Darien volleyball sweeps past Southington into Class LL final

STRATFORD — Darien’s Jillian Roche summed up the Wave's success on the volleyball court in a succinct way.

“When we’re on,” Roche said, “We’re really on.”

It’s tough to argue with that.

Darien delivered a tour-de-force performance with a 3-0 shutout of Southington in the Class LL semifinals at Bunnell on Wednesday, earning its first trip to the state finals since 2018.

The top-seeded Blue Wave (24-0) will square off against a familiar foe when they take on No. 14 Trumbull (20-7) in the Class LL final at 10 a.m., Saturday, in East Haven.

Trumbull defeated Amity 3-1 in Wednesday’s other semifinal.

It will be third meeting of the season for the two FCIAC opponents, who played a thrilling five-set match for the conference crown on Nov. 5. The Eagles led that match 2-1 before the Wave rallied for a 3-2 victory.

Darien last reached the final five years ago and lost to Amity. The Wave was close last year but was knocked out by Greenwich in the semifinals. They last won a state title in 2014.

“It’s been a goal of ours for a very long time and for it to finally be happening, we’re so excited,” junior Ellie Moore said. “Our hard work has paid off and this team is one of a kind. There’s no one else we’d rather be doing this with.”

For CCC champion Southington (22-3), the Wave simply had too much once they got rolling.

“Once they won a few points at that point, I think we started second-guessing ourselves a little bit and got a little tight,” Southington coach Rich Heitz said. “No excuse. We’re young in some areas, so hopefully it’s a growth opportunity for some of our younger players.

“Our seniors had a nice run. They went the furthest they have in their careers.”

The first set was tied several times, including as late as 16-16, but the Wave finished with a 9-2 run to take it 25-18.

The last two sets followed the similar scripts, with Darien jumping in front, holding off several small rallies by the Knights, and nailing down 25-17 and 25-18 wins.

“We knew we had to come out here and play,” Roche said. “Coach Heitz does an amazing job with his team, they are fantastic, their serve-receive, their setting, and their swinging was awesome. We knew on serve-receive, we had to be calm, stay together and that would be a good outcome for us.”

Roche added that the Wave players didn’t pay attention to the score and just focused on the next point.

“We don’t look at the scoreboard,” Roche said. “But when we saw those scores at the end, it was rewarding.”

PLAYER OF THE GAME

Ellie Moore, Darien: The Wave had everybody in tune, and Moore finished with a game-high 15 digs, along with seven kills and an ace.

QUOTABLE

“When everything’s in sync, the energy gets really high and it’s like we’re on cloud nine. You can’t stop us. Our passing’s doing well, our hitting and setting are doing well, everything is just in sync which creates the success we’re having right now.” - Darien senior Leilani Gillespie

David.Stewart@hearstmediact.com; @dstewartsports

No. 1 DARIEN 3, No. 5 SOUTHINGTON 0

Southington 18 17 16 - 0

Darien 25 25 25 - 3

Southington: Haley Weiner 18 assists, 3 digs, 1 kill; Cami Wessels 6 kills, 1 block; Alyssa Ferreira 6 kills, 6 digs, 1 assist; Gabrielle Ferreira 4 kills, 2 digs, 1 block.

Darien: Jillian Roche 10 kills, 2 aces, 1 block; Leilani Gillespie 6 kills, 2 aces; Ellie Moore 7 kills, 15 digs, 1 ace; Aubrey Moore 26 assists, 4 aces; Marin Black 4 kills; Brooke Leone 12 digs.

Records: Southington 22-3, Darien 24-0