SHELTON>> The Ridgefield boys volleyball team redeemed its only loss of the year with an even bigger win — a state championship.
Darien ruined the Tigers chance at a perfect season by beating them 3-2 in the finals of the FCIAC tournament, but Ridgefield returned the favor defeating the Blue Wave in four sets (23-25, 25-22, 25-19, 25-18) to win its second straight Class L title.
“We had a chip on our shoulders,” Tournament MVP Karl Liapunov said. “We had an undefeated season and then Darien played outstanding in the FCIAC finals and when they took that from us it was fuel to the fire.”
“I don’t know if we would have won this game if we hadn’t lost that game, because it was some motivation that I can’t describe.”
Liapunov totaled 21 kills while his brother Henrik dished out 47 assists.
Todd Herget led the Blue Wave with 18 kills.
The two outside hitters went toe-to-toe for most of the night matching kill-for-kill and letting each other know when one had the edge.
“It’s a friendly rivalry for sure,” Karl Liapunov said. “It always gets heated when we play each other. [Todd’s] a great player and he challenges us, so things get heated when we play, but after the game we’re friends again.”
After dropping a close first set, Karl Liapunov and the Tigers came out with some fire in the second building a 14-9 lead and didn’t look back.
Another strong start in the third set saw Ridgefield with a 17-10 advantage.
“They had the hunger,” Darien sophomore Alex Preston said. “We had the hunger in the FCIAC’s, they beat us pretty badly in the regular season. They just wanted it more tonight. They proved to us that we couldn’t just walk in here and expect to win.”
In the fourth, Liapunov had eight kills, including the final one to give the Tigers their fourth state championship overall.
“Losing FCIAC’s was tough, Darien’s a great team,” Ridgefield coach Lidania Cibere said. “I’m just happy we were able to get states. the kids played so well all year. Wwe had a great regular season, we’ve just been playing really well, so I’m just happy they have something to show for it.”