Darien volleyball rallies past Trumbull for first FCIAC championship since 2014

FAIRFIELD — After eight long years, the FCIAC girls volleyball championship has finally gone back home to Darien.

The top-seeded Blue Wave rallied for a 3-2 win over No. 2 Trumbull in a classic final, capturing their first conference title since 2014 Saturday afternoon at Ludlowe.

Darien has won 23 league championships under head coach Laurie LaRusso, but had been back to the final just once in the previous five tournaments, that coming last fall when they fell to Greenwich in four sets. The Wave is 23-2 overall in FCIAC finals.

“Since freshman year, I’ve wanted to win an FCIAC championship,” senior co-captain Jillian Roche said. “This has really been one of our goals. Last year, we were in the championship but we couldn’t quite pull it through. This year, it’s been so rewarding. This team has really, really bonded together and I’m really grateful to see us pull through this year.”

Darien (21-0) had lost just one set and never trailed during what has been a spectacular season, but Trumbull (16-7) grabbed the lead twice by winning the first and third sets.

The Wave responded to win the fourth, and jumped out to an eight-point lead in the fifth on the way to the 22-25, 25-14, 23-25, 25-19, 15-10 decision.

“It really showed us how to dig deep and use grit to push us forward,” Darien senior co-captain Leilani Gillespie said. “We were focusing on passing and setting, which we were able to improve on in the later sets, which is what led us to our success.”

“We really just talked about believing in ourselves and believing in each other,” said junior setter Aubrey Moore, the tournament MVP. “We have worked so hard together in practice and this feels really rewarding.”

The Eagles were impressive, shifting the momentum back in their favor several times when it looked like the Wave was finding its groove. Even when Darien had match point at 14-6, Trumbull won four straight before a hit by Roche ended the contest.

“They fought and they played great,” Trumbull coach Nicole Trommelen said. “That’s a phenomenal Darien team on the other side of the net, we pushed them to their limits and they responded really well. We did a great job of not quitting. They had championship point a few times and we fought off a couple of them, and that’s a testament to how hard we played.

“As a coach, you can’t ask for anything more than that.”

Darien junior setter Aubrey Moore was named the tournament MVP after dishing out 39 assists and delivering four aces in the final.

Gillespie led the attack with 16 kills to go along with three aces and four blocks, and Roche had 10 kills and six aces. Junior Ellie Moore collected 15 kills.

For the Eagles, UConn-bound senior Maggie Carley had 39 assists, nine digs, four kills, two blocks; Camdyn Roth had nine kills and 12 digs, and Ariana Gjonbalaj had 14 kills and three blocks.

PLAYER OF THE GAME

Aubrey Moore, Darien: The junior setter was in the middle of the attack and dished out 39 assists, while Gillespie, Roche and Ellie Moore all finished in double digits for kills.

QUOTABLE

“This game was definitely the game that tested us the most. When Trumbull went up (2-1), we just put our foot down and said we need to win this, we need to do this. We got the big lead in the fifth set which gave us some cushion and I’m really proud of my team.” - Darien senior co-captain Jillian Roche

David.Stewart@hearstmediact.com; @dstewartsports

No. 1 DARIEN 3, No. 2 TRUMBULL 2

Trumbull 25 14 25 19 10 - 2

Darien 22 25 23 25 15 - 3

Trumbull: Maggie Carley 39 assists, 4 kills, 2 blocks, 9 digs; Camdyn Roth 9 kills, 12 digs, 1 ace; Ariana Gjonbalaj 14 kills, 3 blocks; Julia Grillo 10 digs.

Darien: Aubrey Moore 39 assists, 4 aces; Leilani Gillespie 16 kills, 3 aces, 4 blocks; Jillian Roche 10 kills, 6 aces; Ellie Moore 15 kills.

Records: Trumbull 16-7, Darien 21-0