DARIEN — Where many teams tire the longer matches go on, the Westhill volleyball team just keeps getting stronger.
The Vikings rebounded from a three-down, set-point deficit in the first to sweep Darien 3-0 on the road Monday, holding on to their share of the top spot in the FCIAC.
“Everyone was on today,” Westhill senior libero Nina Bakuradze said. “Our mentality was there, our effort was there. We knowhow good of a team Darien is and has been in the previous years, so we knew we had to bring our A game in order to beat a top team like that.”
The first set went back and forth, with Darien (11-6, 10-4 FCIAC) calling a timeout trailing the Vikings 21-18. From there, the Blue Wave’s Lindsay Bennett recorded four straight aces as part of a 6-0 Darien run to give her team a chance at an early lead.
Westhill (16-2, 12-2) would rebound, however, scoring three quick points to tie and eventually win the point 27-25.
“The first set was tough,” Bakuradze said. “In the end we weregoing back and forth, but I think it made us more confident. It gave us that extra push to say, ‘We got this. Let’s make it a quick one to get it done. We know what we have to do.’ ”
That was all the confidence the Vikings needed, as in the second set they broke an 8-8 tie with a 12-2 run to take the game 25-16.
“They’re a very good team,” Darien coach Laurie LaRusso said. “They’re very well coached; they have players that are multidimensional. They’re just overall a very good team.”
Turning a stifling defense into offense, Westhill jumped out to a 7-1 lead in the final set, eventually closing the match with a 25-11 win.
“We’ve been working on our serve-receive so that we can initiate the first ball, so they can put it away,” Westhill coach Maria Capomolla said. “Our defense was on today and we picked up a lot of balls and it helped us with setting up our offense.”
PLAYERS OF THE MATCH
Tamar Bellete/Betsy Sachs, Westhill. The duo in the middle had their hands full all day with Darien’s own tandem of Hassana Arbubakrr and Aerin Bowman, but more than hold their own, proving to be one of the key differences in the outcome.
“They definitely contributed alot,” Capomolla said. “Picking spots and swinging when they needed to, just playing smart all around.”
The Vikings got off to a 10-0 start to the year, but their backloaded schedule has helped in terms of knowing what to improve as playoffs roll around.
“It helped us learn and grow and see what our weaknesses were that we needed to work on,” Capomolla said. “Since we didn’t have a lot of the tougher teams in the beginning, we started seeing our flaws toward the end. It’s good for us because now we get to work on our flaws and try to fix them.”
Not only did Darien libero Sophia Talwalkar lead the Wave with 25 digs and record four service points, the junior also sang a stirring, a cappella rendition of the National Anthem prior to the contest.
WESTHILL 3, DARIEN 0
WESTHILL 27 25 25—3
DARIEN 25 16 11—0
Westhill 16-2, 12-2 FCIAC; Darien 11-6, 10-4.
W—Sophia Thagouras had nine kills and 15 assists, Betsy Sachs had 10 service points and eight kills, Nina Bakuradze had 18 digs. Nikki Newcomer had six kills and 16 digs. D—Lindsay Bennett had seven kills, four aces, eight service points and 20 digs. Sophia Talwalkar had 25 digs and four service points.