FAIRFIELD - The Darien volleyball team had been building to this all season. And, as Kelly Kosnik's spike bounced off the Fairfield Ludlowe High School hard court, the Blue Wave finished off their third 3-0 win in as many days to capture the FCIAC Championship against Ridgefield.

Darien concluded its championship run with three sets (25-14, 25-20 and 25-19) of efficient volleyball, rarely making mistakes and forcing Ridgefield to earn every point.

"I can't even explain it. We've come so far and we've worked so hard and it just feels great to finally have it all pay off," said Darien's Charlett Stevenson, who was named Most Valuable Player of the FCIAC tournament. "It was definitely a challenge playing three days in a row, but we stepped up to the plate and we accepted it. It came out perfect for us."

Darien's first two points in the first set came courtesy of Katie Stueber, who notched a pair of kills on spikes. The Blue Wave took their first lead at 3-2 and did not trail again for the rest of the contest. Darien won the set 25-14 after Ridgefield volleyed the ball out of bounds.

"We were down a bit mentally after they got into our heads a little bit," Ridgefield's Karryn Christiansen said. "It's just all about mentality and keeping in up, and we got quiet out there. We're a much better team than we showed, but I'm still very proud that we got here."

Darien took a commanding 2-0 lead by winning the second set 25-20. After falling behind 18-7, Ridgefield mounted a bit of a comeback to close the gap to 23-16, but that was as close as the Tigers would get. Stevenson and Brittany Osborn made several big plays to help Darien close out the set.

In the championship-clinching third set, Darien opened up an early 9-3 lead, only to watch Ridgefield claw its way back into the game at 12-11. However, Darien won the next three points, severely hurting Ridgefield's chance to rally. Darien won its second match point to seal the FCIAC crown.

"We're so excited, it's great. You try to take it point by point and block everything out for the moment, then once you hit 25 [points], it's unreal," Stueber said. "We're going to be working hard in practice before State's."

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After scoring a 3-1 win over No. 3 Staples in the semifinals, No. 2 Ridgefield fell a single win shy of its ultimate goal. Despite the loss, the Tigers indicated that they were proud of how far they'd come in 2011.

"I'm really proud of what they did all season and all this week. The girls played with a lot of heart. No one expected us to be here," Ridgefield coach Lidania Cibere said. "Everyone was talking about Darien and Staples, and I made sure we read all those articles. I don't want them to hang their heads. It stinks that we lost, but our season isn't over and we have State's to look forward to."

Both teams will compete in the State tournament, and the brackets are scheduled to be released on Wednesday at 11 a.m.

Darien, which lost its only game of 2010 in the State title matchup against East Lyme, is looking forward to the challenge of completing its perfect season.

"We have to prepare for each team as we face them and not focus on everything as a whole," Stevenson said. "We have to take it step by step and just push and work as hard as we can, and stay together, stay energized, everything."

RIDGEFIELD..................... 14 20 19--0

DARIEN......................... 25 25 25--3

Records: Darien (21-0); Ridgefield (18-3)

Highlights: R--Olivia Prehodka had five digs, three kills, three service points, two aces and two assists. Lauren Liederbach had four kills, four service points and two digs. Morgan Hyland had nine assists and four service points. D--Charlett Stevenson had 11 service points, 10 aces, four digs and one block. Nina Preston had 14 assists, four service points, three digs and one ace. Riley Sousa had 12 assists, seven digs, four service points and an ace.