FCIAC Volleyball Playoff Picture: A dozen teams still in hunt with one week to play

Half the field is settled, but another eight teams remain alive for the final four playoff spots, as the FCIAC volleyball season turns the corner into its final week.

The St. Joseph Cadets, Greenwich Cardinals, Ridgefield Tigers and Danbury Hatters all punched their tournament tickets last week, and just one head-to-head match-up involving those teams remains when Danbury hosts Greenwich on Monday.

The race for the final four seeds shapes up to be quite a ride, as a mere one win separates the fifth through eighth-place teams, and two more teams — last year’s FCIAC finalists Stamford and Brien McMahon — are only two games off the playoff pace.

Adding intrigue are several games between possible playoff teams, which will play a huge part in determining who gets in and who stays home and prepares for the states.

Here’s a look at the playoff contenders. FCIAC records are in parentheses.

1 – St. Joseph (13-0)

The Cadets just keep rolling along, picking up three more victories last week to remain unbeaten in the FCIAC. With wins over Greenwich, Ridgefield and Danbury already in their pocket, the Cadets need just one more win to nail down the No. 1 seed for the playoffs.

Remaining Opponents: New Canaan, Darien and Staples

2 – Greenwich (12-2)

The Cardinals have clinched a quarterfinal home match and will be looking to head into the playoffs on a high note by winning their final two conference contests this week. They’ll take on a tough Danbury Hatters team in a road match on Monday and a loss there could knock the Cards down as far as fourth place. A win for the Cards would likely secure the No. 2 seed, as they own the tiebreaker over Ridgefield.

Remaining Opponents: Danbury and Trinity

3 – Ridgefield (11-2)

Ridgefield bounced back from consecutive losses to Greenwich and St. Joseph by beating playoff hopefuls Staples, 3-2, and New Canaan, 3-1. At 11-2 in the conference, the Tigers will host a quarterfinal game, and can move up if they win out and Greenwich falters. On Wednesday, the Tigers will host a Westhill team which has just won three straight and is fighting for a playoff spot.

Remaining Opponents: Norwalk, Westhill and Warde

4 – Danbury (11-3)

The Hatters are one win away from nailing down a quarterfinal home game, and can make a big move up the ladder if they can defeat Greenwich on Monday. Danbury is riding a four-game win streak, which has sealed up a playoff berth, but also finishes the regular season with a couple of tough games against playoff contenders.

Remaining Opponents: Greenwich and Trumbull

5 – Staples (9-5)

Like Danbury, Staples has just two FCIAC matches remaining, but they’re both huge. The Wreckers square off against New Canaan on Wednesday, and the Rams are just one win behind Staples in the standings. Staples then closes out the regular season against St. Joseph on Friday.

Remaining Opponents: New Canaan and St. Joseph

6 (tie) – New Canaan (8-5)

The Rams had a huge victory last Wednesday as they topped the Darien Blue Wave, 3-2, marking the program’s first win over their rival since 2002. New Canaan has its sights set on an FCIAC playoff bid and is in position — tied with Westhill and Trumbull for sixth place, two games ahead of both Stamford and Brien McMahon. The week ahead will tell the story, as the Rams face not only St. Joseph, but Staples and Westhill — two teams which are also in the playoff hunt.

Remaining Opponents: St. Joseph, Staples and Westhill

6 (tie) – Trumbull (8-5)

The Eagles ended a three-game slide with wins over Warde and Norwalk, but need to keep it going this week as they are tied for sixth place with New Canaan and Westhill. Trumbull takes on Trinity and Central before closing out with a huge match-up against fourth-place Danbury.

Remaining Opponents: Trinity, Central and Danbury

6 (tie) Westhill (8-5)

The Vikings are on an emotional high as they topped rival Stamford, 3-2, to claim the city championship on Friday. Westhill was 4-12 in the FCIAC last year, so to be 8-5 at this point is a dramatic turnaround for the program. There’s still work to be done, however, and the week ahead features three tough matches: Home against Darien and then on the road at Ridgefield and New Canaan. Helping Westhill are tiebreakers over both Stamford and McMahon.

Remaining Opponents: Darien, Ridgefield and New Canaan

9 – Stamford (6-7)

The 2017 FCIAC champions went 2-1 last week, but the one loss was a heartbreaker, as the Knights lost to city rival Westhill in five sets. The week ahead isn’t imposing — Central, Wilton and Trinity are a combined 5-32 in league play — so Stamford still has a shot. A sweep would be a huge help, and they also need to gain at least two games in the standings to qualify. The Knights own tiebreakers against Brien McMahon and New Canaan, but lose head-to-head against Westhill and Trumbull.

Remaining Opponents: Central, Wilton and Trinity

10 – Brien McMahon (6-7)

The 2017 conference runner-up is alongside Stamford in the standings, although the Knights have the upper hand based on their win over the McMahon in September. McMahon starts the week against Wilton before taking on a Warde team which is also still alive for a playoff spot.

McMahon’s Remaining Opponents: Wilton, Warde and Central

11 – Warde (5-8)

The Mustangs were tied for the eighth and final playoff spot, but an 0-3 week has put them on the brink of elimination. They have to win their final three matches, something which won’t be easy given their opponents, and get some help in order to qualify.

Warde’s Remaining Opponents: Ludlowe, McMahon and Ridgefield

12 – Darien (5-8)

Like Warde, the Blue Wave is hanging by a thread and needs to win out this week in order to have a shot at qualifying. Darien had a couple of heartbreakers last week, losing to Staples and New Canaan in five setters, but they did knock off Weaver and is one win from a state playoff berth. The week ahead isn’t easy, as they’ll play the streaking Westhill Vikings, and first-place St. Joseph.

Remaining Opponents: Westhill, St. Joseph and Norwalk

Ridgefield’s Caroline Curnal keeps the ball up during the Tigers’ 3-1 victory in New Canaan on Friday. — Dave Stewart/HAN Network photo

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