Girls volleyball: Ridgefield sets sights on titles

Like many other Ridgefield High teams, the girls volleyball squad enjoyed a memorable, historic season during the 2016-17 school year.

After reaching the conference semifinals, the Tigers advanced to the state finals for the first time, losing to Stamford, 3-1, in the Class LL title match.

Although several key players graduated — including All-State selections Elizabeth Middlebrook (outside hitter) and Katie Linekin (setter) — Ridgefield should again contend for post-season championships this fall.

"We did graduate a lot, but we also had a deep bench last season and now those players are ready for their chance," said head coach Lidania Cibere, whose team opens at home against Simsbury tonight (6 p.m.). "We definitely have a chance to go for FCIAC and state titles."

The top returnee is senior outside hitter Caroline Curnal, a three-sport standout who emerged as one of the FCIAC's most devastating hitters in 2016. "In my opinion, she hits the ball harder than anyone else in the conference," said Cibere. "And she is hitting it even harder this year."

Also back is senior middle hitter Alicia Hill, a starter last season. "Alicia's a key factor for us because of her experience and jumping ability," said Cibere. "She's going to be dangerous this year."

Senior Taylor Brand returns as libero, teaming with classmates Nicole Nielsen and Nicole Miller to give Ridgefield a top-rate defense. "It's a strength for us," said Cibere about the team's back row. "All three of those players are good enough to play libero. Not many teams can match that."

Lauren Thrasher, a senior, takes over for Linekin as Ridgefield's setter. "She has been waiting in the wings," said Cibere. "Lauren plays club [volleyball] year round, and the offense is running really well with her."

Senior Olivia Lescinskas, a captain along with Curnal, joins Hill as a middle hitter, with senior Claire McLam and junior Ava Fazio also expected to contribute.

Senior Amanda Condron is the front-runner at opposite hitter, while junior Mackenzie Wanicka and sophomore Julia Koscics will look to lessen the loss of Middlebrook at outside hitter.

Notes: Ridgefield's roster also includes junior defensive specialists Caroline Holloway and Jillian O'Keefe, sophomore defensive specialist/outside hitter Joyce Li, and sophomore defensive specialist Marie Condron.

Freshmen Norah McNeece, Caroline Clifford and Olivia Wanicka will be double-rostered on varsity and JV.

Ridgefield finished last season with a 22-6 record.