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FAIRFIELD — Facing a 2-1 deficit after being dominated by Westhill in the third set, the Ludlowe volleyball team was in a backs-to-the-wall scenario.

Coach Megan Skelton had a simple message for her Falcons: Forget about it.

“My first comment to them was ‘in five seconds, that is done,’ and I counted down,” Skelton said of the third set. “There’s nothing we could do about it, so we’ve just got to show up and play Ludlowe volleyball.”

The Falcons responded. Loudly.

Ludlowe won the fourth set and then led from start to finish in the fifth and final frame to capture the 2019 FCIAC girls volleyball championship with a 3-2 victory over Westhill Saturday at Ludlowe High School.

The Falcons won the roller-coaster battle 16-25, 25-21, 13-25, 25-16, 15-9.

It was the third conference title for third-seeded Ludlowe (19-3), but the first since 2015, the year before the 11 seniors on this season’s roster entered the high school.

It’s also a title which has been a long time coming for the Falcons.

“We all knew that we were going to have all these seniors this year, and we kept every single person from last year because we knew this was going to be our golden team,” Ludlowe’s Margaret Nolan, who was named the MVP, said. “Building up every single year, everyone was into it, even in the offseason. We’ve wanted this so, so badly, and it feels amazing now that we’ve done it.”

“I’m just so proud of them,” Skelton said of the seniors. “As freshman, this was a class that we had this goal for them for their junior and senior seasons. So for them to get the actual proof and the medal, it’s everything.”

As exhilarating as the win was for the Falcons, it was a heartbreaker for Westhill (19-4), which for the second straight year earned the No. 1 seed and reached the final only to finish as the runnerup. The Vikings’ last FCIAC title was 33 years ago in 1986.

“I knew it was going to be a battle from start to finish and we had our highs and we had our lows,” Westhill coach Marianna Linnehan said. “We both have teams full of seniors, so I knew that both of the teams wanted it, It was just a matter of who was more aggressive at the end.”

The match was a thrilling five-setter, with plenty of twists, turns and momentum shifts.

At times the Vikings looked every bit the No. 1 seed and seemed to be destined to break the program’s long title drought. At others, the Falcons’ defense steadied the play and helped lead them back into contention.

For Ludlowe, Nolan was spectacular on the back line, racking up 40 digs while leading an impressive defensive effort.

“Margaret Nolan has really stepped up for us,” Skelton said. “She was an outside hitter for most of this season, but then we needed her to fill that gap and provide leadership from the back row, and she’s done a phenomenal job.”

The Falcons’ middles were also key, as Jackie Soderland had 13 kills and three blocks, and Amy Lumaj had 12 kills and five blocks. Setter Maddie Corbett dished out 40 assists, with Jo Blanco doing a little bit of everything with six kills, 14 digs, and six aces.

For the Vikings, Sophia Thagouras had strong numbers with nine kills, 11 digs, three aces and three blocks. Betsy Sachs had 13 kills and five blocks; Gloria Twum had seven kills; and Tamar Bellete had five kills, four blocks and six aces. Vana Servos added 16 assists and 10 digs.

The first two sets were back-and-forth. Westhill had the edge for much of the first frame, holding off a few Ludlowe charges before putting the win in the books at 25-16.

In the second set, it was the Falcons’ turn, as they built the early lead. After Westhill rallied to tie the score at 20-20, the Falcons finished it with a 5-1 run. Maddie Corbett had a key block during the closing run, and Soderland ended it with a kill.

The third set was all Vikings, as they rolled out to an 18-8 lead and went on to win by 12 points.

The fourth set was tied 13-13 when the Falcons put it all together, going up 16-14 before closing with a 9-2 run.

Ludlowe then took over a 6-6 set and closed out the final with a 15-9 win for the championship.

Despite trailing twice by a set, the Falcons never faltered.

“We’ve had so many games where we’ve had to do that and we’ve come back so many different times,” Nolan said. “All we do is get more fired up and we want to win even more.”


Margaret Nolan, Ludlowe. Nolan took well-deserved MVP honors after collecting 40 digs for the Falcons’ defense. She also added four service points and two aces to the mix.


“It was a long (process) and it was a driven one. I always believe in challenging our girls and holding the bar high and giving them the encouragement along the way, but never giving them an out when times get tough. They’ve always responded to that, they’ve been resilient in tough moments, and that’s how they’ve gotten better.” — Ludlowe coach Megan Skelton; @dstewartsports


LUDLOWE 16 25 13 25 15 — 3

WESTHILL 25 21 25 16 9 — 2

Ludlowe: Margaret Nolan 40 digs, 2 aces, 4 service points; Jackie Soderland 13 kills, 3 blocks; Amy Lumaj 12 kills, 5 blocks; Ava Sanborn 40 assists; Jo Blanco 6 kills, 6 aces, 14 digs, 16 service points.

Westhill: Betsy Sachs 13 kills, 5 blocks; Sophia Thagouras 9 kills, 11 digs, 3 aces, 3 blocks; Gloria Twum 7 kills; Tamar Bellete 5 kills, 4 blocks, 6 aces; Vana Servos 10 digs, 16 assists, 8 service points.

Records: Ludlowe 19-3, Westhill 19-4.