Darien holds off two New Canaan rallies for shutout win
DARIEN — No matter what the situation is on the court or what it may say on the scoreboard, one thing is certain for the Darien volleyball team: The Blue Wave isn’t about to get distracted by the opponent on the other side of the net.
Squaring off against rival New Canaan, the Wave withstood a pair of comeback bids and blanked the Rams, 3-0, Thursday afternoon at DHS. The first two sets were dramatic before the Wave stormed off in the third for a 30-28, 25-23, 25-12 win.
“The difference isn’t about the teams on the other side of the net, it comes down to us,” Darien senior co-captain Elaina Cummiskey said. “We’re really learning to push, keep our leads, and just keep pushing through everything. They were definitely a tough team but we’ve learned a lot.”
It was the Wave’s second win in three days against an FCIAC playoff contender, as they defeated Ludlowe 3-2 on Tuesday, handing the Falcons their first defeat of the season.
Darien (8-4) has won seven of its last eight matches since a 1-3 start.
“We’ve totally changed our dynamic and we’re no longer playing not to lose, we’re playing to win and we play aggressively,” senior co-captain Sophia Talwalkar said.
New Canaan (10-4) has split its last six matches, with all three losses coming against top contenders Ludlowe 3-2, Joel Barlow 3-1, and now Darien.
The Rams showed plenty of life in the first two sets, coming back to make it close before falling by two points each time,
“We came in, we fell behind by a lot and then we finally picked it back up,” New Canaan senior co-captain Ally Leopold said. “We were excited to go into the second set with a bang, and then it happened again. By the third set it was a matter of everything we tried doing wasn’t working and we got discouraged.”
Darien had big matches from Cummiskey and senior co-captain Lindsey Fay, who combined for seven aces and generally gave the Rams problems with their booming serves. Cummiskey had a team-best 10 kills and Fay had seven. Sophomore Aerin Bowman was a force at the net as well with nine kills.
For New Canaan, Leopold and Alex Gillespie led the offense, with libero Annie Gravereaux delivering on the back line.
A wild first set had each team fighting off three match points. New Canaan rallied to get to within a point at 22-21 before Darien got to the doorstep at 24-22. The Rams responded with two points to tie it, and held off the Wave at 25-24 as well.
New Canaan had chances at 26-25, 27-26, and 28-27, but this time, it was the Wave fighting back. Darien finally put the set in the books with Fay delivering an ace, and then sending over a hard serve which the Rams couldn’t return.
In the second set, Darien built a 23-16 lead when New Canaan responded with six straight to close the gap to 1.
“Our communication definitely picked up,” Leopold said of the rallies. “There were some plays where people weren’t talking and we fell behind, but then when we started communicating, we were more aggressive and we played better.”
As they had done in the first set, however, the Wave answered the bell, putting the set away at 25-23.
Darien then secured the match winning by 13 points in the third set.
“In the end it came down to the amount of energy we had, and moving our feet,” Talwalker said. “Coach always says volleyball is played with your feet, not your arms. Especially in the third set, we pumped ourselves up and managed to cover more of the court in a quicker amount of time, and that helped us win.”
Pulling out the close sets is something the Blue Wave is learning to handle.
“You really have to play to win,” Cummiskey said. “You can’t worry about if I lose this point, that’s the game. You have to focus on being aggressive in the point and that’s what we did and that’s how we pulled it out.”
PLAYER OF THE MATCH
Elaina Cummiskey, Darien: The Wave senior co-captain led the offense with 10 kills, and also collected nine digs.The serving of Cummiskey and Lindsey Fay gave New Canaan problems, as they had three and four aces, respectively.
“We planned ahead of time and invited a bunch of people to come to the game. It helps with our energy when you have a big crowd screaming for you. It’s always fun and it makes us play better.” — Darien senior co-captain Sophia Talwalkar
DARIEN 3, NEW CANAAN 0
NEW CANAAN 28 23 12 — 0
DARIEN 30 25 25 — 3
Darien: Elaina Cummiskey 10 kills, 3 aces, 9 digs, 12 service points; Lindsey Fay 7 kills, 4 aces, 2 blocks, 1 dig, 8 service points; Aerin Bowman 9 kills, 1 ace, 3 blocks, 1 dig, 4 service points; Rosali Pirone 28 assists, 8 digs, 1 kill, 2 aces, 1 block, 5 service points.
Records: New Canaan (10-4); Darien (8-4)