FAIRFIELD -- On a night when every point seemed to produce muscle man poses and roars of emotion, the Darien boys volleyball team shocked top-ranked Ridgefield 3-2 Thursday at Fairfield Ludlowe High School to win its second FCIAC championship.

For only the third time since 2003, someone other than Staples won the FCIAC title. Darien also won the championship in 2011 while Ridgefield won in 2012.

It was the first loss of the year for the vaunted Tigers (20-1), who took the opening game 25-19 but often fell into deep, dangerous holes the rest of the match.

Darien, the No. 2 seed in the FCIAC, pushed back hard against Ridgefield and tied the match in the second game, 25-23, after leading the Tigers by as many as eight points.

It was no different in the third set, after the Blue Wave (20-2) built a nine-point lead on its way to a 25-17 victory.

Undaunted, Ridgefield took the fourth game 29-27 when only a point or two separated these rivals for most of the volleys.

With the Tigers clinging to a 20-18 lead and needing a win to survive, Ridgefield coach Lidania Gonzalez Cibere tapped her left temple with her index finger.

The message was clear: "Think! Think!"

It was an exhausting set for both teams as the score and the stakes kept climbing, right alongside the nearly 200 fans in the stands.

In the end, the momentum of the moment pushed this match to five sets. That's been Darien's run of luck lately in the FCIAC.

"We've had a lot of games go to five sets it seems, but this was a much different experience," said Darien sophomore Alex Preston, who finished with 13 kills and five stuff blocks.

"Ridgefield hadn't lost a game, but we felt if we maintained our composure, we could win and we did."

Even after Ridgefield rallied in the second and third games, Darien managed to regroup and win those battles. All that effort wasn't enough to make a difference, not on the scoreboard anyway.

Suddenly, the Tigers were playing from behind and the Blue Wave were playing to win -- even after losing to Ridgefield earlier this season in FCIAC play.

"We never count ourselves out. We focus on one point at a time," said Ridgefield senior Karl Liapunov, who was named All-FCIAC first team after the game.

"I have to give a lot of credit to Darien. They played great tonight. Our problem was that we started too slow and were never able to dig ourselves out of the hole against them."

Although Ridgefield took an 11-10 lead in the deciding set, the Blue Wave scored five of the final six points to win the game.

And the FCIAC championship.

"All the pressure was on their backs, not ours. They were the undefeated team and the No. 1 team (in the state)," said Todd Herget, who had 34 kills, three aces and two stuff blocks for Darien.

"Ever since we lost to them -- every point, every game, every practice -- helped prepare us for this. I felt like we were ready to be here."



DARIEN 19 25 25 27 15--3

RIDGEFIELD 25 23 17 29 12--2

Records: Darien 20-2, Ridgefield 20-1. Highlights: D--Todd Herget 34 kills, 3 aces, 2 stuff blocks. Alex Preston 13 kills, 5 stuff blocks. Tim Herget 45 assists.