In turning around a 4-14 year in 2007 to 19-4 and a berth in the Class LL state finals in just two years, Ludlowe girls volleyball coach Meghan Skelton realizes how far the Falcons have come.

If the Falcons could have calmed their nerves in game one against Southington, they would have gone farther.

No. 2 Ludlowe battled and clawed to force a deciding game five, but fell to top-seeded Southington 3-2 (25-19, 17-25, 25-20, 23-25, 15-6) on Saturday night in Berlin.

"I could not be more proud," Skelton said. "This team is all heart."

Southington's Lauren Bauchiero was named the Most Valuable Player of the Class LL Tournament. Ludlowe's Ali Krikau was singled out as the Falcons MVP as the senior libero ended her final match with 15 service points, four aces and 35 digs.

"This was my last game," Krikau said. "I gave it everything that I had."

"She played one hell of a match," Skelton said of Krikau.

Skelton thought that nerves got the better of the Falcons in game one, as Ludlowe fell behind from the start 4-0.

"We've never been here, there's a lot of adrenaline Skelton said. "I attribute the first game to nerves."

The Falcons fought back behind serving of Maddie McCaffrey and Brandi Segala to give Ludlowe an 11-9 lead. Southington rebounded, tallying the next five points, taking the lead for good. Southington's Natasha Carlbert closed game one with an ace and the Lady Knights were ahead 1-0.

Ludlowe battled in game two behind Krikau, McCaffrey and senior Lia Malihi (seven aces, 10 service points). With falling behind 2-0 a major concern for the Falcons, McCaffrey converted four service points to put Ludlowe ahead 9-6. With the Falcons behind 15-11, Malihi served back-to-back aces to cut the deficit to 15-13. Then, trailing 16-14, Krikau served six straight points, three of which were aces to put the Falcons firmly in control.

"We needed some momentum," Skelton said of substituting Malhi for her serving.

Ludlowe closed the game with a block from Amy Bethge to win 25-17.

Southington was fairly dominant in game three, jumpiong ahead 16-9 and then 18-10. Ludlowe cut into that lead making the game 23-19, but Southington closed it out, 25-20.

The Falcons, playing with their season on the line, controlled game four mostly. Malihi gave increased the Ludlowe lead in game four from 12-11 to 16-11 with four service points. Ludlowe and Southington traded the final seven points with Southington committing a service error to send the match to a fifth game.

In game five, Ludlowe went ahead 1-0, but Southington ripped off five straight points. Ludlowe battled to tie the game at five, but Southington went ahead 7-5. Ludlowe cut the lead to 7-6, but the Lady Knights ripped off the last eight points to clinch the title.

With six returning juniors, including four starters, Ludlowe looks to have a strong returning class next year, but Skelton wasn't ready to look that far ahead yet.

"I've got quite a team coming back," Skelton said. "I haven't started working on next year but I know I have a deep bench."

For the kids, getting to the final was also a sign of how far the Falcons had grown.

"We played Southington in the first round last year and lost," McCaffrey said. "We made the finals, I'm not complaining."