FAIRFIELD >> Fairfield Ludlowe head volleyball coach Meghan Skelton spoke earlier in the week about the postseason setting being a new experience for her team.
“They are setting their own expectations,” Skelton said last Tuesday.
For the Falcons — a mixture of first-year varsity players combined with veterans — the expectations may have just been raised after Saturday’s performance.
At Ludlowe High in front of a packed gymnasium, the Falcons made history as they defeated Darien in four games (27-25, 21-25, 25-19, 25-20) to become the first team to ever beat the Blue Wave in a conference final.
“Everything we’ve been striving for the last 11 years …. it’s just so nice for it to come to fruition,” Skelton said.
It is the first outright conference title for the Falcons who shared it with Darien in 2012.
“It means everything to us,” an excited Kylie McCaffery said.
Ludlowe, who battled back to defeat Ridgefield in five sets on Thursday in the semifinals, took down a determined Darien squad that was without senior and All-American Izzy Taylor, who went down in the FCIAC semis against Greenwich. Taylor was on crutches and is not going to be back for the state tournament.
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“We just went out there and gave it everything we had, and that’s all you can ask for,” Darien’s Anna Barsanti said.
Darien, who came into the final not having lost a match this season, and went 24-0 last year, has been the epitome of success and consistency. The Blue Wave have won every FCIAC championship since 1993, except for 2000 and 2013.
“They are a dynasty,” Skelton said. “They all rise to the occasion.”
Despite the absence of Taylor and dropping an electrifying 27-25 first set, Darien was able to build a 13-7 advantage and hang out for the victory to pull even at one game apiece.
Darien’s Catherine Crosby finished with 15 kills, one ace and five service points and Callie Fay had 37 assists in the match.
In the final two games, it was a combination of what has working for the Falcons’ all season long: all-out defense and strong net play.
Led by seniors McCaffery (17 kills), Alex McKinnon, Isabelle Andrews and junior Abbie Costantino (13 kills, four blocks) the Falcons were able to overpower Darien at the net.
In the final fourth set, Costantino’s serving propelled Ludlowe to a come-from-behind victory, as the Falcons were down 11-6 at one point. Costantino finished the match with 12 service points.
“She’s such a rock serving,” said senior captain and libero Alice Nelson, who was awarded the MVP for her outstanding defensive play. “Everyone has confidence in her.”
Up 24-20, it was Ludlowe’s McCaffery who recorded the winning point, slamming it home off a kill.
“It felt really cool,” McCaffery said. “And I just knew I needed to put it down.”
Both teams will now prepare for the state tournament. McCaffery said the reasons this team was able to accomplish what they did was everyone coming together.
“It’s all our coach,” she said. “She brought us together and she knows how to bring us together. And now we’re like a family.”