RIDGEFIELD — A midseason blip appears to be well and truly in the rearview mirror now for the Ridgefield girls volleyball team.
A little adversity never hurt anyone, either.
The Tigers faced another tough opponent in a Westhill on Wednesday, staving off the Vikings 3-1 (25-19, 25-15, 23-25, 25-19) in the penultimate regular season game for both teams.
Ridgefield won its first 10 matches by sweep before Greenwich and St. Joseph returned the favor in consecutive matches earlier this month. The Tigers (14-2) have responded by winning four in a row.
“I was glad that we lost because we had to figure out what our weaknesses were,” said senior captain Caroline Curnal, who shined against the Vikings. “We got to figure that out and we can only get better from there; it’s just working on the little things.”
Westhill (13-6) avoided the sweep by claiming the third set, which included a stellar diving play by the Vikings to help earn a point to go up 14-12. The lead grew to 23-18 before Ridgefield staged a furious rally that came up just short.
Olivia Wanicka reeled off several service points to pull the Tigers to within 23-22, and a kill by Westhill’s Nikki Newcomer made it 24-22. After a block made it 24-23, Sophia Thagouras came up with the set-ending kill to get the Vikings back into the game.
“I was happy to see us come back and take game three and keep fighting in came four,” Westhill coach Marianna Capomolla said. “We started hitting the ball well to the line; picking up balls and lining up our hitters better.”
But Ridgefield controlled most of the ensuing game, going on a run to jump to a 14-8 lead that was temporarily reduced to 21-18. The Tigers regrouped to hold off the visitors, who are close to nailing down one of the final FCIAC playoff spots.
“We started off a little flat and started to pick it up in game three,” Capomolla said. “We weren’t talking; defense was a little off.”
The Tigers started slowly in game one, though, as Westhill jumped out to an 8-2 lead. The set was close throughout with Ridgefield holding a 21-19 lead before four straight points — capped by a kill from Curnal — closed things out. Ridgefield took a much more commanding approach in the second to win 25-15.
“It’s a process and we’re getting ready for the tournament,” Curnal said. “To get this win feels great and we have to get ready for (the regular season finale against Warde) Friday.”
BACK ON TRACK
Ridgefield’s only two losses came to teams above them in the FCIAC standings, Greenwich and St. Joseph. The team embarked on a two-hour bus ride before the matchup against the Cadets as the Tigers’ bus incorrectly went to Stamford.
Likely the No. 3 seed heading into the playoffs, the target may be off the Tigers backs and the pressure associated.
“I think it’s good,” Cibere said. “This team has been very grounded; we’re just thinking about each point and each game at a time. I rarely talked about being undefeated; each loss is a good learning point. It’s nice to how it feels to lose, because we don’t want to feel like that again.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Caroline Curnal, Ridgefield: Delivered three straight aces to close out the second set and was the focal point of the offense for the Tigers, who expanded their rotation to get others more playing time.
“The FCIAC has a lot of parity across the board and any team can win it,” Cibere said. “It’s going to come down to who wants it the most; I think we just have to focus on us and the roles we need to do individually on and off the court.”
RIDGEFIELD 3, WESTHILL 1
WESTHILL19 15 25 19 — 1
RIDGEFIELD25 25 23 25 — 3
Records: Westhill 13-6, Ridgefield: 14-2. Highlights: W—Betsy Sachs had 11 kills and 4 blocks. Nikki Newcomer had 23 digs and 8 kills. Nina Bakuradze had 17 digs.