DARIEN — Rivals Darien and New Canaan came into Wednesday’s boys volleyball showdown with mirrored seasons.
Both teams lost their openers, both teams had responded with eight-match win streaks, and both teams were undefeated in FCIAC play.
The Darien Blue Wave made sure the similarities ended there.
The Wave delivered a dominating first set and then held off a tough New Canaan Rams’ team the rest of the way to score a 25-15, 28-26, 25-18 sweep in a key FCIAC match at DHS.
The Blue Wave (9-1 overall, 7-0 FCIAC) remains undefeated in league play and now owns the tiebreaker over New Canaan (8-2, 6-1), which is still on target for a tournament berth.
“They’re always a really good team and we always need to bring out ‘A’ game for them,” Darien senior co-captain Tyler Herget said. “We lost our first game of the season to Newtown and we’ve had a chip on our shoulder for every game since then. We’ve used that as motivation to propel us farther and this game definitely tested us, but we were able to push through.”
Herget was the main driver for Darien, leading the offense with 14 kills, and his hard serves gave the Rams fits at times as he finished with 13 aces.
Still, after the 10-point loss in the first set, New Canaan adjusted to Herget’s serves and responded with a strong second frame. The “Rams just couldn’t put the Wave away and fell 28-26.
“Overall, we played pretty well other than the first set,” New Canaan head coach Amy Warren said. “I’m proud of them that they kept fighting and that we made adjustments. We started picking up Tyler’s top serve, so that was good. When you play a great team like that, you’ve got to make sure you don’t make mistakes and they made fewer mistakes than we did.”
In addition to Herget’s performance, the Blue Wave also had 11 kills from senior co-captain Piers Roofthooft, eight kills from Jack Roberson, eight digs from John Barsanti, and eight digs and 34 assists from Jackson Leone.
New Canaan was led by senior co-captain John Peiser with 10 kills, and junior setter Peter Heron with 24 assists and six digs.
The Rams led by a point early in the second set and used a 7-1 burst to push the score to 15-8. With Herget serving, Darien went on a 7-0 run to tie the score, but New Canaan had an answer, building the lead back up to 19-15.
The Wave, however, didn’t go away and came back to tie it at 22-22, as the rivals began trading points up to 26-26.
Herget then put Darien ahead with a kill and Barsanti put it away with an ace as his serve landed on the backline.
“We had an amazing start but after that, in game two, we kind of fell apart,” Roothooft said. “What I loved was I saw us working back towards what we did in the first game which was working together as a team. That’s ultimately what it came down to.”
“We thought we had that set and it was disappointing,” Warren said. “We had a little bit more of a lead and then once they started creeping in, that got in our heads a little bit. If we can stay focused on not worrying what happened before and keep pushing forward to the next point, we can win a set like that and change the game.”
Darien led for much of the third frame, but New Canaan stayed within striking distance before the Wave put the set, and the match, in the books.
“We were down by seven and to be able to come back and win that second set really pushed us to win the third set,” Herget said. “I felt like we had the all the energy on our side after that second set.”
Both teams could clash again in the FCIAC playoffs and for Darien, Wednesday’s win was a big step towards the ultimate goal.
“As a team, we’re trying to take our season as far as possible,” Roofthooft said. “In practice, we’re all working as hard as we can to get there and everybody is putting in as much effort as they can to get us there.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Tyler Herget, Darien: The senior hitter and co-captain racked up a game-high 14 kills and 13 aces to go along with seven digs. It was his serving in the second set which sparked the Blue Wave comeback.
“We have the same team as last year but we’ve all gone to another level. We’re all that much better than last year, that’s helped us, and we have higher expectations for this team.” — Darien senior co-captain Tyler Herget
DARIEN 3, NEW CANAAN 0
NEW CANAAN 15 26 18 — 0
DARIEN 25 28 25 — 3
HIGHLIGHTS: New Canaan: John Peiser 10 kills, 1 block; Peter Heron 24 assists, 6 digs; Gavin Bramwit 5 kills, 3 digs; Aaron Fishman 3 digs. Darien: Tyler Herget 14 kills, 13 aces, 7 digs; Piers Roofthooft 11 kills; Jackson Leone 34 assists; Jack Roberson 8 kills; John Barsanti 8 digs; Nik Tinaj 6 kills
Records: New Canaan (8-2 overall, 6-1 FCIAC); Darien (9-1, 7-0)