Volleyball takes home 10th straight FCIAC crown
FAIRFIELD -- Mackenzie Begley had a lot to live up to.
As the latest captain of the prolific Darien girls volleyball team, winners of nine consecutive FCIAC championships entering Saturday's final against Fairfield Ludlowe, she had a long line of winning to uphold.
When the senior setter took home MVP honors after her team's 3-0 (25-17, 25-16, 25-21) victory, making it 10 titles in a row, the proverbial weight of the world was lifted from her shoulders.
"The question is always there," Begley said about living up to the expectations. "But we try not to think about it and take it one day at a time. Our coaches never put any pressure on us, they just try to make us focus on the long run."
Darien has dropped only two games all season and cruised through the first two against Ludlowe on Saturday. After jumping out to early leads in both games, the combination of strong service from Emma Getsinger (15 service points, 9 kills, 11 digs) and Katie Stueber (6 points) and Darien's ability to return whatever was hit its way, proved too much for the Falcons.
"It's so difficult playing from behind, especially against a team so relentless," said Ludlowe coach Chris Skelton. "They are able to counter hits that would go for points 90 percent of the time against other teams. They are so consistent and fundamentally sound."
Ludlowe made Darien earn the third game. Behind co-captain Maddi McCaffery (19 kills, 9 digs), Ludlowe took its largest lead of the day at 10-7 and led as late as 20-18.
But the experience of the Blue Wave won out, as Ludlowe only managed one more point the rest of the way, with Begley (4 kills, 18 digs, 37 assists), bagging the final point on a rare kill.
Sophomore Emily Nelson (5 kills, 13 digs) and Brandi Segala (27 assists) also had strong matches for Ludlowe.
Skelton called losing the third game a "heartbreaker" but acknowledged his team did a great job getting into that position in the first place.
"That third game was tough but that's the way the ball bounces," Skelton said. "We scraped the best we could and I give all the credit in the world to our girls."
Ludlowe, which beat Staples and avenged a regular season loss to Greenwich on the road to the final, will look to continue its postseason success in next week's state tournament.
According to Skelton, his team would relish the opportunity to play Southington, which beat them in last year's Class LL final in five games.
"We feel very good going into states and we would love some payback against Southington," he said.