Staples boys volleyball falls to Darien in FCIAC semis
The Darien boys volleyball quickly found itself in an 0-2 hole against defending FCIAC champion Staples in the conference semifinals, and prospect of missing a third straight FCIAC final appeared to be a formality.
The Blue Wave then woke up and dominated their first elimination game, survived a few close calls in Game 4 and pulled out a win in the shortened deciding set to shock the Wreckers and advance to the title game. The 3-2, five set (19-25, 18-25, 25-18, 25-23, 15-12) win sets up a match with No. 1 Ridgefield, which swept Fairfield co-op in the nightcap (25-21, 25-14, 25-13) at Ludlowe High School.
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No. 2 Darien (19-2) and Ridgefield will clash back at Ludlowe on Thursday at 7 p.m. for the title, and both will be looking for their second ever FCIAC title.
"It's a great feeling," said Darien senior Todd Herget, who closed out the tight Game 4 with a kill. "We only have one FCIAC banner on our wall. This is our 21st game; every game has prepared us to this point."
With the odds long and time running out, Darien began connecting on more swings, Staples made a few more errors and the match turned around.
"We just started making more and more mistakes," Staples coach Dan Cho said. "We had four missed serves in a row in the last game and gave (Darien) momentum, and we had to play catchup."
Trailing 14-10 in the fifth set, Staples called timeout and rallied for a pair of points. Then, after a long exchange between the two teams, six-foot-eight sophomore Alex Preston ended the game with an emphatic spike.
"In volleyball it comes down to the little things when the game is close, and we were able to do that tonight," Herget said.
The Tigers (20-0) dominated for most of their match against Fairfield, raising its record in sets to 60-2 this season. Fairfield did get a game off Ridgefield in losing 3-1 during the regular season, but the Tigers shook off a little early rust to ease into the title game.
"We really came out fired up," Ridgefield coach Lidania Cibere said. "We're not talking about the regular season. This is a brand new season right now and if you lose you go home. I'm really proud of how my guys came out and took it right at them, Fairfield is a great team."
Ridgefield is now one win away from a perfect FCIAC season and.
"Having Karl Liapunov and Mark Liguori as leaders on the court, they're phenomenal volleyball players," Cibere said. "We control the ball so well it's hard to beat a team like this. I've coached a lot of great of this one; this one is a great and special team."
The first set was tied at 13-13 before a run of six straight points created breathing space. Fairfield (11-7) closed to 23-20 but a left-handed kill from Nicholas Laudati ended the set for Ridgefield. The Tigers would then control the second and third sets.
"(Ridgefield) was consistent, they had very good skills tonight," Fairfield coach Garrett Covino said. "We kind of took ourselves out of our own game and they played a great game."
Fairfield lost five of its first six matches this season, but rallied to win 10 of 11 to reach the playoffs.
"We had that rough patch to start, once things started clicking for us they started playing well and gelling together," Covino said. "They were having fun and things were going well."
All four teams will be in the Class L tournament that begins next Thursday.