After a 2-7 record for the first half of their regular season,the Fairfield Warde girls' volleyball team blossomed, ending with a 6-3 second half highlighted by a season-ending win over Danbury.

That victory knocked the Mustangs into the state class L tournament and a first-round game against Bristol Central.

"I love this team," said senior captain Kate McTigue. "I think this year we really clicked in ways we haven't in the past years. When you get the right people together and have the right chemistry and really can work together well, that's when you have a really good team.

"We all wanted it and we all worked together toward one goal," McTigue continued, "and we definitely all wanted to be here on the court, playing."

Warde played hard and after winning the first game 25-16, appeared to be on its way to a win in their first post-season appearance since 2006. But Bristol Central had different ideas and rallied to take a 3-1 win, ending Warde's season.

"We came out very confident, very relaxed," said Mustang head coach Garrett Covino. "The nerves were there the first couple of plays, but we slowly started to settle down. Very smart swings, very smart attacks and the girls were just really focused all the way through that first game."

The first game was close early on. When a Bristol Central overhit brought Rebecca Stern to the service line, the score stood at 7-6, Warde. Stern's errorless service and her teammates' focus gave Warde a seven-point run, their longest of the evening. A textbook-perfect offensive sequence highlighted the run, with senior tri-captain Laurie Bock (10 kills, two blocks, four digs) passing to Christina Fatse (25 assists, five digs). Fatse translated the pass into a set for McTigue (10 kills, 18 digs) to drive a power kill into the heart of the Bristol defense.

Fittingly, the third senior tri-captain, Ally Robaczynski (seven kills, eight digs), scored the final point of the game with a tidy two-handed push to open floor.

"In the first game, Warde played very smart offensively," said Bristol coach Jennifer Manzo. "They knew right away where we weren't and they were putting it where we weren't, and we made adjustments."

Bristol Central's adjustments let them dig up balls that would have hit the floor in the first game and they took the final three games of the match,ending the second game with a six-point run for a 25-19 win.

Bristol Central's runs of five and six points offset Warde runs of three and four and the Rams took the third game 25-21. In the fourth game, a seven-point run gave the Rams a 14-6 advantage that the Mustangs could not overcome and they fell, 25-16.

Disappointed by the match outcome, Covino found himself wishing his team a longer season.

"I can still tell you we have not peaked yet," said Covino. "We're still improving, still making changes, still getting better."

Robaczynski got the final word on where that improvement comes from.

"Coach pushes us to our limits and brings out the best in us at the times when we really need it," said Robaczynski, "by either telling us what we need to do or letting us conference with each other and having us push each other.

"He puts that leadership role on us seniors because we've had our previous seniors and we've learned from them. It's our job to lead the rest of the girls and pass on what we know the them so that they can do better next year."