FAIRFIELD -- Two opposing streaks between two of the FCIAC's top volleyball teams collided at Warde in an Tuesday afternoon. The visiting Blue Wave's two-match losing streak disappeared in a 25-15, 25-18, 25-16 win over the Mustangs. So did Warde's run of seven consecutive wins.
Darien, which has won 10 state championships in the last 12 years, improved to 13-2 overall and 12-2 in the FCIAC. Warde, which faces Fairfield rival Ludlowe (12-1) on Friday, dropped to 11-3 overall and 10-3 in the FCIAC.
Last week, Darien had lost to Greenwich and Staples -- along with Ludlowe (12-1) part of the conference's Big Five -- and Blue Wave junior captain Celia Martzolf said those losses added fire to her team's efforts on Tuesday. "That definitely helped us coming in," said senior captain Nicole Schmidt. "I think we were motivated from last week," she said. And to avoid a third successive loss.
How unlikely would a third straight loss have been for the Blue Wave? To reach three losses in the regular season -- forget consecutively -- record-keepers would have to go back to 2001 for a third year in which Darien went 17-1 in the regular season, as opposed to the customary 18-0 records prior to the FCIAC and state tournaments. Two losses in a season, let alone in a row, were unprecedented.
Three in a row wasn't quite unfathomable, though, on Tuesday when Warde had a 7-6 lead in the first game. After the Blue Wave responded to win the opener 25-15, the Mustangs grabbed a 2-1 lead in the second game. Darien asserted itself again at that point and held the lead almost entirely throughout the last two games.
Warde fell into a 19-6 hole later in Game 2, then rallied for its best stretch of play. The Mustangs cut the deficit to 23-18 behind serves from Kaitlin McKenna. But that was as close as it would get, though there was 5-5 tie in Game 3. A 9-1 run by Darien put the final game out of reach.
"The girls learned from their mistakes last week," Darien assistant coach Burt Takesue said. "They accepted the fact that we're young, and they put that behind us and moved on. What else could they do?"
The outcome was a combination of sharp play by Darien and weaker play than exhibited during the recent streak by Warde, said Mustangs coach Matt Narwold.
"Darien's a very strong and defensively-based team," he said, "and they don't really make mistakes when it comes to their serves. We had a tough time passing today, but we put up a great battle to come back. Darien had more energy than us. Ultimately, Darien was a very consistent, error-free team."
Twice before this season, Warde had fallen into 0-2 holes but rallied for 3-2 wins over McMahon and Bunnell. That was the Mustangs' goal entering the third game against Darien.
"It was another big match today, and we came in with a lot of enthusiasm," Narwold said. "The difficulty to coaching is the balance between enthusiasm and skill. You don't want the enthusiasm to affect the skill. We came out strong today then had a little bit of a roller coaster. We have to lose that roller-coaster effort and consistently play going up hill and not have that dip."
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Darien 3, Fairfield Warde 0
DARIEN 25 25 25--3
FAIRFIELD WARDE 15 18 16--0
Records: Darien 13-2, 12-2 FCIAC; Fairfield Warde 11-3, 10-3 FCIAC. Highlights: D--Claire Naughton had 12 kills, two aces, one block and six service points, Celia Martzolf had 21 assists, one kill, three aces and one block, Isabelle Taylor had five kills, five aces, two blocks and 12 service points. FW--Kaitlin McKenna had seven kills, four blocks and five service points, Clare Burns had four kills and 11 digs, Kenzie Burns had six kills, six blocks and four digs.