Darien Volleyball Takes Down Greenwich For First Time Since 2018


Darien setter Aubrey Moore setting Marin Black in a match vs. Fairfield Ludlowe (Photo courtesy of DAF)

Braden Schenck, Writer

It’s been 1,443 days since the Darien Girls Volleyball team had been able to take down the Greenwich Cardinals. Last year the Wave fell short in the regular season, FCIAC title match, and CIAC Class LL Semi-Finals to those Cardinals.

Fast-forward a year, and Connecticut volleyball MVP Liana Sarkissian is no longer a cardinal and is now at Dayton playing volleyball, and 29-year head coach Steve Lapham retired. It was a new look for Greenwich volleyball in 2022.

But Darien brought the same intensity they have to every match this season. The Wave was 10-0 entering play, and hasn’t dropped a set since that state semi-final match last year. Greenwich, however, started 9-0 and had lost the last 2 they played. Straight sets to Trumbull and 5-set marathon to New Canaan on Monday. So the Cardinals were looking to avoid the hat trick in losses, something the program has not seen since 2015.

The match was back and forth with the start as Darien was feeding hitters Jillian Roche and Leilani Gillespie, who would rack up 16 and 17 kills respectively. Greenwich kept it close with their hitters Maggie Saleeby and Katherine Ford keeping it close at 13-8 before Greenwich would call the timeout. Darien’s head coach Laurie LaRusso kept the time fired up during this time and would watch as her squad kept the foot on the gas pedal, taking the first set 25-14.

In all three meetings last year the Cardinals took the first set and would go on to win the match, so this was a good sign with Darien taking the opening set.

The second set was a very familiar story, close to start with the score at 10-6, and then the Cardinals took the timeout. Darien would keep the pedal to the metal outscoring the Cardinals 15 to 8 for the remainder of that second set. Sophomore Marin Black had some nice swings as she recorded 4 kills in the match. Black played time as a freshman last year but has seen a transformation in her gameplay and thus, she leads Darien in hitting percentage this season. Black will be the future of this Blue Wave squad with the departures of Roche and Gillespie next fall.

Darien would start the third set hot, scoring the first five against the Cardinals. The Wave would build that lead out to ten at 19-9. Big thanks to the serving of Savannah Leone picking up 4 aces for the Wave, including two back-to-back in the third set. The Cardinals struggled to hit in the third set and, Darien would take advantage building to the lead. 23-11 Darien led, Moore a set to the outside and Gillespie picked up the kill giving Darien match point.

Leone went back to serve and put the ball in the air. It was soaring as it was heading towards the back line. Greenwich’s Hayley Dionis and Maggie Saleeby looked at each other and thought it was going out. But as it hit the ground clear as day hitting off the back line and called in by the line referee. Leone’s ace closed the book on the straight sets win for Darien.

Greenwich had many communication errors like that play in the match. In the second set, another serve by Darien was heading toward the back line, and all six Cardinals called it out and watched as it hit off the back line. Greenwich is still making adjustments with the new head coach and new player core, however, Darien was able to hand them their third straight loss and put the Cardinals on unfamiliar ground now, on the cusp of missing the FCIAC playoffs.

“Our serving and passing were key today. That was something we have been working on and I’m proud of the team for how we played,” senior captain Jillian Roche said after the match. Darien now controls the sole lead in the FCIAC standings at 11-0 and 8-0 in the conference. For Darien, this is the first time any of their girls have beaten Greenwich. A big part is due to the returning core they brought back from last season, in which they only graduated one senior a year ago.

The Wave looks to stay hot coming off this momentum win when they welcome in the Danbury Hatters on Friday, St. Joesph next week. And Wednesday a clash with the New Canaan Rams inside the main gym.



Darien 25 25 25 – 3

Greenwich 14 14 11 – 0

Darien: Leilani Gillespie 16 kills, 4 aces, 1 block; Jillian Roche 17 kills; Aubrey Moore 35 assists, 9 digs; Marin Black 4 kills, 3 blocks; Ayla Schenck 5 digs; Savannah Leone 4 aces.

Greenwich: Maggie Saleeby 9 kills, 7 digs; Hayley Dionis 10 digs; Lucia Spanjol 16 assists.

Records: Darien 11-0 overall, 8-0 FCIAC; Greenwich 9-3, 6-3.