Darien tops Ridgefield for FCIAC volleyball crown
Published 2:31 pm, Wednesday, June 1, 2016
FAIRFIELD — All they do is win.
Whether it’s Darien High School — or in this case its boys volleyball team — the Blue Wave have put their stamp on the FCIAC this spring with numerous championships. The trend continued on Friday at Ludlowe as they rallied to top a familiar foe and add yet another trophy to the collection.
Though it dropped the first game in heartbreaking fashion, Darien regrouped, reloaded and crushed Ridgefield 3-1 (24-26, 25-22, 25-18, 25-21) to win its second straight FCIAC title and the fifth team title for Darien in the last week.
“The kids are very successful in this town, they put in a lot of work in school and athletically,” said Darien’s Alex Preston. “They come out for their teams, we have a great group of coaches and athletic department. Everyone cares about their common goals and it’s great to see the school do so well.”
This iteration of the Blue Wave (21-1) fielded an inexperienced group with just one senior on the roster and key contributions from several freshman. Juniors Preston and Tim Herget — who was named the match’s Most Valuable Player — did much of the heavy lifting on offense for Darien, which won its third title in school history, all in the last six years.
“It feels so great,” Herget said. “We have a ton of athletic guys and it’s easy to pick up the sport with our great coach (Laurie LaRusso). We learn so much from her.”
Making their fifth straight finals appearance, the Tigers got off to a perfect start when they rallied from a 24-22 deficit to take the first game after yielding a 21-19 lead of their own. It didn’t slow the Blue Wave down, though.
“Every day in practice our coaches talk about never giving up and keep fighting,” Herget said. “In volleyball anything can happen; we were surprised but we knew they were a very good team. We expected it to go five games.”
After dropping that set, Darien didn’t waste time in putting its stamp on the match. The Blue Wave raced out to leads of 9-3 and 20-12 before a Ridgefield rally created nerves. The Tigers clawed back with eight of the next nine points — led by the serving of sophomore Andrew Knachel — to make it 24-22 before Darien closed it out.
Ridgefield appeared to have gotten its footing back in the pivotal swing game and were deadlocked 18-18 with Darien. However the set was lost in a flash as the Blue Wave netted seven straight points to go up 2-1.
The Tigers (16-4) were called for an illegal rotation early in the third game that assisted in the slide, according to coach Lidania Cibere.
“We were using a rotation, the referees said it was illegal,” Cibere said. “It was the same rotation that we used on Wednesday (in the semifinals against Staples). That changed the game; if you can’t use your regular rotation that you’ve been using then you can’t change mid-game. We probably should have focused a little bit better.”
Darien got out to a 16-12 lead in the fourth game, and though the Tigers closed the gap several times, Preston delivered a pair of kills down the stretch to help send the Blue Wave to the title.
“We diversified our attack and a lot of guys stepped up big,” Preston said. “We had a lot of great digs and blocks; everyone played a big role. We’re not one dimensional because everyone expects us to be.”
The game marked the third time this season Darien toppled their rivals, all in four games.
Ridgefield hopes history repeats itself from 2015; Darien defeated the Tigers in five sets in last year’s FCIAC final, only for them to bounce back to win the rematch in the Class L final. The teams are on the opposite sides of the bracket once again this year.
DARIEN 3, RIDGEFIELD 1
RIDGEFIELD 26 22 18 21—1
DARIEN 24 25 25 25—3
Records: Ridgefield 16-4; Darien 21-1.