Ridgefield regoups to beat Staples in FCIAC volleyball playoffs

Twenty minutes after she posed the question, Lidania Cibere got the answer she wanted.

"I said that we could either meet back here for practice tomorrow or we could go to [Fairfield] Ludlowe and play in the FCIAC semifinals," said Cibere, the head coach of the Ridgefield High girls volleyball team, when asked what she told her players before the fifth set of Wednesday's conference quarterfinal match with Staples. "I asked them which choice they preferred."

After squandering a 2-0 lead by losing the third and fourth sets, Ridgefield regained its footing in the winner-take-all fifth set. The third-seeded Tigers established an early four-point lead and went on to beat sixth-seed Staples, 15-7, to close out their 3-2 victory at Ridgefield High.

Ridgefield will now face second-seed Greenwich on Thursday night at 7 p.m. in the second match of an FCIAC semifinal doubleheader at Fairfield Ludlowe. The winner meets either top-seed St. Joseph or fifth-seed Danbury in the finals on Saturday at 3 at Ludlowe.

Wednesday's win over Staples — by scores of 30-28, 25-23, 9-25, 22-25, and 15-7 — was anything but straightforward. Ridgefield had to fend off three set points in the opening game and then needed to rally from a 19-16 deficit to take the second set.

But down 2-0, Staples put a stranglehold on the next game, bolting to an 18-4 lead and limiting the Tigers to just nine points in the set. The Wreckers continued their resurgent play in the fourth game, leading 21-16 before Ridgefield rallied to tie the score at 22-22. Staples then won three straight points to even the match at two sets apiece.

With her team reeling, Cibere then brought up the two Thursday options: Practice for the state tournament or play for a spot in the conference finals.

"Honestly, I didn't know if we were going to pull out of it after losing two sets in a row," said Cibere. "But we got some nice blocks and kills in the fifth set, and our serving was good."

Alicia Hill's block gave Ridgefield a 7-3 lead, and after Staples got within 8-6, Caroline Curnal provided several kills to put the Tigers in front, 11-6. Ava Fazio then delivered a well-placed kill to make it 14-7 before Ridgefield added the next point to end the match.

Notes: Curnal (19), Mackenzie Wanicka (nine), Hill (eight), and Fazio (six) combined for 42 kills for the Tigers. Hill added a team-best five blocks, while Amanda Condron and Nicole Nielsen contributed seven digs apiece and Taylor Brand had five. Setter Lauren Thrasher finished with 40 assists and four digs.

The match was streamed live on the HAN Network. To watch on demand, click here.