Ridgefield sweeps Newtown, heads to state finals

One unbeaten down, one to go.

With just a few days left in the 2018 season, that is the motto for the Ridgefield High boys volleyball team.

After sweeping previously undefeated Newtown, 3-0, in the Class L semifinals Monday night, third-seed Ridgefield now faces unbeaten top-seed Staples (24-0) in the state championship match Thursday night (7 p.m.) at Shelton High School.

The Tigers (21-3) are frustratingly familiar with Staples, which is responsible for all three of Ridgefield's losses this spring, including a 3-0 triumph in the recent FCIAC finals.

"I know the guys wanted another chance against Staples, so they are happy to be playing them in the state finals," said Ridgefield head coach Lidania Cibere. "Staples is a really good team, but I think we are pretty good, too."

The Tigers were near perfect in Monday's semifinal against second-seed Newtown. Ridgefield cruised to a 25-13 win in the opening game and then added 25-20 and 25-18 victories in the second and third games, respectively, to close out the sweep and hand Newtown (20-1) its first loss this year.

"I thought we played well in all areas," said Cibere. "Our passing, hitting, serving, and blocking were all really good. We never let Newtown get comfortable."

One by-product of Ridgefield's first-game domination was its demoralizing effect on the Newtown supporters.

"Newtown had a big crowd there, but our game play really took their fans out of it," said Cibere.

Also helpful was some advance scouting that Cibere did last Friday.

"We played our [state quarterfinal] match early, and I noticed that Newtown wasn't playing their match until 6 that night so I went [to Newtown High School] and got to watch them play," said Cibere. "Newtown has a really strong outside hitter (Ardi Kodzodziku), and we focused on blocking him at the net."

Outside hitter Christian DeVivo and setter Andrew Knachel each delivered impressive performances for Ridgefield. DeVivo finished with 18 kills, 12 digs, and eight service points, while Knachel contributed 25 assists, nine digs, and four service points.

Middle hitters Thomas Groves (six kills) and Shane Meyer (five kills) helped the Tigers control the net.

"I know a lot of people didn't think we could make it this far because of all the players we graduated last year," said Cibere. "I'm amazed myself that we are going to the state finals, but that's a credit to these players and what they have done this season."