NEWTOWN—The Darien girls volleyball team had taken their season to the brink.
Here in the second round of the Class LL Tournament, the Blue Wave was in Game 4 staring at five match points for No. 5 seed and host Newtown. The Nighthawks had already beaten Darien twice in the regular season.
But the word surrender isn’t in the Darien volleyball lexicon.
The Blue Wave came back to forge a 24-24 deadlock and eventually take Game 4 by 29-27.
Finally given a chance to exhale, Darien took Game 5 to cap an amazing 25-21, 25-27, 21-25, 29-27, 15-11 road triumph Thursday night.
“It was a nervewracking spot down 24-19. But we’ve learned to let our troubles go and rise to the occasion,” said Darien senior tri-captain Lindsay Bennett.
The No. 12 seeded Blue Wave’s reward for its comeback is a trip to Saturday’s Class LL quarterfinals.
It was only the second win in eight attempts in fifth sets this season for Darien (16-7 overall).
“Our mental toughness has come so far,” said Darien senior tri-captain and setter Cristina Escajadillo. “We were there for each other no matter what the situation is. We have trust. We are a cohesive unit. We have finally learned to embrace the fifth set. It took a lot of work in practice to get there. Now our mindset is we have nothing to lose so just go for it.”
For No. 5 seed Newtown it was a tough ending to a wonderful season.
The Nighthawks had reached the SWC Tournament final before losing to Joel Barlow.
“We have a good bond on the team and we have great talent. But there’s a little bit of something that holds us back,” said Newtown senior libero Mollie Goudy. “We couldn’t quite get it done in the big moments.”
In their two regular season meetings, Newtown topped Darien, 3-2 and 3-1. But the Blue Wave learned from the experiences.
“The axoim about beating a team three times in a season came true again,” Newtown coach Tom Czaplinski said. “The difference tonight was Darien’s blocking at net. They never blocked like this in the first two meetings.”
Ther improvement of junior middle hitter Hassana Arbubakrr (10 blocks) and freshman middle hitter Aerin Bowman (nine kills, four blocks) was hard to miss Thursday night.
Both sides had a slew of nervous serves, to be expected in the state tournament.
It was a great battle in one of the few gyms in the state made for volleyball (extremely high ceilings).
“This was a fantastic team to coach,” said Newtown coach Czaplinski as he bid farewell to four seniors. “That’s why this loss hurts so much.”
DARIEN 3, NEWTOWN 2
DARIEN 25 25 21 29 15—3
NEWTOWN 21 27 25 27 11—2
Records: Darien 16-7 overall, Newtown 18-6 overall.
Highlights: D—Elaina Cummiskey 9 kills, 11 digs, 4 aces. Lindsay Bennett 10 kills, 21 digs. Aerin Bowman 9 kills, 4 blocks. Hassana Arbubakrr 10 blocks. Sophia Talwalkar 17 digs. Cristina Escajadillo 26 assists. N—Veronica Kroha 11 kills, 3 aces. Genevieve Murray 13 kills, 2 blocks. Kim Buttery 42 assists, 12 digs. Mollie Goudy 15 digs.