DARIEN -- There is no place like home.

Especially for the Darien High School girls volleyball team.

"We love playing in this gym," said Darien's lone senior Nicole Schmidt while surrounded by Blue Wave championship banners. "Our No. 1 job is to protect our house."

Well, consider mission accomplished. No. 13 Southington had a short visit to Fairfield County and a long bus ride home Thursday night as No. 4 Darien posted a 25-19, 25-13, 22-25, 25-13 Class LL second-round triumph before its usual supportive partisan crowd.

The victory means that Darien (19-3 overall) will now host No. 5 Fairfield Ludlowe in Satureday's 4 p.m. Class LL quarterfinals at the Blue Wave gym. Ludlowe ousted Stamford, 3-0, Thursday night.

"The state tournament is so important to us," Darien's Schmidt said.

One look on the gymnasium wall will tell you that.

Although now in Class LL, Darien is the proud owner of 16 girls volleyball state titles since 1993.

The Blue Wave were on point Thursday night not only because it drew a first round bye.

Thursday was Darien's first action since its FCIAC playoff semifinal round loss to Staples that snapped a 12-year streak of FCIAC titles for Darien.

Southington (14-7) was very game Thursday and in fact has the same type of roster as Darien since both schools have just one senior.

But there was no denying Darien.

In Game 1, at 11-11 Darien used the serving of Celia Martzoff and Anna Barsanti to go on a 6-1 surge for a 17-12 edge it never relinquished winning 25-19.

Knotted at 5-5 in Game 2, Darien took command with a 13-3 surge for an 18-8 edge that became a 25-13 triumph.

In Game 3, Southington used mini-runs of 5-1 and 4-0 to grab a 25-22 win and give its fans some brief hope.

But Darien put its state tournament game face on. The Blue Wave used an 11-1 run for a 14-4 edge that became a 25-13 closeout victory.

"Southington is a great team. But we're all about teamwork," Schmidt said. "We trust each other on and off the court."

Darien's girls volleyball future looks bright. Martzoff, a junior, directed the offense with 41 assists. The Blue Wave power came courtesy of sophomore Isabelle Taylor (21 kills) and junior Claire Naughton (19 kills). Schmidt had an all-around contest with 14 digs and 10 service points.

Southington coach Richard Heitz, who had his Lady Knights scrimmage Darien in the preseason, was surprised at the outcome.

"We didn't play well enough to win. Darien played very confidently on the court. We struggled at times with passing and serves," Heitz said. "Darien took us out of our system. I was happy with our sophomores. There were points where we had five sophomores out there together. I'm happy we came back in Game 3. But the best team won tonight."

Time will tell how many more wins in 2013 are in the cards for Darien.


Darien 3, Southington 1

SOUTHINGTON 19 13 25 13 --1

DARIEN 25 25 22 25 --3

Records: Southington 14-7; Darien 19-3.

Highlights: Dar -- Isabelle Taylor 21 kills, 2 blocks, 4 service points; Claire Naughton 19 kills, 1 ace, 1 block, 5 service points. Celia Martzoff 41 assists, 3 aces, 1 block, 9 service points; Nicole Schmidt 3 kills, 14 digs, 1 block, 10 service points.

Note: No. 4 seed Darien will host No. 5 seed Fairfield Ludlowe in Saturday's LL quarterfinals at 4 p.m. Ludlowe ousted Stamford Thursday night.