The Staples and Ridgefield boys volleyball teams have been on a collision course since the Tigers handed the Wreckers their only loss in their season opener April 11.
The two teams have just one loss between them since, and the rematch in the FCIAC championship game was officially set Wednesday as each prevailed in the semifinals. Staples defeated Darien 3-1 (25-18, 25-23, 19-25, 25-21) and the Tigers topped New Canaan 3-1 (25-19, 25-18, 22-25, 25-22) at Ludlowe High School, where they will meet Friday for all the marbles.
The Rams remained competitive in the first two games of their semifinal showdown, before faltering in the latter halves. The teams were tied at 13 in the each before the Tigers (19-1) found their groove and pulled away in each set.
The tone of the match changed in the third set as the Rams gained confidence. New Canaan, making its FCIAC playoff debut, made things interesting down the stretch.
"I'm proud of (my players) 100 percent because they gave all the effort they had," New Canaan coach Katie Bakes said. "They came in here knowing they had nothing to lose. They gave it their all and that's all I could ask of them. We came here and took a set off Ridgefield, which is huge for us."
After an emphatic win in the third game, New Canaan (11-6) jumped out to a 9-6 lead in the fourth and continued to put a scare in the Tigers and held an 18-17 lead. Ridgefield finally pulled away late in the set. Griffin Jones led the Tigers with 10 kills, nine blocks and seven digs.
"I think we got a little nervous when the game got closer and we dropped a game," Cibere said. "We got a little rattled; New Canaan rattled us. Thankfully we were albe to really pull it together, we did a nice job of finishing the match."
The Tigers will have revenge on their mind in Friday's rematch between two of the top teams in the state. Last season, Staples defeated Ridgefield in the FCIAC final and the Class LL semis.
"To make the finals is an accomplishment in itself," Cibere said. "I'm really excited for the kids to be there again. Obviously, last year we lost, so we want to avenge that loss."
FCIAC boys volleyball semifinals
Ridgefield 3, New Canaan 1
NEW CANAAN 19 18 25 22--1
RIDGEFIELD 25 25 22 25--3
Records: New Canaan 11-6, 11-6 FCIAC; Ridgefield 18-1, 16-1. Highlights: R--Griffin Jones had 10 kills, nine blocks seven digs and eight aces. Karl Liapunov had 18 kills and 10 digs.