Greenwich advances past Ludlowe to FCIAC girls volleyball final
FAIRFIELD -- The momentum swings were continuous, and the pivotal, advantage-turning points in each game came often as well in the FCIAC girls volleyball semifinal Wednesday night at Fairfield Ludlowe. In the end, Greenwich's final big plays were the most resounding as the Cardinals advanced to Saturday's conference final with 3-2 victory over Ludlowe in which two of the games went beyond regulation.
Ludlowe took the opening game 29-27, then Greenwich rallied for 25-16 and 25-17 wins in Games No. 2 and 3 before the host Falcons forced the deciding fifth game by wriggling to a 25-23 win in Game 4. Ludlowe had the early advantages in Game 5, but they weren't wide enough and Greenwich persevered for a 17-15 win after the Falcons seemed poised for victory with a 13-11 lead.
Greenwich, the tournament's No. 1 seed, improved to 19-1. The fourth-seeded Falcons, who edged Greenwich in the regular season in five games, dropped to 17-3.
"We've been there before," Greenwich coach Steve Lapham said about the conference final, "but we never seem to grab it. It was bedlam there at the end. This was making me sweat. We can be a little cleaner."
The Cardinals have lost three of the last four FCIAC tournament championships, each time falling to Darien.
"We just served a lot better in the last two sets," Lapham said. "We put them back on their heels. We got a little tentative in the fourth game. I was talking to (Ludlowe coach) Meghan (Skelton) before the game how we always play long matches against them. We let the first game go. But there's not much difference between us -- one or two points. There was nothing magical (to the win). Nothing was changed. We were putting a lot of people on the floor. There middles (Casey Boatwright and April Cooke) are tough to stop, they're so tall."
"That was nerve-wracking," Greenwich senior Ashley Rispoli said while Darien and Staples were warming up for the second semifinal.
The Falcons opened a 7-3 lead in the fifth game before Lapham called timeout. Greenwich cut its deficits to 8-6, 9-7 and 10-8, then Ludlowe reasserted itself for an 11-8 lead while holding the serve. But the Cardinals Mirei Kato fired home one of her 14 kills and it was back to a two-point difference at 11-9. Soon after, a kill by Boatwright gave her team a 13-11 lead.
Greenwich responded by regaining composure on Catherine Cabano's deft return, and it was back to a one-point difference again at 13-12. The Cardinals rode that momentum to close out the game, taking a 16-15 lead on a Kato kill -- which was nearly a dig by Ludlowe from a dive to the floor -- and clinching it on a Xanthi Katsgiannis service when Ludlowe failed to return the ball during the ensuing volley.
"We didn't stay consistent or strong," Skelton said. "We did not play our game, and you cannot do that against a great team like Greenwich. It comes down to being able to reset yourself after a point or change in momentum.
"If we had played our game in the fifth set, I'm not going to say we could've, should've, would've won it, but I thought we were going to win."
Skelton talked to her team afterward, saying the result "stinks," but reminded them the season isn't over with the state tournament about to begin next week. And in looking at the potential pairings, she told the Falcons there's a possibility they'd meet up again with Greenwich.
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Greenwich 3, Fairfield Ludlowe 2
LUDLOWE 29 16 17 25 15--2
GREENWICH 27 25 25 23 17--3
Records: Fairfield Ludlowe 17-3; Greenwich 19-1. Highlights: FL--Corrinne Lang had 41 digs, nine service points and four aces. Casey Boatwright had 18 kills, seven service points, four blocks and three aces. April Cooke had 12 kills and seven blocks. G--Mirei Kato had 19 digs, 14 kills and two aces. Xanthi Katsgiannis had 26 assists and 14 digs. Catherine Cabano had 12 kills and two blocks.