The Fairfield co-op boys volleyball lineup of mostly new-to-varsity players united and pieced together enough wins to qualify for the CIAC Class L state tournament -- with one match to spare. The squad of Fairfield Warde and Fairfield Ludlowe players defeated visiting Harding 3-0 (25-9, 25-11, 25-16) at Ludlowe's gym on Wednesday to earn its eighth win.
Fairfield improved to 8-9 heading into the season finale at Danbury on Thursday. Harding, of Bridgeport, fell to 0-17 overall.
Fairfield (8-7 FCIAC) had no trouble against its winless opponents, compiling 16 service aces and dominating pretty much from start to finish. Harding (0-16 FCIAC) made a bit of a run to keep things close in the third game, but it was far from enough.
Sophomore Noah Adelstein had five kills and six blocks, sophomore setter Daniel Kim added 17 assists and the team's lone returnee from last year, senior captain Timothy Beradino, had five kills and a pair of blocks.
"We just stayed true to our skills, and we let them make mistakes," Beradino said of the approach against Harding.
"Making states, period, is a great thing," said Fairfield coach Garrett Covino, noting his mostly-inexperienced team stumbled at times during the season.
Fairfield missed a chance to qualify for the state bracket in a tough 3-2 loss to Greenwich on Monday. Covino said his team didn't play aggressively enough and made mistakes that led to that loss to the Cardinals.
"Today was a good turnaround," said Covino, noting the win over Harding was a step in the right direction. The coach entered into the finale against Danbury -- a squad his team beat 3-1 on May 7 -- hopeful of picking up another win and improving its state tournament seeding.
"It's been a little bit of a roller coaster -- highs and lows -- but, for the most part, they've done a nice job," Covino said of the season, adding that emphasis has been put on fundamentals. "There've been some peaks and valleys, but they've definitely made some progress."
"I feel we've come a long way from day one," Beradino said. "At the beginning, we were a little shaky, but we got stronger and got better as the year went on."
Following the Danbury match, Fairfield will have to play at its best against what should be tough competition in the postseason. Beradino believes his team will have to approach the playoffs as if they're nothing special in order to fight off possible nerves.
"I think one thing we need to do is stay focused and not get nervous," Beradino said. "If we act like it's an everyday game, we can play well and go far."
Andy Hutchison is a freelance reporter