FAIRFIELD - Talk about a whirlwind.

Barely two months ago, Ludlowe athletic director Todd Parness found out that he was going to have a boys’ volleyball team this spring. Warde’s tryout numbers were sky high (over 30 kids came out for the varsity) so that meant, no combined co-op team.

That also meant Ludlowe would have to put this team together from scratch.

Three of the Fairfield co-op players from last season that attended Ludlowe -- Tristan Carey, Matt Jessen and Philip Nesbitt -- rallied the troops as it were, getting kids to try out for the new Falcons volleyball team. And while they were doing that, Parness was hiring Ryan Minter-Woodcock, who had coached at both Shelton and Darien, to lead the team.

And while progress has been slow over the opening four games, Minter-Woodcock is hoping that these initial baby steps will eventually lead to giant strides.

On Monday, Warde and Ludlowe met for the first time as separate teams since before the two programs consolidated back in 1987 with the Mustangs - thanks to having the majority of the co-op players - rolling to a three-set victory, 25-8, 25-11, 25-17 over the Falcons.

Warde improved to 3-0 while Ludlowe fell to 0-4.

For Covino, who coached the co-op team since the schools spilt back in 2004, it was emotional to see his former players on the other side of the net.

“It was great seeing Tristan Carey serving the way he was, that was really nice,” Covino said. “Matt Jessen had a big block and some big swings … they’ve worked hard for three years, they deserve to have a chance to play on the varsity court. They have skills. It’s going to be interesting at the end of the season to see how far they’ve come.”

Right now, for Ludlowe, success is measured in baby steps. From eights point in game one to 17 points in game three, there was cause for optimism.

“We have a lot of first year guys but we are making progress,” Minter-Woodcock said. “This is our fourth game and I’m seeing progression from each of the four games. Whether it be the first game of the season for this brand-new group, playing away and dealing with those issues, the first home game and the fans and all that, so having all these uncomfortable moments so early in the season, early in the learning process is perfect because once they understand that it’s not going to get any worse than this, they can go out and play stress-free and work on their skills and get better.”

When the co-op was disbanded, Carey, Jessen and Nesbitt roamed the halls, talking to friends about playing volleyball. At one meeting 25 kids showed up, another meeting had 22 interested. And for those that tried out for the team, it’s all about learning the fundamentals.

“A lot of these guys are inexperienced. It’s a learning process and every game, I think we get a little bit better. I’ve seen the scores grow over time. We’re learning and making progress,” Carey said. “I think we’ve got the guys who are willing to play their hearts out.”

In the off-season, there is a co-ed volleyball program with over 100 kids involved, according to Minter-Woodcock. That, he said, bodes promise that kids will continue to play for the newly formed boys’ team.

“I feel (Ludlowe) is the prefect breeding ground for a new volleyball program,” he said. “For me, it was to gain interest from players, build that interest and intensity of having a successful experience and getting people involved in that experience and continue to build down the road.”

Through three matches, Warde has yet to lose a set, something Covino credits to consistency.

“No matter who were playing, we have to be consistent,” he said. “We’re going to try and play the best defense we can, keep the ball in play and frustrate the other team with our serves, with our swings, we don’t have to hit the ball the hardest of anyone on the court, we just have to swing smart, serve smart, keep the ball in play and make them make more mistakes than we do.”

celsberry@ctpost.com

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