Fairfield Ludlowe did not play its most consistent game, but the Falcons ultimately had too much talent for archrival Fairfield Warde to overcome in an FCIAC volleyball thriller on the evening of Oct. 18.
Showing grit and determination, the host Mustangs rallied from a 2-0 deficit to tie the home match before Ludlowe pulled away in the fifth set to capture victory -- 25-19, 25-22, 17-25, 23-25, 15-8.
The win improved the Falcons to 14-1 and gave them momentum heading into a match against Staples on Wednesday that would likely determine the top seed in the FCIAC tournament that begins next Monday.
The heartbreaking loss dropped Warde to 12-4.
In the final game, Ludlowe capitalized on its serving ability and strong play up the middle to pull away. With momentum after winning the third and fouth games, Warde built a 5-2 lead early in the fifth before the Falcons went on an 11-1 run to put the match away.
Ludlowe middle blocker Casey Boatwright led the way during the run. She finished the match with 21 service points, 11 kills and five blocks, while senior outside hitter Corrine Lang had 20 digs and 12 service points for Ludlowe.
"We ultimately won the match because they (Ludlowe players) decided they wanted to win in the fifth set," said Falcons coach Meghan Skelton. "We finally played our game at the right time."
"We were playing together and trusting each other at the end," said Boatwright. "This was a great win, and hopefully it will help us start believing that we can beat anyone if we play together and trust one another all the time."
Warde sophomore Claire Burns recorded 10 service points, seven digs and six kills, while Mustangs senior Kaitlin McKenna finished with 11 kills and eight service points.
Warde coach Matt Narwold was disappointed with the final score but ecstatic about his team's effort.
"This is the proudest I've ever been of this team," he said. "My girls fought hard against an excellent team, and wouldn't give up when we lost the first two sets. I was especially pleased with how we were able to dominate at the net at times in the third and fourth sets. We played tough in the final set but just didn't have enough energy left."
Momentum constantly changed hands during the first four games.
Ludlowe dominated much of the opening game, kicking off the match on a 17-5 run before Warde staged its spirited rally.
In the second, Warde built a 14-8 lead before the Falcons' serving and passing ability allowed them to charge back to capture the game at 25-22. The Ludlowe rally was led by Boatwright and junior setter Andrea Alvarez , who had 12 digs and eight service points for the match.
Warde looked like a different team during the third and fourth games, passing effectively and setting up strong shots. The Mustangs also controlled play around the net, with some impressive blocks and kills.
McKenna, Claire Burns and Kenzie Burns sparked Warde in the third and fourth games. Kenzie Burns, a senior, finished with seven kills and five service points.
Skelton was pleased with the victory but concerned about her team's effort.
"This is the second consecutive match where we gave up a 2-0 lead and had to go to five sets for the win," she stated. We were much too inconsistent, and Warde did not make it easy on us. This team needs to learn how to constantly play at a high level. Hopefully, this match will help us figure what we need to do to get there going forward."
Narworld, meanwhile, beamed about his team.
"After the match, I told the girls to be proud of the way they played and not to hang their heads," Narwold said. "It was a loss to be proud of, and I think the momentum we gained will help us be confident and play better during our final few matches."
Danny Atkinson is a freelance reporter