After wait, Thrasher settles in as Ridgefield's setter

On many girls volleyball teams across the state, Lauren Thrasher would have been the starting setter last season. And on some of those teams she probably would have started two years ago.

But as a junior at Ridgefield High, Thrasher had to bide her time and settle for backup minutes behind Katie Linekin, a senior who went on to earn All-FCIAC and All-State honors while helping the Tigers reach the state finals for the first time in program history.

“Although it was frustrating, I knew I had to wait my turn and put in the effort at practice,” said Thrasher. “I made sure that when (head coach) Lidania (Cibere) did put me in the game I was ready and tried to make as little errors as possible.”

Finally starting as a senior, Thrasher has kept Ridgefield humming. The Tigers have won their first six matches, all by 3-0 scores. One of those sweeps came against Stamford, which beat Ridgefield in the FCIAC semifinals and the Class LL state finals last year.

Thrasher has had 30 or more assists in five of Ridgefield’s matches, including a season-best 35 in a victory over Trumbull.

“Lauren had to be patient, and she never complained,” said Cibere in reference to Thrasher’s reserve role last fall. “Now she has made a nice transition into the starting lineup. She communicates well with our hitters as far as running plays.”

Thrasher did benefit from watching Linekin play in practices and matches.

“We worked together a lot in practice, setting back and forth and doing drills,” she said, “and I would watch her every game trying to learn as much as I could.”

“Since last season, I have gotten louder on the court and I’ve gotten better at pushing the ball far enough out so that the outside hitters can turn the ball down the line,” added Thrasher. “I also worked on plays with our middles and outsides during the offseason, which allows us to run a quicker offense.”

“She’s more vocal, but we still want her to be even louder,” said Cibere. “Lauren leads by example, and she doesn’t have a mean bone in her body. She is always positive, which helps when other players get down after a bad play.”

As setter, Thrasher’s primary responsibility is to get in position for a pass and then place the ball in favorable spots for Ridgefield’s arsenal of power hitters — a group that includes seniors Caroline Curnal and Alicia Hill and junior Mackenzie Wanicka.

“We have set plays for when the pass is off a serve receive or a hit, but we do try to run free-ball plays when we can,” said Thrasher. “We have really strong hitters on our team, so I try to move the ball around as much as possible…”

Thrasher says one overlooked role for setters is defense.

“You never want the setter to take the first ball but their first job on the court is defense. I definitely forget that sometimes,” she said. “Also, as a setter, you have to judge where the ball is. You have to see if it’s tight on the net, on the 10-foot line, or (ideally) somewhere in between, and then figure out where to set the ball, all in a matter of seconds.”

One advantage for Thrasher is her height. At 5’10, she is tall for a setter — “I think she’s the tallest setter I’ve had,” said Cibere — and able to win points herself. Against Stamford, for example, Thrasher faked a set and then sent a perfectly placed dink over the net that landed untouched.

“A lot of teams would lose a setter like Katie (Linekin) and then struggle,” said Cibere. “Fortunately for us, we had another really good setter just waiting for her turn.”