Nashville, Austin, Denver and Los Angeles.
Wherever he stopped, he made new friends.
Danny Fishman on stage.
Fishman recorded a demo of songs he’d written. He “stumbled forward,” learning about promotion and booking.
His first single got 28,000 plays on Spotify. His second got 9,000 in just the first 5 days.
Back home, he met Katie Noonan in a doctor’s waiting room. They chatted; he learned she was a musician too. He had his guitar — he brings it everywhere — and sang for her. She’s offered plenty of support (including a gig at her 50th birthday party).
“A rising tide lifts all boats,” Fishman has learned. “And failure doesn’t feel bad when it’s in pursuit of something you want to do.”
When he “failed” in finance, he says, “I beat myself up. In music, failure leads to something productive.”
The music community, he found, is not a zero-sum game. He has been helped by many performers, writers and producers, and tries to help others.
Danny Fishman and Katie Noona
I told Fishman that a story like this will bring negative comments from readers, lambasting him for turning his back on a well-paying job he got in part because of his background, then returning to that very environment.
“I am super, super lucky to have parents with a home I can come back to,” he says. “Westport is a beautiful place, with lots of resources. I know I’ve been blessed in life.”
But, he continues, “Having money doesn’t make everything easy. If people don’t view my experiences as legit, nothing I can do will change that.”
So, if he went back to counsel himself as a Staples senior in 2011 — not knowing what he wanted, or how to get it — what would he say?
“Try not to worry so much about what other people think of you,” he says. “Be who you are, even if it doesn’t conform to the image of success others painted for you.”
Meanwhile, Danny Fishman will continue to record and tour. He’ll try to “stay true to what I want, and pursue it maturely and responsibly.”
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