DARIEN — It’s little surprising that a rivalry match between two teams in the highly congested FCIAC would take five sets to decide.
So, when Darien and New Canaan were forced to play that deciding fifth set, it was the team that came out with more energy that would walk away the winner.
That team was New Canaan, which jumped out to a quick lead and downed Darien 3-2 on the road Wednesday for its sixth consecutive win.
“That game was really exciting,” New Canaan senior captain Carson Allsteadt said. “We had a lot of energy and we were really determined to beat Darien. We were just in our huddle talking about focusing on doing our job and keeping consistent.”
The teams traded 25-22 finishes in the first two sets, with New Canaaan (11-5, 8-4 FCIAC) taking the first and Darien (6-9, 5-8) rebounding for the second.
After jumping out to a 4-0 in the third, Darien coach Laurie LaRusso called a timeout when New Canaan battled to tie the set at 12. From there, the Rams went on an 8-2 run and eventually finished the set 25-17.
The Blue Wave again battled back however, forcing the fifth set after a 25-20 win and prompting both coaches to try to swing momentum their way one final time.
“I just told them to keep fighting,” New Canaan coach Kevin Marino said of his message to his team in between sets four and five. “To show what we could do as a team. I talked a little bit about momentum shifts and they had just gotten the momentum so we had to come out strong. We came out and played hard.”
Coming into the day, New Canaan was sixth in the FCIAC, while Darien was No. 12. With McMahon, Trumbull and Westhill all at 6-5. Darien would have had to climb over several teams to get into the playoff hunt, but it wasn’t out of the question as their record was 5-7 at the start of the contest.
Instead, however, it was New Canaan that allowed itself a little breathing room for the time being.
“It was huge,” Marino said. “We talked about it today in terms of where this would put us in the rankings and they knew going into it. … It’s a big win for us, we’re excited and hopefully we can keep it rolling.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Allsteadt, New Canaan. The senior captain led the way with 19 kills and 23 digs for the Rams. As much as she contributed on the score sheet, it was her emotional leadership that proved to be the difference maker for New Canaan late.
“The energy definitely helps our game,” Allsteadt said. “When we’re excited, we play so much better. We’ve been working on getting more energy so we can execute.”
SIGH OF RELIEF
After a Darien spike attempt went long in the fifth set, it appeared New Canaan had won the match 15-7, prompting a celebration from the team and its fans. But after one of his players told him the ball had actually tipped off her before going out, Marino told the refs, who awarded the point to Darien and continued the match.
Needing just one point to win, New Canaan saw the Blue Wave rally for five-straight points before the Rams finally closed it out.
“We preach honesty to our kids,” Marino said. “She told me she touched the ball and that’s not the right way to win in my opinion. I was nervous, but I have faith in them to pull through.”
NEW CANAAN 3, DARIEN 2
NEW CANAAN 25 22 25 20 15—3
DARIEN 22 25 17 25 12—2
Records: New Canaan 11-5, 8-4 FCIAC; Darien 6-9, 5-8. Highlights: NC—Carson Allsteadt had 19 kills and 23 digs. Carey Callahan had 11 digs and Emma Wheeler contributed 30 assists and nine digs.