With Emily Nelson serving as she did on Tuesday, the Fairfield Ludlowe girls volleyball team is awfully difficult to stop.
The senior outside hitter had seven aces, leading the third-seeded Falcons over No. 6 Newtown, 3-0 (25-15, 25-16, 25-21) in the Class LL quarterfinals at Fairfield Ludlowe High School.
"To win 3-0 over a great team in the quarterfinals, that's ridiculous," Nelson said. "It builds our confidence."
Nelson added nine kills and six digs as Ludlowe advances to the state semifinals for the third time in four years. The Falcons will play second-seeded Cheshire Thursday at 5 p.m. at Foran High School in Milford.
"Our girls are just so excited," Ludlowe coach Meghan Skelton said. "We've had this goal for a long time."
Falcons' middle hitter Casey Boatwright had three solo blocks and eight kills, dominating the middle as Ludlowe won its 18th straight match.
"She played a tremendous difference in this match," Skelton said.
Newtown was led by sophomore Kyle Dandrea, who had four kills and three aces. The Nighthawks finished their season 16-6.
"Fairfield (Ludlowe) is a fantastic team," Newtown coach Tom Czaplinski said. "One of the best teams we've seen this year."
Three of Nelson's aces came in a row during a 10-point service run in Game 1 that helped Ludlowe cement the frame 25-15.
"I told them, `we need long service runs, keep the first one in,'" Skelton said, "and she got some really long runs for us."
Nelson also aced three in a row at the start of Game 2 as Ludlowe built an 8-1 advantage. The Falcons did not trail in either of the first two games.
"Her jump serve is really hard to dig," Boatwright said. "People shank it all the time. I love her serve."
"She jump-served the crap out of us," Czaplinski said.
The Nighthawks fell behind 4-1 in Game 3, but back-to-back kills from senior Amanda Rowan helped Newtown go ahead 6-5. The Nighthawks' lead peaked at 15-11.
"We play better when we have a sense of urgency," Czaplinski said. "I think we got some of that in the third game."
But thanks to Nelson's serving and some stellar Ludlowe defense, the Falcons clawed back, retaking the lead 18-17 thanks to Lexi Cardenas' ace. Ludlowe would not trail again.
"I really think our defense and our middles won that match," Skelton said.
Class LL quarterfinals
NEWTOWN 15 16 21--0
FAIRFIELD LUDLOWE 25 25 25--3
Records: Newtown 16-6, Fairfield Ludlowe 21-1. Highlights: N--Kyle Dandrea had four kills and three aces. Amanda Rowan had four kills and two blocks. Courtney Escoda had nine digs. FL--Emily Nelson had nine kills, seven aces and six digs. Casey Boatwright had three blocks and eight kills. Kelly Rotondo had three aces, one kill and 19 assists.