Darien to face Fairfield Ludlowe for FCIAC volleyball title
No. 5 Greenwich High was the unfortunate victim Thursday night as No. 1 Darien vanquished the Cardinals 25-17, 25-11, 25-6 in the FCIAC playoff semifinals at Ludlowe High gym.
"We're young. We played OK. We're getting there," veteran Greenwich High coach Steve Lapham said. "Darien is just better. Darien is simply on another level."
Indeed. Darien (19-0) is one step away from the FCIAC title. The Blue Wave will battle No. 3 Ludlowe Saturday at Ludlowe for the crown. Ludlowe downed No. 7 Trumbull, 23-25, 25-14, 25-19, 25-19 in Thursday's other semifinal.
The victory also keeps Darien's quest for an undefeated season alive.
The Blue Wave makes it look easy as they play impervious to the pressure of the one-and-done postseason format.
"For us, it's all about sticking together," said senior quad-captain and setter Celia Martzolf. "We're so focused on the court we don't even hear the fans. It's all about playing the game. Just about the game."
Thursday's match was a joy to behold as the Darien High faithful just waited patiently each game for THE RUN.
Game 1 was tied at 11-11 when Darien used a 7-1 surge for an 18-12 advantage. Greenwich (14-6) would get no closer than 18-15 before losing 25-17.
In Game 2, Darien led 6-2 and 13-9 before fashioning a 9-1 surge for a 19-9 edge that became a 25-11 victory.
Darien junior captain Isabelle Taylor had six kills and one block in Game 2.
In Game 3, Martzolf was a service wizard and Greenwich was out of gas.
The statistics told the story for Darien.
Senior setter Martzolf collected 29 assists, 20 service points, 6 aces and four kills.
Taylor finished with 17 kills. Anna Barsanti added 14 service points and three aces. Claire Naughton had six kills, 6 service points and three aces.
"Taylor is one of the best players in the entire state," Lapham said. "Darien executes so well and are so well-coached. I hope we can learn some things from this to take into the state tournament."
In the opening semifinal, Ludlowe used its height and its home court to subdue Trumbull.
"We lost Game 1 (25-23) because we weren't ready to play," Ludlowe coach Meghan Skelton said. "The girls were nervous. But they rallied."
Ludlowe's extreme height and power at the net allowed the Falcons to sweep the next three games.
Ludlowe's 6-foot-3 senior hitter April Cooke played big, collecting 14 kills, two blocks and countless intimidations.
The Falcons were frontrunners in each game as Trumbull couldn't overcome early deficits.
In Game 2, the serving of Caitlyn Sprinkle (13 service points, 4 aces) sparked an 8-0 surge that built a 14-3 cushion that finished as a 25-14 Ludlowe win and a 1-1 match.
In Game 3, Ludlowe had leads of 7-3, 14-9 and 18-11. Trumbull closed to 21-19 before Ludlowe shut the door for a 25-19 win.
In Game 4, Ludlowe led 8-1, 12-5 and 18-10 before closing out the match at 25-19.
Trumbull, which had played so well in its quarterfinal round upset over Stamford, never settled in under the bright light of the semifinal stage.
"Our passing was off at times. Our serving was really off at times. We missed five serves total against Stamford.
"We missed nine serves in Game 2 alone," Trumbull coach Tamara DeBerry said. "We blocked well at the net against Stamford. But Ludlowe is unstoppable with all their height."
Ludlowe's defense took away nearly all of Trumbull's diagonal spike plays.
"We did the hard work necessary to get to the final," Ludlowe coach Skelton said.
"Now it's time to play our game. Be aggressive. Be consistent. We just have to do our thing."
Darien 3, Greenwich 0
GREENWICH 17 11 6--0
DARIEN 25 25 25--3
Records: Darien 19-0.
Highlights: D--Celia Martzolf 20 service points, 29 assists, 6 aces, 4 kills; Isabelle Taylor 17 kills, 5 service points; Anna Barsanti 14 service points, 3 aces; Claire Naughton 6 kills, 6 service points, 3 aces.
Ludlowe 3, Trumbull 1
TRUMBULL 25 14 19 19--1
LUDLOWE 23 25 25 25--3
Highlights: T--Sydney Adams 16 assists, 5 digs, 1 kill. Mia Hampford 6 kills, 12 digs; Kristen Peterson 14 digs. L--April Cooke 14 kills, 2 blocks; Olivia Auray 5 service points, 5 kills, 9 digs; Caitlyn Sprinkle 13 service points, 4 aces, 10 kills, 11 digs.
Note: Ludlowe plays Darien for FCIAC title Saturday.