Darien Sweeps Despite Late Surges From Ludlowe


Darien’s Jillian Roche serving vs. Fairfield Ludlowe on Saturday (photo courtesy of DAF)

Braden Schenck, Writer

The Darien girl’s volleyball team entered Saturday’s home match vs. Fairfield Ludlowe perfect, 5-0 in matches and 15-0 on sets. The Falcons and Wave met in the championship of the CIAC preseason tournament earlier this year and an FCIAC Semi-Final match last year. Both were taken by the Wave. Fairfield Ludlowe was hungry for revenge and entered DHS ready to play.

The first set was back and forth until Leilani Gillespie, and Jillian Roche got rolling, giving Darien the 22-15 lead. However, Ludlowe’s Tatum Holdereid would rack up a few kills and spark a Ludlowe run, making it 22-20 a few points later. Darien took their first timeout of the set at this moment, trying to ice the Ludlowe momentum. The timeout worked to perfection as coming out of the timeout, Leilani Gillespie sent two hard balls to the ground for back-to-back kills giving the Wave the set point opportunity. Moore set to the middle to Marin Black with the swing over the net, met with a diving Clara Grosner who barely got her hand between the floor and ball pancaking the ball up. The southpaw Madison Roman earned the kill keeping the Falcons alive in this first set.

Fairfield Ludlowe wasn’t done yet, with the senior captain Caitlin Finnegan tallying the kill and capping off the Ludlowe 5-point run earning them the 25-24 advantage. Darien’s veteran coach Laurie LaRusso called the timeout and talked to her team. With 40+ years of coaching Darien volleyball, she knew exactly what to say, as when play resumed, Gillespie picked up another kill on the line tying it at 25. Gillespie led the team with 17 kills in the match and was the spark plug when Darien needed to fight back in the dogfight.

Darien head coach Laurie LaRusso talking to her squad during a timeout (photo courtesy of DAF)

An exchange of careless errors made it 26-26. This was when sophomore Marin Black turned the jets on. Earning a kill for point 27 and then blocking a Ludlowe swing picking up the 28th and set clinching point. The Wave extended the set winning streak to 16, but it was not easy.

Darien would come out of the gate firing in the second set taking the 16-4 lead early on. Ludlowe then proceed to go on a 14-4 scoring run with big serving runs from Ellie Price, Roman, and Finnegan. The score was 20-18 late in the second set. Ludlowe was able to cut it down to 24-22 when the teams exchanged free balls. Darien’s Ellie Moore sent the roll shot over the net and watched as Ludlowe’s miscommunication let it drop in the center of all six Falcons.

Ellie Moore sending the ball over the net to win Darien the second set (photo courtesy of DAF)

Both sides were capitalizing on the free ball retaliations all match and this set point was an oddity with both teams sending two free balls over until Moore took matters into her own hands. Darien now had the 2-0 lead after two great fights with Ludlowe.

The third set was more of the typical Darien domination that had been shown all season. Tied at 10, junior libero Ayla Schenck took to the service line. Schenck served her way to six straight Darien points. That run included serving a pair of aces. Ludlowe took a timeout and iced Schenck. Darien did not look back as Roche and Gillespie marched Darien all the way to match point at 24-16 in the third set. Gillespie with the serve, Ludlowe returned the ball, Roche tipped it back, and the whistle was called on the reception when Holderied got called for the carry ending the match.

Darien’s Jillian Roche picking up one of her 14 kills vs. the Falcons on Saturday (photo courtesy of DAF)

These two squads were extremely evenly matched, a possible rematch in the FCIAC or CIAC playoffs is very well possible for these two teams. Darien had some scares not being able to close out the sets, but overall was a strong effort from the team. With this win, Darien sits at 6-0 on the season and tied for the FCIAC lead with Greenwich and Fairfield Warde. Darien will get their shot at those teams later this month.

For now, the girls will shift their attention to a pair of road matches next week, traveling to Amistad on Tuesday and Brien McMahon on Thursday. The Wave will meet the Mustangs of Amistad for the second time this season in an out-of-conference clash. The first meeting at DHS went to the Wave three sets to none. So far the 2022 edition of the Darien girls volleyball team has shown a lot of promise, and this Saturday afternoon match is just the latest example of the loaded talent they present.

Darien celebrating a kill from sophomore Marin Black vs. Fairfield Ludlowe (photo courtesy of DAF)




LUDLOWE 26 22 16 — 0

DARIEN 28 25 25 — 3

Darien: Jillian Roche 14 kills, 2 aces, 12 points, 1 block, 10 digs; Leilani Gillespie 17 kills, 1 ace, 5 points 2 blocks, 12 digs; Aubrey Moore 41 assists, 2 aces, 10 points, 5 digs.

Records: Ludlowe 4-4 overall, 2-2 FCIAC; Darien 6-0, 4-0.