SHELTON>> The top-seeded Ridgefield boys volleyball team took down No. 5 Glastonbury in straight sets on Monday at Shelton High School to advance to its second Class L final in three years.
But it wasn’t that easy.
The Tigers were down in each set, but after a tough week of practice, coach Lidania Gonzalez Cibere said it didn’t feel like they were trailing.
“When we were down today,” she said. I honestly didn’t feel like we were down.”
This was due to a drill Gonzalez Cibere used where she had her starters play from a three- or four-point deficit, and it worked.
The first two games, Glastonbury took a lead, but couldn’t finish.
The Tomahawks led the first set 23-19 before allowing six unanswered points, including four unforced errors that gave the Tigers a 1-0 lead.
“The first two games we were sort of in control and we let it get away from us at the end,” Glastonbury coach Pat Ryan said.
Ridgefield started to pick it up in the second set, but Glastonbury was still able to go on a 7-0 run in the middle of the set to take a 12-7 lead.
The Tigers tied the score at 19-19.
After essentially trading points, Griffin Jones connected for two big kills to give Ridgefield a 2-0 lead.
“There are a few points that if you came up with along the way, it would make a big difference in winning and losing,” Ryan told his team.
The third set started a bit different, but the result was the same.
Ridgefield came out on fire and took what looked like a commanding 10-3 lead. Ryan called a timeout after his team’s body language showed defeat. The Tomahawks went on a 12-4 run to take a 15-14 lead, capped by a block from Ethan Ericson.
Back and forth they went until Ridgefield ultimately clinched a spot in its fourth state tournament final. The Tigers won Class L in 2003.
“The kids really wanted it,” Gonzalez Cibere said. “I’m really happy that they get to play for a championship.”
Griffin Jones led Ridgefield with 16 kills and 11 blocks. Karl Liapunov added 12 kills and 11 digs.
Joseph Wiedemann and Shane Harasyko each had 12 kills for Glastonbury in the loss.
Southington beats Staples in straight sets
Southington dominated the No. 2 seeded Staples in the second semi-final of the night at Shelton High School.
The Blue Knights were forced to juggle their their lineup while 6-foot-4 Adam Brush was relegated to the bench with an ankle injury.
“Brush sitting on the sidelines was the waking point of what we did today,” Southington coach Lou Gianacopolos said. “Sitting a 6-foot-5 guy because he has a rolled ankle makes you think and be creative.”
Southington used a three outside hitter rotation with one middle blockers where the tradition setup would be two and two. This offense allowed the Blue Knights to attack the even bigger Staples blockers, find holes and create frustration.
“They were frustrating us,” Staples coach Jon Shepro said. “They were tipping, they were rolling and then they were hitting. We had blocks up and we weren’t getting a piece of it or we would just get a piece of it and they would find a hole. So it was a frustrating game for us and I imagine that translated to our offense.”
It did translate to the offense.
The Wreckers held on through the first 19 points of the match, down just one before making five errors in the next six points, handing Southington a 15-10 lead.
“We would get a couple good kills,” Shepro said. “A couple momentum shifters and they stole it right back.”
David Shaughnessy picked up the slack in Brush’s absence.
The senior captain led Southington with 13 kills, six digs and two blocks and finished the match with a .478 hitting percentage.
“We knew we had to step up all around and Dave really stepped up,” Southington setter Peter Masters said. “Out of position, started playing middle and really did all he had to do. Everything went into place and we played really well as a team.”
The Wreckers couldn’t seem to get anything going and Southington really took advantage.
The second set was never really close with the Blue Knights taking it, 25-16.
“When you have smarter swings, you are able to have success like we did,” Gianacopolos said.
Staples jumped out to an 8-2 lead in the third set, but the errors got to them again, committing seven over the span of eight points and letting the Blue Knights right back in the game.
“Something was missing tonight,” Shepro said. “I can’t put my fingers on it. We got down and we just couldn’t get the momentum back and Southington just kept coming at us.”
Southington won the third set 25-19.
The two winners will play for the Class L championship on Thursday at Kennedy High School in Waterbury at 6 p.m.