The Eight Year Drought Has Been Ended, Darien Volleyball FCIAC Champions!

Darien Girls Volleyball defeats Trumbull en route to their first FCIAC title since 2014.


Dave Stewart

Darien’s Girls Volleyball Team celebrating with the FCIAC trophy after Saturdays win.

Braden Schenck, Writer

Saturday, the Darien Girls Volleyball team found themselves in familiar water. Playing for an FCIAC championship. In 2020 COVID season they fell short to Greenwich in the FCIAC West final. In 2021, they fell again to Greenwich in the title match, in 2022, Darien returned, but Greenwich did not.

The second-seeded Trumbull Eagles stood in Darien’s way as the Wave was on a quest to continue the perfect season and pick up a 24th all-time FCIAC title.

Darien lead 11-7 in the opening set before Trumbull’s Samantha Agostin took over on the service line. With help from hitters Ariana Gjonbalaj and Alisa Zeltina, the Eagles would win the next nine points giving them a 16-11 lead in the set. Darien tried to fight back even with junior Aubrey Moore and senior captain Leilani Gillespie making incredible saves, but the offense couldn’t attack the ball. Errors cost the Wave as they found themselves down 24-22 in the opening set. Agostin returned to the service line. Darien would swing through the block, but Trumbull’s Maggie Carley made an incredible pancake save getting the ball to Zeltina on the outside, a weak hit trickled over the tape and fell for an Eagles point. 25-22 Trumbull won the first set, and for the first time in 2022, Darien Volleyball was trailing in a match!

Trumbull celebrating a first set win at Fairfield Ludlowe in the 2022 FCIAC Girls Volleyball Championship. (photo taken by Dave Stewart)

Darien started the second set firing by winning the first five and going up 10-5 early on. Hitters Leilani Gillespie, senior captain Jillian Roche, and sophomore Marin Black kept swinging, marching to a 24-14 lead in the second set. Roche went attacking from the back row and pick up the kill for the 25-14 win in the second set. An absolute dominant set from the Wave as they got the equalizer tying the match at one apiece.

The Wave kept firing in the third set with a nice serving run from Moore putting Darien up 7-2 in the early goings. Darien would go up 12-7 before again Camdyn Roth, and the Eagles went on a run tying it up at 13 a piece. This was when Gjonbalaj spiked the ball giving Trumbull the 14-13 lead and the back-and-forth battle continued. Service errors killed both squads, especially Darien, as they committed three down the stretch in the third set. Trumbull would go up 24-22 in this set. On set point, Agostin served, and a jump ball at the net watched at Gjonbalaj tipped the ball on the Darien side of the court. The chair referee made the call, an interference against Gjonbalaj as she reached over the net for the ball and gave Darien the point and a second life. This did not stop the Eagles as Zeltina swung through the block on the very next play for the 25th clinching point and the point putting Trumbull up 2-1 in the match.

Entering the fourth set, Darien needed a win to advance to the fifth set. The Wave was perfect in their regular season matches but dropped their first set to Greenwich in the semifinals, so this was back-to-back four-set matches for the Wave.

The stalemate continued as neither team was willing to give into the fourth set. Darien started to accelerate midway through the set with more big swings and great defensive plays. Aubrey Moore kept setting the ball and giving Roche, Gillespie, and co. the opportunities. Darien scored the last five points of the set including a Jillian Roche kill to end it at 25-19. The Wave pushed away the Eagles and forced a fifth deciding set.

Darien’s Aubrey Moore setting in Saturday’s FCIAC Championship match. (photo taken by Dave Stewart)

For the first time since the 2020 FCIAC West Championship match the Wave was playing in a fifth set. A set to only fifteen so it was a different breed of volleyball.

A block from Gillespie and a big swing from Gjonbalaj tied it at one. An ace and service error from Carley made it 2-2. Gillespie and Roche would break free giving Darien the four kills and a 6-2 lead. Out of the Eagles timeout, Darien worked it to an 8-4 match. Moore set the ball over the net completely fooling the Trumbull defense and extending the Darien lead. Black would get the kill in the middle making it 12-5 and forcing Trumbull to take their second timeout.

Senior Kelly Hathaway served two aces to give Darien the match point at 14-6. But Trumbull had other plans.

A violation on the Wave, a kill from Carley, a tip from Gjonbalaj and an Eagle block would force it to 14-10. Darien 40th year head coach Laurie LaRusso came out and called a timeout looking to ice the Eagles.

The serve belonged to Agostin, she put it up, Moore with the set to Roche on the outside. A tip floating to the back corner hits the ground and is called in. Darien wins it, the 2022 FCIAC title won by Darien High School! The kill to end the match came from the senior captain ending the playoff drought.

“This has really been one of our goals. Last year, we were in the championship but we couldn’t quite pull it through. This year, it’s been so rewarding. This team has really, really bonded together and I’m really grateful to see us pull through this year.” senior co-captain Jillian Roche said after the match. 

Darien would celebrate victorious as the FCIAC champions, something the program has not seen since the 2014 season. The tournament MVP was given out to junior setter Aubrey Moore with her 39 assists and four aces in the championship.

Darien’s head coach Laurie LaRusso was also honored as the 2022 FCIAC Coach of the Year for Girls Volleyball. After seeing a drought and down years, the Wave was finally able to overcome the hump and return atop the FCIAC.

The Wave will cherish this victory for a long time to come but will now shift to the state tournament where they look to take home their first state title since 2014. The Wave receives a bye in the first round and will take on the winner of Fairfield Ludlowe/Glastonbury at home on Thursday in the second round.




Trumbull 25 14 25 19 10 – 2

Darien 22 25 23 25 15 – 3

Trumbull: Maggie Carley 39 assists, 4 kills, 2 blocks, 9 digs; Camdyn Roth 9 kills, 12 digs, 1 ace; Ariana Gjonbalaj 14 kills, 3 blocks; Julia Grillo 10 digs.

Darien: Aubrey Moore 39 assists, 4 aces; Leilani Gillespie 16 kills, 3 aces, 4 blocks; Jillian Roche 10 kills, 6 aces; Ellie Moore 15 kills.

Records: Trumbull 16-7, Darien 21-0