Ludlowe beats Darien for first time ever, punches ticket to Class LL semifinals

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DARIEN >> Saturday evening’s victory was a long time coming for head coach Meghan Skelton and her volleyball program. It took nine years to finally defeat perennial powerhouse Darien, but the Fairfield Ludlowe girls’ volleyball team did so in dramatic fashion in the Class LL state quarterfinals.

Playing on the road at Darien High and in the biggest match of the season, it took the Falcons five sets to finally dethrone the Blue Wave (25-18, 25-22, 17-25, 21-25, 15-11). The win punched the No. 5 seeded Falcons (20-3) a ticket to Thursday’s semifinal where they will face No. 1 Cheshire at 7 p.m. at Trumbull High.

“I’m like so excited I can barely breathe right now,” senior Casey Boatwright said. “We wanted to beat, especially Darien, for so long, and it’s great. I’m so excited.”

The historic win for Ludlowe almost didn’t happen. After going up 2-0, and just needing one win to seal the victory, Darien, the defending Class LL state champions, had other plans. The Blue Wave (19-4) took advantage of some mental lapses and bad passes by the Falcons. Coupled with timely hits and serves, Darien tied the match at two sets a piece, winning Games three and four (17-25, 21-25).

“I was very nervous. You do not let an amazing program like Darien back in a match,” Skelton said. “So it was very scary knowing we let them in in Games three and four. I just told the girls, ‘Your choice. Either we’re going home or we’re going to win this. So make a decision and go do it.’”

The Falcons made their decision on the first point of the fifth set as Boatwright slammed it down for the 1-0 lead.  Ludlowe did not trail in the final set as they went up 13-10. Darien got within two points, 13-11 late, but Boatwright helped seal the victory with a huge kill.

Skelton gave credit to Boatwright after as the senior provided stability and presence in a big-time match.

“Casey is one of the best players I’ve ever coached,” Skelton said. “She is unreal. She is just everything you would want for as a coach. She’s totally stable at all times, she believes in herself, she’s got the confidence and she’s our go-to player. She made all the difference in the world.”

Boatwright finished the night with 19 kills, 10 blocks and seven digs. Libero Corrinne Lang added three aces, seven service points and 39 digs. Middle April Cooke had 17 kills, six blocks and three digs, as the Falcons received big points from a handful of other players.

Darien was paced by Claire Naughton’s two aces, 14 kills, three blocks and six service points. Teammate Celia Martzolf added 35 assists and eight service points.

Ludlowe’s defense was also a contributing factor in the opening sets and final game.

“Defense at times was brilliant and really made a difference,” Skelton said. “I told the girls you do not let a ball drop.”

Ludlowe will get a rematch on Thursday against Cheshire, the same team that knocked the Falcons out of last year’s state semifinals.

“They are another team I would love to face again,” Boatwright said. “I’m really excited because I think this gives us so much confidence going forward.”

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