Darien volleyball tops Greenwich for third time to advance to Class LL semifinals
DARIEN -- Two down, two to go.
With its convincing 3-0 (25-18, 25-10, 25-21) Class LL quarterfinal victory over FCIAC rival and No. 9-seeded Greenwich in front of a raucous hometown student section, the unbeaten and top-seeded Darien girls volleyball team picked up its second win of the state tournament and now stands two victories away from perfection.
The Blue Wave (20-0) will clash with their first non-FCIAC opponent of the state tournament when they take on the winner of Tuesday night's quarterfinal matchup between No. 12 Southington and No. 4 Glastonbury on Thursday in the semifinals at a to-be-determined place and time.
"We had to focus on our serving and on our receiving of their serve," Darien's Riley Sousa said. "Everything else just kind of fell into place. They're a really good team and they were coming back at us every play."
Having already won a share of the FCIAC title, Darien is just two victories away from adding the state championship crown to the mantle.
Greenwich came out strong in the Game 1 and prevented Darien from taking its first lead of the contest until an ace by Taylor Cockerhill made it 15-14 in Darien's favor, and the Blue Wave would not relinquish the lead for the rest of the set.
"That was our game plan to try to grab that first set. The last time we played them we lost the first set and took the second set and we were back in," Greenwich coach Steve Lapham said. "We were hoping to do something like that tonight, but I think they played exceptionally well. You can't give up five or six points in a row to these guys and try to win the set."
Game 2 was all Darien, as the Blue Wave built a 10-8 lead before taking 15 of the next 17 points to win the set 25-10. Sousa, Kelly Kosnik, Lauren Pryor and Claire Naughton were instrumental in the lopsided win for Darien.
"It felt good to do this in our own house. This is our last game in this gym," Sousa said. "We came out really excited to play here and make our last mark on volleyball in the home gym. It's really awesome to have such a strong fan base."
The Cardinals weren't going to go down without a fight in an exceptionally competitive Game 3, which Darien eventually won 25-21. That four-point margin also represented the largest lead held by either team.
In Game 3, Greenwich got strong play from Mirei Kato, Liza Johnson and Ebba Mark, but a spike courtesy of Cockerhill gave Darien a 14-13 advantage, and the Blue Wave would not trail again. Leading 21-20, Darien won the next three points before taking the set 25-21. A well-placed spike by Sousa ended the match.
"I'm proud of my girls; they played hard and they had a great year. Besides Darien, our other losses were five-set losses, so we've been in it," Lapham said. "We're right at the top of the league but (Darien is) just at another level. They have relentless defense and just consistent play."
Tuesday also marked the third time this season that Darien triumphed over Greenwich, having picked up a 3-0 regular season victory on Oct. 5 and a 3-1 FCIAC title-clinching win on Nov. 7.
"We had to stay really aggressive. Greenwich was getting a lot of stuff up, so we had to be really scrappy on defense and aggressive with our serves," Kosnik said. "(Having fans attend) is so nice. Our friends have been really supportive this year. We've gotten a lot of people in the gym. They love volleyball and we love volleyball so it's great to celebrate together."
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Darien 3, Greenwich 0
GREENWICH 18 10 21--0
DARIEN 25 25 25--3
Records: Darien 20-0; Greenwich 15-5.
Highlights: D -- Riley Sousa had 13 kills, 9 service points and 10 digs. Kelly Kosnik had 6 kills, 7 aces, 11 service points, 17 digs and 3 blocks. Taylor Cockerhill had 6 kills and 9 blocks. Kathleen Burke had 30 assists, 8 service points, 2 aces, 8 digs and 2 blocks. Claire Naughton had 5 kills and 5 blocks. G -- Mirei Kato had 9 kills, 8 digs and 2 aces. Ebba Mark had 6 kills and 11 digs. Xanthi Katsigiannis had 17 assists and 3 digs. Liza Johnson had 5 kills.