FAIRFIELD -- For the last couple of weeks, after Ludlowe's somewhat surprising loss to Stamford, Falcons head coach Meghan Skelton has been experimenting with different lineups and different positioning of players, trying to find a better chemistry heading into next week's FCIAC tournament.

Consider it found.

Sparked by huge games at the net from her two middles, April Cooke and Keki Cardenas, and a solid performance from setter Olivia Auray, the Falcons rolled over town rival Warde in straight sets, 25-12, 25-12 and 25-12, to improve to 15-2 in front of a boisterous crowd in the Falcons gym.

"Our goal is to always be aggressive," Skelton said. "I tell my girls, `80 percent mark.' If 80 percent is in, I want the other 20 percent error margin because that shows we're being aggressive. We've been practicing a lot on having aggressive serves and starting off being consistent and speeding up the aggressiveness."

Those aggressive serves were the difference in handling the Mustangs, who, despite the loss, still harbor a slight chance of making the FCIAC playoffs. Ludlowe finished the match with 48 service points, to just 13 for Warde.

"We had good serves, but they're a good passing team," said Warde coach Matt Narwold. "They'd take that pass and they'd turn it into a great offensive play. Unfortunately, we were not doing that. They went on many service runs and we couldn't compete."

Case in point: In Game 1, leading 18-12, Ludlowe's Andrea Alvarez reeled off the game's final seven points to win it. In Game 2, ahead 17-10, Auray posted six straight points to open a 23-10 lead. And in Game 3, leading 11-6, Alvarez scored six straight points to open a 17-6 lead. Ludlowe never looked back.

"I give them a lot of credit. We did a good job in the first game of kind of shutting down one offense and then, two more (offensives) opened up," Narwold said. "She's just got a full arsenal of attacks. Even when our middles were doing a good job blocking them, they just went to the next ball and they were able to put that one away."

"That was so fun," said Cardenas, who had 12 kills at the net for Ludlowe. "It was such a special night. They're our cross-town rivals and I think we rose to the occasion."

Despite the loss, Warde battled tooth and nail at the net. Nicole Vacarella and Hannah Wolf had exceptional battles with Cooke (who had 11 kills) and Cardenas.

"When we had some of those long rallies, we were really getting into it," Cardenas said. "Our defense has gotten a lot better. We've been working really hard on defense. In the beginning of the season, that might have been one of our weaknesses, but I think it's really coming along."

It better be because standing in the way of a potential FCIAC title -- and a CIAC crown -- is league leader Darien, which improved to 17-0 with a win over Danbury Wednesday and has not lost a set all season.

Darien rolled past the Falcons on Sept. 29 by scores of 25-12, 25-18 and 25-15.

Since then, the goal has been to find some better chemistry, and based on these recent results -- six straight wins -- mission accomplished.

"That been our big team goal," Skelton said. "We're here to have fun. We play hard because this can be a stressful sport. This is their outlet and they've been doing that a lot more lately."

And continuing to focus on getting a second chance at Darien.

"We're hoping that this gives us a high seed," Cardenas said. (The Falcons are third behind the Blue Wave and Stamford.) "We're enjoying this now. We're having fun and it's to the point where we want to enjoy these last few weeks."

And maybe capture a FCIAC or CIAC championship, too.

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