STAMFORD — If this was regular season intensity, imagine what the FCIAC Girls Volleyball playoffs will bring.
The J. Walter Kennedy Athletic Center was rocking Friday night as the Westhill girls volleyball team rallied to conquer a resolute Darien squad 3-0 (29-27, 32-30, 27-25).
“Tonight proved that we are ready to fight. It’s all about your team’s mentality to win a set 32-30,” Westhill senior Sophia Thagouras said. “We showed a mindset tonight that we can carry with us throughout the rest of this season.”
Westhill (8-2, 7-1 FCIAC) and the eight seniors on the roster are a group that wants to take the next step after reaching the FCIAC final and Class LL semifinals last season.
“We’ve talked about and worked in practice about forging rallies. We proved we can do it tonight,” Westhill senior Betsy Sachs said. “Our aggression pulled us through. Our group has trust. Our motto is ‘Don’t Let Any Ball Drop!’ ”
It seemed Friday that every rally between the Vikings and the Blue Wave was long and filled with high drama whenever the low ceiling in the Westhill gym did not intervene.
In Game 1, Westhill led 5-0 before Darien rallied for a 10-7 edge. Darien led 22-17 when Westhill answered with a 7-1 surge for a 24-23 lead.
After four ties, a kill by Tamar Bellete finally gave Westhill a 29-27 triumph.
Game 2 was more of the same with the Westhill student ‘Purple Pack’ in full throat. A 9-3 Darien lead became a 10-9 Westhill edge.
At 15-15, Darien took leads of 19-15 and 23-18. But Westhill answered with a 7-1 surge for a 25-24 advantage.
Six ties ensued before the Vikings emerged with a 32-30 win and a 2-0 match edge.
“We’ve talked a lot about 100 percent effort. About forging to the end of each set,” Westhill coach Marianna Linnehan said. “We stayed away from letdowns and loss of focus tonight. These were the highest scores I’ve seen in a three-set match.”
The script remained for Game 3. A 5-3 Darien edge became Westhill leads of 10-6 and 19-13.
At 21-17, Darien fashioned a 6-0 run for 23-21. At 24-22, Westhill won three straight points and five of six to close it out at 27-25.
Darien (6-4, 6-3 FCIAC) features eight seniors and one junior on its roster. The Blue Wave lost in last year’s Class LL final to Amity and graduated three seniors from that squad.
Darien’s losses this year have been to Newtown (five sets), defending FCIAC champ Trumbull (five sets), unbeaten Greenwich (five sets) and now Westhill.
“We’re realizing that every point is important. Not just when it’s 22-22,” said Darien senior tri-captain Lindsey Fay. “We want great competition like this. And to play before a crowd like this was fun.”
“We have to keep pushing hard to get those last few points,” said Darien senior tri-captain Sophia Talwalkar, who sang a wonderful acapella version of the ‘Star Spangled Banner.’ “Close sets like this help us going forward.”
WESTHILL 3, DARIEN 0
DARIEN 27 30 25—0
WESTHILL 29 32 27—3
Records: Darien 6-4, 6-3 FCIAC; Westhill 8-2, 7-1 FCIAC.
Highlights: Dar—Elaina Cummiskey 18 digs, 5 kills, 4 aces, 13 service points. Aerin Bowman 4 blocks, 3 aces, 13 service points. Hassana Arbubakrr 4 kills, 3 blocks. Rachel Herget 21 assists, 11 digs. West—Maddie Bautista 16 digs. Betsy Sachs 13 kills, 9 service points. Vana Servos 16 assists, 16 service points. Sophia Thagouras 15 assists, 7 kills, 14 service points. Caroline Boyd 6 kills, 7 digs, 7 service points.