Darien tops Staples to reach FCIAC volleyball semifinals
DARIEN — The quest of the Darien High School girls volleyball team for the program’s 14th FCIAC Championship in 15 years began as expected Tuesday.
The Blue Wave elected to conquer No. 8 Staples, 25-9, 25-22, 25-22 in the conference quarterfinals at home.
The win means No. 1 Darien (18-0) has advanced to Thursday’s semifinal doubleheader (5 p.m., 7 p.m.) at Ludlowein Fairfield. The FCIAC volleyball final will be back at Ludlowe on Saturday.
No. 1 Darien should meet No. 5 Greenwich in one semifinal Thursday. Greenwich beat McMahon on the road, 3-0 Tuesday. No. 2 Ludlowe will battle No. 3 Ridgefield in the other semifinal.
Darien showed why it is unbeaten this season in Game 1. Trailing 5-2, the Blue Wave put together an 18-2 surge that sparked a 25-9 triumph.
Catherine Crosby (eight service points) and Izzy Taylor (seven service points) kept Staples at bay in the run.
“Darien is a great serving team. They are able to use serves as offensive plays,” said Staples coach Jon Shepro. “They racked up so many service aces. And service aces on top of kills are so demoralizing.”
Staples (13-8) kept pace in Game 2, forging a 16-16 deadlock. But Darien’s frontline power (Taylor, Crosby, Caroline Martzolf) took control with a 5-0 run for a 21-16 edge. The Blue Wave ultimately prevailed, 25-22 for a 2-0 lead.
Staples’ hitters — Ginny Gerig (9 kills), Reece Schachne (6 kills) and Nikki Lynch (4 kills) — ran a solid offense through setter Maya Lawande (22 assists). The Wreckers went point for point with the Blue Wave, forging a 22-22 deadlock in Game 3.
Darien, however, decided it was time to focus. Samantha Huff (a block and a service ace) and Taylor (the last of her 20 kills) stepped up and tied a blue ribbon around a 25-22 win and a 3-0 sweep.
Although Darien has just two seniors, co-captains Taylor and setter Anna Barsanti-37 assists, the Blue Wave is strong in all phases of the game. Taylor’s prowess is so singular that she is able to hammer winning spikes on sets to the back row.
“I thought we had a shot today. I thought we played Darien hard in the regular season (a 3-1 loss on Oct. 16),” Shepro said. “Scoring 22 points in Game 2 and Game 3 isn’t bad. We scared Darien a bit but we couldn’t close them out down the stretch at all.”
Now Staples will turn its attention to the upcoming Class LL state tournament which will look very familiar to the Wreckers as nine FCIAC schools are ranked in the Top 19 with Darien, of course, sitting in the No. 1 slot.
“I would love to see and play the upstate schools but the FCIAC has schools with vast enrollments,” Shepro said. “We’ll probably see Darien yet again.”
DARIEN 3, STAPLES 0
STAPLES 9 22 22 — 0
DARIEN 25 25 25 — 3
Records: Staples 13-8 overall; Darien 18-0 overall.
Highlights: S — Ginny Gerig 9 kills; Reece Schachne 6 kills; Nikki Lynch 4 kills; Maya Lawande 22 assists. Vanessa Eng 7 digs. D — Izzy Taylor 3 aces, 20 kills. Catherine Crosby 9 aces, 9 kills. Samantha Huff 2 aces, 4 kills. Anna Barsanti 37 assists.