Darien made fewer errors and served better than host Fairfield Ludlowe Wednesday night in Fairfield to win a showdown between unbeaten teams in an FCIAC girls volleyball match. The Blue Wave, which improved to 7-0 overall, lost the first game 27-25 before winning the last three -- 25-17, 25-21 and 25-18 -- to hand Ludlowe its first defeat.
The Blue Wave raised its 2013 FCIAC record to 6-0, while the Falcons dropped to 5-1 overall and in the conference. The rivals were conference co-champions in 2012 when Darien won the regular-season match 3-1 as well.
"I'm scared to look," Ludlowe coach Meghan Skelton said of her stat sheet that would reveal just how many mistakes the Falcons made.
"It's very frustrating to see them (Falcons) self-implode with all those unforced errors and all the missed services at crucial times. They killed any momentum that we had going. We did not play our best. I was not proud of how we played. We have to learn to play as a team."
Most of Ludlowe's problems came in games two and four, though they were not error free in the first and third games. Darien, if anything, was more consistent.
"This was a good game because we could see where we're at," said Darien junior captain Celia Martzoff. "We're really young, and we have a lot of things to teach each other. A lot of them (young players) have really been pulling through."
Blue Wave senior captain Nicole Schmidt noted the strength of Ludlowe as an opponent but spoke about her team's resiliency. "We were really able to lean on each other, even though we made mistakes," Schmidt said.
Ludlowe got off to a 6-1 lead in the opener, but regained the upper hand after Darien pulled even at 7-7, 9-9 and 10-10. The Falcons moved to a 17-11 advantage, but were clinging again with a 20-19 lead. The Blue Wave knotted it at 24-24, but the Falcons persevered when Darien failed to dig the ball just before it landed on the game-winning shot by Ludlowe junior Olivia Auray.
Darien held a 9-8 lead in the second game before winning six of the next nine points for a 15-11 lead. Ludlowe cut the deficit to 18-15, then the Blue Wave won five of the next six points for a 23-16 cushion. In game 3, the Falcons opened a 5-2 lead before Darien got on a roll. Ludlowe scrapped back for a 16-16 tie but the Blue Wave maintained a two- and three-point lead the rest of the way for a 2-1 edge in games.
Skelton used her deep but young bench in game four, but that couldn't arrest Darien's momentum. Ludlowe trailed 5-4 but faced a 12-6 deficit soon after. The Falcons fought back to trail 18-16 but their service game betrayed them once more -- at another pivotal time -- and Darien withstood any more attempts to rally by the Falcons for the 25-18 win.
"There were definitely nerves out there, and we wanted to win so bad," Skelton said. "We'd have some great plays followed by an unforced error. It's a matter of them getting confident. We're going to let this be a learning lesson for us."
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