Ridgefield’s two titles highlight FCIAC’s boys volleyball 2024 season

Ridgefield High School’s boys’ volleyball team had reasons for optimism going into this spring season, given that these Tigers had several very good seniors with significant varsity playing experience.

Those Tigers played well while they were developing as underclassmen, and they had a combined 3-3 record in the previous three state tournaments from 2021-23. One long-range goal from about a couple years ago was that this 2024 season when they would be seniors would be their year.

And that it most certainly was.

Coach Lidania Gonzalez Cibere’s Tigers first won themselves a conference championship and then added a state title with victories over an excellent Darien team which was the defending champion in both tournaments.

After Ridgefield shut out Darien, 3-0, to win the 2024 FCIAC Boys Volleyball Tournament championship and prevent the Blue Wave from winning a fifth consecutive conference crown, the Tigers added their state title with a 3-1 victory over Darien in the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference Class L final.

That would be the last match in the exemplary career Darien veteran coach Laurie LaRusso, who had immediate success with her program at the inception of boys’ high school volleyball after having so much great success for 42 years while racking up so many FCIAC and state championships with the school’s girls’ volleyball program.

Ridgefield (25-1) and Darien (22-4) were ranked second and third, respectively, in the Final 2024 Connecticut High School Coaches Association Boys Volleyball Rankings which were last updated June 17 on the MaxPreps high school sports website.

Undefeated Simsbury was ranked No. 1 after finishing 23-0 with its 3-0 victory over Cheshire by the scores of 25-19, 25-11, 25-15 in the CIAC Class M championship match. Darien took a 75-match win streak into this season and that was stopped by Simsbury in the season opener, 3-1.

Coach LaRusso’s previous three Blue Wave teams from 2021-23 had three consecutive 25-0 seasons with three FCIAC and three state Class L championships since a 3-2 loss to Staples in the 2019 Class L final. The was no 2020 season because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The FCIAC had four teams ranked among the top nine and nine teams in the top 25 in that final state poll. Westhill (21-5) was ranked No. 6 and New Canaan (13-9), which dealt Ridgefield its only loss of the year, ended up with the No. 9 ranking. Danbury (16-6) was ranked 13th, Trumbull (10-11) and Staples (12-9) were 17th and 18th, respectively, Stamford (12-10) was No. 20, and Fairfield Ludlowe (7-13) was ranked No. 25 as that ninth conference team in the top 25.

Five of the eight quarterfinal teams in the Class L state tournament were FCIAC teams. Second-seeded Ridgefield defeated No. 7 Glastonbury, 3-1; No. 1 Darien shut out No. 7 Danbury, 3-0; No. 13 East Hartford beat No. 5 Westhill, 3-1; and No. 3 Farmington advanced with a 3-0 victory over New Canaan in the state Class L quarterfinals.

Ridgefield won its last 13 matches of the season since its home loss to New Canaan on May 2.

Matthew Konopka, Ian Swiatowicz, Alister Walsh, Matthew Gimigliano, Charlie Riek and David Macdonald were six Ridgefield seniors who all stepped up in their career finales to lead the Tigers to that 3-1 victory over Darien by the scores of 13-25, 25-19, 25-23, 25-16 in that CIAC Class L final on June 6. That was the opening match of a state championship doubleheader at Newtown High School as it preceded the Simsbury-Cheshire match.

The versatile Konopka was a force at the net with many kills and blocks, and he also excelled as a big server and a setter as he consistently set up Swiatowicz, Walsh, Gimigliano, and Riek for many booming hits at the net. Macdonald, the libero, and Charles Viggiano both had solid games on defense for the champions.

Darien was led by the hitting of Thomas Herget and Bryce Ford, and the strong serving of Griffith Crouse.

Ridgefield’s senior setter Konopka, who racked up 780 assists, 67 aces, 147 kills, 52 blocks and 168 digs on the year, was selected the Player of the Year on 12-player 2024 GameTimeCT All-State Boys Volleyball First Team in addition to having made the All-FCIAC First Team for the second straight year and this year’s CHSCA All-State Second Team.

Swiatowicz (350 kills and 30 blocks), Ridgefield’s second-year captain, was among the nine players chosen to the 2024 All-FCIAC Boys Volleyball First Team a year after he made the 2023 All-FCIAC Second Team. He also made this year’s CHSCA All-State First Team and joined Konopka as one of the two Tigers on the GameTimeCT All-State First Team.

Walsh, Ridgefield’s senior captain, made the All-FCIAC Second Team and he was GameTimeCT All-State Honorable Mention.

Half of the dozen players on the GameTimeCT All-State First Team were from the FCIAC.

Darien seniors Crouse (789 assists and 2,374 career assists) and Ford (376 kills) were both selected to the All-FCIAC First Team, CHSCA All-State First Team and GameTimeCT All-State First Team.

Westhill’s senior setter Matt Skiendziel (826 assists and 91 aces) and New Canaan’s senior outside hitter Benji Sturcke (340 kills this year and 354 career service points) were the other two conference players on the GameTimeCT All-State First Team and they both also made the All-FCIAC First Team and CHSCA All-State Second Team.

Westhill’s Daniel Mathew and Danbury’s Stephen Palacios and Wesley Perreault were the other three players chosen to the All-FCIAC First Team. Perreault was also CHSCA All-State Second Team and GameTimeCT All-State Honorable Mention.

Pierce Brown of Staples and New Canaan’s Fletcher Heron and were both All-FCIAC Second Team and GameTimeCT All-State Honorable Mention.

Westhill’s Justin Barahona was selected to the GameTimeCT All-State Second Team and All-FCIAC Second Team.

The other four players on the seven-player All-FCIAC Second Team included Dean Chamberlin and Aryan Gautam of Trumbull, Fairfield Ludlowe’s Shane Praver, and Bridgeport Central’s Alex Siguencia.

Herget, Darien’s sophomore outside hitter, was selected to the GameTimeCT All-State Second Team and the All-FCIAC Third Team.

The other seven players on the All-FCIAC Third Team were Mason Siskind of Staples, New Canaan’s Dylan Ho, Danbury’s Ryan Vieira, Westhill’s Konstantinos Servos, Stamford’s Alex Antipuesto, Bridgeport Central’s Fallou Faye, and Greenwich’s James Kovac.

In the opening quarterfinal round of the FCIAC Boys Volleyball Tournament: top-seeded Ridgefield shut out No. 8 seed Fairfield Ludlowe, 3-0; No. 2 Darien defeated No. 7 Staples, 3-1; No. 3 Westhill advanced to the semifinals with a 3-0 shutout victory over No. 6 Trumbull; and No. 5 New Canaan won at No. 4 Danbury, 3-1.

Ridgefield advanced to the championship match with a 3-1 victory over New Canaan and Darien nipped Westhill, 3-2, in the other semifinal. The semifinal and championship matches were held at Stamford High School.

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