Ludlowe spikers defeat Warde

Fairfield Ludlowe High girls volleyball coach Meghan Skelton switched her lineup for the Falcons’ home match with Fairfield Warde, and the loud and boisterous bi-partisan crowd on hand was treated to an amped up effort on Dig Pink Night, with Ludlowe winning a 3-0 (25-16, 25-12, 25-11) decision.
“Today,” Skelton answered when asked when Pauline Blatt moved to the front row and junior classmate Corinne Lang took over libero duties.
“Corrine had played right-back on defense, but for Pauline this was her first time in the front row.
“They had one practice, and I thought this was the perfect opportunity to make the shift.”
What’s good for the Falcons, who improved to 12-1 with their ninth straight win, isn’t always good for the Mustangs, who had won 7-of-8 matches to move into a sixth-place tie in the FCIAC with an 8-4 record.
“My girls were excited about this game…They played with emotion,” Warde coach Matt Narwold said. “Emotion can be a roller-coaster ride, and once you get down in this atmosphere it is tough to get it back.”
The baselines were filled with members from each team’s student body, which lent a frenetic pace to the usually well-timed matches.
“It can go either way,” Skelton said about the energy generated from the stands. “We had a lot of nerves…I told the girls to utilize [the crowd] in a positive way — jump higher, swing harder.”
Kelly Rotondo led the way for Ludlowe with 26 assists and seven digs from her setter position.
“At the beginning it was rough with the big crowd and we were nervous,” Rotondo said. “Then we started to feed off it.
“Corrine came in and did such a good job digging up their big hits, and Pauline is such a great player and helped us up front.”
Put those players together with Emily Nelson, Jamie Quinn, Jennifer Elsaesser, Lexi Cardenas, Ryann Casey and Casey Boatwright, and a perfect storm was brewing for the Falcons.
“She did a fantastic job,” Narwold said of Nelson. “Emily [can beat you] from anywhere on the court.
“And you have to credit Kelly Rotondo for her setting. Ludlowe played well and we had a lot of unforced errors.
“I was very happy with the support we received from our student body.”
Nelson had nine kills, four aces, and led a strong service game by Ludlowe.
“I’m so excited,” Nelson said. “The Warde game is always crazy. I’m emotionally and physically drained.
“With that big crowd behind us, we brought our A game. I don’t think I’ve every played [in a match] that was so loud.”
Warde libero Tatiana Fernandes made Ludlowe earn its points with some great digs, and senior setter Marisa Neamontis did a great job pushing the ball out to Jocie Thibault and in the middle to Kaitlin McKenna.
It was 9-5 Ludlowe in game one, after a block by Warde’s Kenzie Burns led to a Falcon hitting error.
Neamontis made a sideline save, but a pass from Lexi Cardenas (six kills) led to Nelson smacking a monster cross-court kill.
The rivals traded side outs, but Ludlowe slowly broke away with a few multiple-point stays on the stripe.
Lang, who had nine digs, put together a five-point run to boost the lead to 23-14.
A Fernandes dig, a Neamontis set, and a McKenna spike to the middle got the serve back.
McKenna served an ace, but two Warde hitting errors brought up game-point, and Quinn’s spike was returned wide.
Game II saw Casey come on and play a stellar back row for Ludlowe, and Lauren Schrieber came in to play up front.
Quinn had consecutive aces at the end of the first service rotation to give Ludlowe a 14-7 lead.
Catie Keegan had a winning bump to an open space for Warde, but Boatwright got on top of a middle set to drill home one of her eight kills.
Rotondo served two winners and Nelson had three to up the edge to 21-9.
Walsh’s dig pass went to Neamontis, who set McKenna for another blazing spike.
Four side outs brought up game point, and again Quinn delivered the winning hit.
Game three saw the Falcons trade aces with missed serves through the first rotation.
Warde was hurt when Keegan’s tip over block after a long rally was first ruled in, and then wide, to give Ludlowe a 7-5 lead and the serv.
Despite the efforts of Walsh, Thibault and Fernandes, the Mustangs couldn’t halt the suring Falcons.
Nelson had two aces in a four-point run and Boatwright served up five winners to take control.
Clare Burns, Erika Leppla and Maddie Grella came on to try and spark Warde, but Cardenas served out the match with three winners.
Dig Pink
One hundred percent of the proceeds and donations from Dig Pink is going to The Norma F. Pfriem Breast Care Center, which is in association with the Bridgeport Hospital.
The Norma F. Pfriem Breast Care Center not only provides medical aid to those who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, but offers a variety of multidisciplinary services with the goal of promoting the overall health of men and women in order to have a full mental and physical recovery from breast cancer.
Baked goods, drinks, and pizza were sold by volunteers outside the gymnasium, and a fund-raising raffle was held.
The match will be broadcast on MSG Varsity channel 14 on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.

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