WATERBURY >> The Ridgefield boys volleyball team returned to the Class L title game for the second time in three seasons, only this time the result was different.
The Tigers took down Southington in straight sets, 25-20, 27-25, 25-23, to claim their second state title and first since 2003 at John F. Kennedy High School on Thursday.
“It’s awesome,” said Ridgefield’s Griffin Jones, the game’s Most Outstanding Player. “Nothing more we could have asked for.”
Ridgefield came out hot in the first set and looked like nothing was going to get in the way.
“They believed in each other,” Ridgefield coach Lidania Gonzalez Cibere said. “They played like a team and they didn’t get tense when they were down. They focused on the next point and in volleyball if you’re focused on the next point, you’re going to win.”
The Tigers fell behind in both the second and third sets, but battled back with Jones putting the exclamation point on the championship season with a kill on the final point.
“Griffin shined,” Gonzalez Cibere said. “To me he’s the player of the year. He came out strong and he was just unstoppable. They had no answer for him.”
The senior led Ridgfield with 20 kills, four blocks and four digs.
“When my team’s on, I just try my best to be on with them,” Jones said.
The Tigers took a dominant 14-5 lead in the first set, but let Southington crawl back within striking distance with a few errors midway through.
Southington staved off two set points before an error handed the Tigers game one.
“We might have been thinking of not what we’re going to do today,” Southington coach Lou Gianacopolos said. “But of how great we did the other night [vs. Staples].”
The Blue Knights seemed to settle down in the second set and take a 10-7 lead.
But it didn’t last long.
Jones came up with a big block that shifted the momentum back to Ridgefield.
The two teams traded the final eight points of the set before Southington setter Peter Masters (21 assists) mishandled a pass, dropping between his hands.
“Ball control is pretty key,” Giancopolos said. “When we were trying to get the ball to the net for our setter, it was a little to high and tight and Peter struggled with overhead passes.”
In the third set, Ridgefield had to dig deep.
Southington took a 17-10 lead after a Mark Horanzy kill, but the Tigers didn’t roll over.
They scored nine of the next 11 points to pull within one. The game was tied at 23 before Ridgefield closed it out with the final two points of the season.
“I’m just so happy for these kids,” Gonzalez Cibere said. “They worked so hard this season — for four years. They’ve been practicing, they’ve been playing clubs, they really take it seriously. They want to get better so they’re always playing.”
The hard work payed off, especially for Jones and Karl Liapunov who played on the 2012 runner-up team.
“It took too long to get back here,” Jones said. “But its worth the wait. Every day was worth it.”
Mark Liguori and Karl Liapunov each had eight kills for Ridgefield. Henrik Liapunov had 17 assists and Christopher McLean had 19. The Tigers as a team recorded eight service aces in the win.
Dan Connolly had 10 kills and six kills to lead Southington.