Ludlowe volleyball stuns Warde in four sets
FAIRFIELD - Standing just two points away from victory, perhaps the most important victory of Kate Steensma’s career, the Ludlowe senior outside hitter bent down and tapped the floor twice for good luck.
Knock on wood, right?
Her kill had just given the Falcons a one-point lead — and the serve — and using those lucky good luck taps, Steensma and Ludlowe finished the deal, knocking off town-rival Warde in four sets Monday night at the Mustangs gym.
“Kate has been tremendous all year,” Falcons coach Meghan Skelton said after Ludlowe’s 21-25, 26-24, 25-21, 25-22 victory. “She’s a player that everybody enjoys watching. She’s so physical and when she gets those kills, it turns everything around, the momentum goes in our favor.”
And that momentum started turning Ludlowe’s way in the second set and never left. Despite the fact that the Falcons had won just four of 16 matches this season coming in, it was the play of Steensma, along with Lily Traum, Amanda Schramm, Jasmine Hamel, Jackie Soderlund, Lainie Costantino and Jess Takami, that guided Ludlowe to winning the last three sets to upset the Mustangs.
“Our philosophy is always grit and determination,” Skelton said. “Nothing matters, except for the present moment and your mindset and the girls really have adapted to that and they did a really good job.”
For Warde, the loss was tough. While the Mustangs have already locked up a berth in the upcoming Class LL tournament, coach Matt Narwold’s team was looking to possibly squeeze into the FCIAC tournament but instead, they were squeezed out.
“At this point, we’re just focusing on the states and preparing for that,” Narwold said. “We have to be consistent. Sometimes, we don’t play in the moment and we watch the play as opposed to being in it and playing in it.”
Right now, the Mustangs are lost in the moment. After a three-match win streak pushed them to 9-5 for the season, Warde has now lost four straight.
Warde broke away from a 20-20 tie in the first set, thanks to a kill from Olivia Parisi and two service points from Claire Christenson, to take a 25-21 decision but Ludlowe held its ground and tied at 24-24 in set two, a kill from Hamel and a service point from Traum gave the Falcons the 26-24 decision.
“Volleyball is all about momentum and that’s what coach said after we lost that first set,” Steensma said. “She said that we needed to get our energy and momentum and go and win these next three sets and that’s what we did.”
In set three, Ludlowe held a 21-15 lead, only to see Warde rally to make it 21-20 but a pair of kills from Steensma an ace from Takami and a service point from Schramm finished the 25-21 set.
“After the first set we had great momentum and into the second set, we had decent momentum, it was back and forth,” Narwold said. “Ludlowe’s always a battle and Meg did a great job of kind of picking up some of the areas where we typically give up points.”
Tied at 21-21 in set four, two key service points from Takami gave Ludlowe a 23-21 lead - setting the stage for Steensma and the Falcons’ big finish.
“Libby (McKenna) and Olivia Parisi and Grace Dougherty on the front row were all doing great things,” Narwold said. “But Kate really turned it on in the fourth game and she kind of made it lights out for us. We were kind of hesitant to which position to set up on defense and she did a really nice job.”
“We had amazing passes and sets and we were able to perform so well offensively … they couldn’t touch us,” Steensma said. “It was amazing.”
And while the season hasn’t gone the way Skelton had hoped it would, the win over Warde will certainly help heal the disappointment.
“It always feels good (to beat Warde),” Skelton said. “The cross-town rivalry win is always important to us and fun for the fans.”
“It feels really good,” Steensma said. “It was a last hurrah for the seniors and our season.”
Steensma finished with 13 kills, three assists, seven service points, three blocks and five digs while Traum had six service points, four kills, 35 assists and 19 digs and Schramm had nine service points, five kills and 26 digs. For Warde, McKenna had 14 kills and 14 digs, Parisi had four service points, two blocks, five kills and 19 digs, Dougherty had 10 kills and four blocks and Maura McNeil had 16 digs.