A look back: FCIAC teams racked up 13 state championships this winter

Eleven teams from the FCIAC won a total of 13 state championships to highlight the success the conference achieved during the 2018-19 high school winter sports season which concluded in late March.

The Norwalk High School and Trinity Catholic High School girls’ basketball teams each won their respective state class tournaments while New Canaan won the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference Division IV Boys Basketball Tournament.

New Canaan’s girls ice hockey team won the state championship with a 3-1 victory over fellow conference foe Darien to add to the FCIAC title that coach Rich Bulan’s Rams previously won.

In the sports in which the formats are championship meets and the teams which accumulate the most points win state titles, the Danbury wrestling team and Greenwich boys’ swimming and diving team each swept CIAC Class LL and State Open championships.

It was a Grand Slam year of sorts for coach Ricky Shook’s perennially-powerful Danbury wrestling program as his Hatters began their postseason run with their 34th FCIAC championship and they ended their banner year as New England champions.

The Greenwich and Wilton girls’ gymnastic teams, the Danbury girls’ indoor track and field team, and New Canaan’s boys’ swimming and diving team each won state class titles.

Danbury also had a state championship cheerleading team. Coach Joanne Tatatarzycki’s Hatters won the state Class LL championship after they won their conference crown and they ended up placing second in New England.

Norwalk’s undefeated and top-seeded girls’ basketball team rallied back from an 11-point deficit to begin the fourth quarter and pulled out a 55-53 victory over second-seeded New London in the championship game of the CIAC Class LL Girls Basketball Tournament. Coach Ricky Fuller’s Bears finished 28-0 and ranked No. 1 in the Final 2018-19 GameTimeCT Girls Basketball Top 10 Poll.

There were 11 FCIAC girls’ basketball teams in the Class LL tournament and they combined for a 10-10 record. The FCIAC had a combined 16-11 record in three state class tournaments as Norwalk and Trinity Catholic each went 5-0 in their respective state tournaments.

Trinity Catholic was seeded seventh and coach Mike Walsh’s Crusaders beat the three highest-seeded teams in their last three games – culminating with a 52-45 victory over top-seeded Canton in the Class S final. Trinity Catholic finished with a 22-5 record and ranked No. 7 in the final GameTimeCT state poll.

There were five divisional boys’ basketball state tournaments and the FCIAC had a combined 15-13 in four of them as there was no conference in team in the Division V tourney for the schools with the smallest enrollments.

The combined winning record was due mainly to New Canaan winning four straight games to capture the Division IV state championship. Two FCIAC teams squared off in the semifinals, where New Canaan’s fourth-seeded Rams defeated 16th-seeded St. Joseph, 62-51. Four days later coach Danny Melzer’s Rams copped their state crown with a 55-39 victory over third-seeded Granby.

The FCIAC had an uncharacteristic rough year in boys’ hockey with a combined 2-11 record in the three divisional tournaments. The conference was 2-6 in Division I as third-seeded Darien and seventh-seeded New Canaan each beat fellow conference teams in the first round before being eliminated in the quarterfinals.

Top-seeded Ridgefield went into the tournament undefeated and the Tigers drew a bye into the quarterfinals, where they suffered a 3-2 upset loss in overtime to eighth-seeded Xavier. Coach Shaun Gallagher’s Ridgefield Tigers won their third consecutive FCIAC championship with an 8-1 victory over Greenwich and they finished the season with a 22-1 record and ranked second behind Fairfield Prep in the Final 2018-19 GameTimeCT Hockey Top 10 Poll. Darien (17-6) was ranked No. 5 and New Canaan (14-8-1) was No. 7.

In those championship-meet sports, in addition to those handful of teams which won state championships, the FCIAC was also impressive in that many more of its teams placed high in the team scoring.

In wrestling, for instance, Danbury led a contingent of four conference teams among the top six at the CIAC State Open one week after the champion Hatters were the first of seven FCIAC teams among the top 11 at the CIAC Class LL Wrestling Tournament.

Danbury won the State Open with 158 points and Xavier was second with 109. Also from the FCIAC: Fairfield Warde placed third (103 points), Trumbull was fifth (78.5) and New Canaan sixth (71).

Danbury won the Class LL crown with 250 points and fellow conference member Trumbull was runner-up with 210.5. Also from the conference: Warde (150.5 points) placed fourth, Staples (108) was fifth as the fourth FCIAC team among the top five, while Ridgefield (88), Greenwich (86) and Westhill (79.5) placed 9-11.

Danbury swept the State Open and Class LL championships for the third consecutive year. The Hatters have achieved that feat 14 times since the CIAC began the team scoring format at the State Open in 2001, including 10 straight times from 2001-10.

The Greenwich boys’ swimming and diving swept the Class LL and State Open for the seventh straight year and the 35th time since its first time in 1973. Coach Terry Lowe’s Cardinals pulled off that Class LL/State Open double title feat 10 straight times from 1980-89. They’ve done it 16 times since 1999. They began their Triple Crown year by winning their 50th FCIAC championship.

Greenwich scored 600 points to lead a 1-2-3 finish of FCIAC teams at the State Open as New Canaan (480.5) placed second and Ridgefield (378.5) was third. Greenwich racked up 911 points in the Class LL meet while leading a contingent of six FCIAC teams among the top eight. Ridgefield was runner-up with 598 points, Staples (337) placed fifth, the Norwalk/McMahon cooperative program (303) took sixth, the Fairfield co-op team (281.6) placed seventh and the Westhill/Stamford co-op team (274) was eighth.

Coach Katherine Munson’s New Canaan Rams scored 776 points to capture the boys swimming and diving Class L crown for the third time in the last four years, previously winning in 2016 and ’17, while defending champion Darien (620) was runner-up.

Greenwich won its fourth consecutive FCIAC title and then coach Sue Knight’s Cardinals won the CIAC Class LL Girls Gymnastics Championships with 137.05 points. They were followed in the top three by fellow conference teams Fairfield Ludlowe (135.96) and Fairfield Warde (132.225).

Veteran coach Gary Chadwick’s Wilton Warriors scored 131.975 points to defend their Class M state championship by a comfortable margin over the runner-up Killingly/Putnam/Tourtellotte cooperative team, which scored 130.2 points. It was Wilton’s seventh overall state class championship – five in Class M and a pair of back-to-back Class S titles in 1995 and ’96.

The powerful Woodstock Academy gymnastics team won the State Open with 142.475 points and FCIAC teams placed in the next three positions. Ludlowe was runner-up with 136.65 points and followed by Greenwich (132.7) and Warde (130.95)

The Danbury girls’ indoor track and field team scored 73 points to nip runner-up Glastonbury by just one point while snatching the team title at the Class LL meet. Coach Nick Fraticelli’s Danbury Hatters were the first of five FCIAC teams among the top seven. Fairfield Ludlowe placed third with 36 points, one more than fourth-place Ridgefield, Greenwich (32) took sixth and Brien McMahon (25) tied for seventh place.

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