Ludlowe makes history in win over Darien
FAIRFIELD - As Kylie McCaffery’s final kill found its mark just inside the box, a history-making point if there ever was one, the Ludlowe Falcons exploded off their bench and let out a celebratory yell that probably could have been heard out in the parking lot.
The Falcons had just done what no FCIAC team in recent memory had done -- beat the Darien Blue Wave in a FCIAC final. Ludlowe, who has never beaten Darien since splitting back into two schools with Warde in 2005, won its second FCIAC title since 2012 with a 27-25, 21-25, 25-19, 25-20 victory over the Blue Wave, snapping the team’s 19-game undefeated streak.
“This is everything we’ve been striving for the past 11 years. It’s everything we’ve worked for all these years … to go all the way and it’s nice for it to come to fruition,” Ludlowe head coach Meghan Skelton said. “I’m very proud of them.”
To put this win into perspective, you need to throw out some impressive numbers. From 1993 though 2015, Darien’s overall record is an incredible 500-12 with 11 undefeated regular seasons and 19 outright or shared FCIAC titles. Only in 2000 when Fairfield High won the FCIAC crown and in 2012 when Darien and Ludlowe shared the title (no championship was played thanks to Hurricane Sandy) and in 2013 when Greenwich won (Darien lost in the semifinals) had the Blue Wave not hoisted up a championship plaque.
“When you think about those numbers, yes, it’s mind-boggling,” Skelton said. “They are a dynasty. Their coach, Laurie LaRusso, is the best of the best, and the team … they always rise to the occasion. They’re fundamentally strong and they not have a weak link.”
And even without their heart and soul, senior middle Izzy Taylor, who injured her knee in the semifinal win over Greenwich on Thursday and is lost for the rest of the season, Darien gave Ludlowe everything they had. And more. The Blue Wave rallied from a 24-20 first game deficit to tie the set at 25-25 before the Falcons notched the last two points to take the opening game. And then in Game 2, Darien showed its championship mettle, winning 25-21 to even the match at a set apiece.
“We just went out there and gave it everything we had, and that’s all we could ever ask for,” said Darien senior co-captain Anna Barsanti. “We knew we had a chance right to the wire, but they out-played us today.”
In Game 3, Ludlowe broke away from a tight 8-5 lead with an 11-7 run to open a 19-12 lead en route to a 25-19 win that put them just one game away from the title and in the deciding set, the Falcons, down 19-15, used a 9-0 burst - eight service points coming from Abbie Constaninio -- to take a 24-20 lead, setting up McCaffery’s clinching kill.
“With Abbie back on the end line, we know she’s such a rock serving, everyone has confidence in her,” said Alice Nelson, who was named the match’s MVP after posting two aces, nine service points and 25 digs. “We knew we were going to come back the moment she got the ball in her hands.”
And that clinching kill?
“It felt really cool. I just knew I needed to put it down so I did and it was really awesome,” McCaffery said. “This means everything to us, to the program especially because we have an FCIAC championship, but it’s a co-championship and we really wanted this win. We worked so hard to get this.”
But Darien worked equally as hard. And will be a very hard out in the upcoming Class LL tournament.
“It just shows how much heart we have, how much depth we have on this team,” Barsanti said. “We came out and fought our hardest, that’s all we could ever ask for.”
Likewise Ludlowe, who knew that this moment would come one day. They just didn’t know when.
“I felt like after being here for three years that every team I’ve had has had a chance (to beat Darien) and finally we got it,” Skelton said. “It was great to finally see it happen.”