DARIEN—The journey gets sweeter and sweeter for the Darien High School girls volleyball team.
The Blue Wave earned a berth in the Class LL state semifinals Saturday night by vanquishing No. 13 seed Glastonbury High School, 25-21, 25-17, 23-25, 25-21 in the LL quarterfinals in front of a delighted home crowd at the Darien gym.
“The energy we had tonight was great. We took a lot of buzz from our home crowd,” said Darien senior tri-captain Gabby Highton. “We perked up with such adrenline.”
No. 12 seed Darien (17-7 overall) will carry all these good feelings into Wednesday’s Class LL semifinals against No. 1 seed Southington (21-1 overall) at a neutral site and time to be determined. Southington ousted No. 8 seed Conard, 3-0, Saturday night. No. 10 Amity and No. 3 Westhill meet in the other LL semifinal.
If the Blue Wave complete their quest, it would be the Darien High girls volleyball program’s 18th state championship and first title since 2014.
“We’re not going to get ahead of ourselves. The job is to focus on this moment,” said Darien senior tri-captain and setter Cristina Escajadillo. “If we play every point and every game the way we need to, the rest including our legacy will come.”
Darien should consider itself very fortunate. It is one of the few FCIAC teams playing in any Class LL state tournament that hasn’t faced an FCIAC rival yet again.
The Blue Wave won on the road at Hall High of West Hartford. They did beat Newtown High for the first time in three meetings this season. And Saturday, they ousted No. 13 Glastonbury (15-8 overall) at home.
“It has felt like a real state tournament. We have played such challenging teams from other parts of the state,” said Darien senior tri-captain Lindsey Bennett. “We’ve been energized to play new faces.”
The Blue Wave, which has now won six of its last seven matches, received important contributions from all precincts Saturday.
Young middle hitters junior Hassana Arbubakrr (six blocks) and freshman Aerin Bowman (seven blocks) made an impact offensively and defensively.
“Darien’s two middle hitters were huge,” said Glastonbury coach Tony Sanith. “We don’t see that type of height (six feet and taller) in the CCC (Central Connecticut Conference).”
After taking Game 1 by 25-21, Darien fashioned an 8-0 surge in Game 2 to build an 18-10 edge that became a 25-17 victory.
Darien’s junior designated server Rachael Perrett served seven straight points including two of her three aces in the run.
Glastonbury, which won 12 of its last 13 to end the regular season and ousted FCIAC champion Trumbull in the LL second round, took control early in Game 3.
The Tomahawks led 5-0, 10-3, 16-8, 19-10 and 21-14. But Darien, with Sophia Talwalkar serving, made a 9-1 run to lead 23-22. However, two kills by Olivia DiLauro and one from Sydney Tennyson allowed Glastonbury to force a Game 4.
But Darien, which had an amazing second round comeback to beat Newtown, decided no more drama.
With Escajadillo (25 assists, 14 digs) serving, the Blue Wave made a 5-0 run for a 17-17 deadlock. At 20-20, Darien scored five of the last six points. Arbubakrr had two kills and a block in the surge to victory.
Although Glastonbury had seven seniors on its roster, the Tomahawks were a young group.
“We graduated nine seniors from 2017. This year’s seniors didn’t have a huge amount of game experience,” Glastonbury coach Sanith said. “We started out the season at 1-5. So to reach the Class LL quarterfinals says a lot about these girls. The home court helped Darien. We were tentative. We second-guessed ourselves a lot tonight.”
DARIEN 3, GLASTONBURY 1
GLASTONBURY 21 17 25 21—1
DARIEN 25 25 23 25—3
Records: Glastonbury 15-8 overall, Darien 17-7 overall. Highlights: G—Sydney Tennyson 11 kills, 9 digs, 2 blocks. Olivia Sadak 6 aces, 14 digs. D—Lindsey Bennett 10 kills, 18 digs. Elaina Cummiskey 3 aces, 9 kills, 14 service points, 15 digs. Rachael Perrett 3 aces, 9 service points. Cristina Escajadillo 25 assists, 14 digs. Hassana Arbubakrr 6 blocks. Aerin Bowman 7 blocks.