STAMFORD -- For Stamford High School volleyball coach Mike Smeriglio, it will always be the one that got away.

In 1996, the Black Knights were up two sets and 14-8 in the third game against Darien in the FCIAC title game, only to see the Blue Wave pull off an improbable comeback.

"I've known him since I was 9, so I've probably heard that story about 80 times," said Gretta Buckley, one of the Black Knights' current co-captains. "He told us it in practice yesterday. It never gets old."

The story, perhaps, not the outcome.

With a lot less at stake, Stamford was on the verge of defeating the Blue Wave on Wednesday for the first time since 2001, taking the first two games, only to see the Blue Wave pull out a Houdini-like 22-25, 23-25, 25-16, 25-20, 15-12 win.

There were few tears on the Stamford sideline afterward. Instead, the players saw this as the type of confidence-boosting effort that could serve them well the rest of the year.

"We will learn from it," Buckley said. "We learned how good we are. There is more positive than negative. It is only up from here."

Before the start of the third set, Darien coach Laurie LaRusso pulled her two captains, Riley Sousa and Kelly Kosnik, to the side and met with them for much of the break.

Sousa and Kosnik took over the rest of the way, dominating from the outside to rally the Blue Wave (3-0) to the win.

"No. 5 and 6 are their hitters, and they kept hitting and hitting and hitting," Smeriglio said, referring to Sousa and Kosnik by their uniform numbers. "They did what they did best. We couldn't match their hitting."

Like his players, Smeriglio was buoyed by Stamford's play.

"I was very happy with our mental attitude," Smeriglio said. "We didn't get down. We came so close. The girls deserved it and I wanted them to get it."

The Black Knights (2-1) took the two-set lead by being resourceful, scrambling to keep points alive. Darien committed a number of unforced errors, especially serving.

"Stamford came out really strong," Sousa said. "Nothing hit the floor. They were scrappy. Everything came back over. They played awesome."

While the passing was not always crisp on either side, the two setters -- Stamford's Kirsi Balazs and Darien's Celia Martzolf -- did a good job scrambling the court to get balls to their hitters at net.

The Black Knights also got strong performances from Buckley, Kasia Modzelewska and Brianna Gordon up front.

The fifth set stayed close until the end. Kosnik got the Blue Wave started with a big kill, and another one later from Sousa put Darien on top, 9-6. Stamford chipped away, with Modzelewska's block of Sousa bringing Stamford within 10-8.

Buckley came up with two straight points, including a beautifully placed dink, to cut the deficit to 12-11 before Darien pulled away.

"We were lucky to come out with a win at the end," Sousa said.

This latest loss to Darien will not have the same shelf life as the one that got away.

"I think they are going to be excited coming to practice," Smeriglio said.;

Twitter: @DaveRuden

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