Darien volleyball team breezes past Fairfield Ludlowe in FCIAC quarterfinals
DARIEN -- For the 17th time in 19 games, the undefeated Darien volleyball team cruised to a 3-0 victory, this time when it counts the most -- in the quarterfinals of the FCIAC tournament against No. 8 Ludlowe.
With the win on its own home court, Darien advanced to Friday's FCIAC semifinal round, where it will play No. 4 New Canaan -- a 3-2 come-from-behind winner over No. 5 Greenwich -- at 7 p.m. at Fairfield Ludlowe High School.
Showing no signs of being a team under the pressure of finishing off another undefeated campaign, Darien brushed aside another would be conference contender by set scores of 25-15, 25-19 and 25-14.
"We were all very excited because the FCIAC and State tournaments is where the competition gets to be at its highest quality, so it's always exciting," Darien's Katie Stueber said. "It's obviously a little nerve-wracking, but sometimes nerves are good, I think both teams did a really good job. I'm glad with how everything turned out."
The Blue Wave (19-0) led for the entirety of the first set, and Darien's Kelly Kosnik finished things off with a hard spike for the 25-15 win.
In the second set, neither team could establish more than a two-point lead until Darien finally started pulling away at 14-11. Then the Blue Wave caught fire, building a 19-12 lead before finishing off the set at 25-19. In the second set especially, Ludlowe seemed to be having trouble solving Stueber, who registered several blocks.
With Ludlowe (11-8) on its heels, Darien came out strong in the clinching set and quickly built a 9-3 advantage. Darien went on to claim the 25-14 victory to seal the overall win.
In the loss, Ludlowe's Emily Nelson had seven kills and 16 digs, and Kelly Potando came up with 13 assists, 14 digs and a kill.
"There were moments that we played well, but Darien did their job. Then there were moments where we kind of had lapses, and you can't have those in the playoffs," Ludlowe coach Meghan Skelton said. "This is a big rebuilding year for us. We only have sophomores and juniors, which is great news for next year. It's about getting that confidence, playing together and getting in the system."
For Ludlowe, which closed out its regular season with four consecutive wins to clinch the No. 8 spot in the FCIAC playoffs, a win over undefeated Darien wasn't something they saw as outside the realm of possibility.
"We got into the FCIACs which we were very happy about. I love playing these games because we were coming in as the underdog. We could have won but it's fun to play great teams like that," Ludlowe's Emily Nelson said. "This shows that we can win and we can win in states. I think (the four straight wins) showed that when we need to win, we can win."
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Darien hopes Thursday's win was just the beginning of another pair of lengthy tournament runs in the FCIAC and state playoffs.
"We worked well as a unit today. There was a lot of great energy on the court which was awesome," Stevenson said. "It wasn't just another day. It was a huge game. Obviously FCIACs and States and all the tournaments make us nervous, but we have to calm our nerves and channel our energy into performing the best we can."