WESTPORT — There are many adjectives one could find to summarize the COVID 19-tainted fall of 2020.
Staples girls volleyball coach Jon Shepro offered up an unexpected one after his Wreckers defeated Ridgefield 3-0 for the FCIAC Central Division championship at home this afternoon.
“You know what? This year, there is something special about it,” Shepro said after his team posted a 25-16, 25-23, 25-13 win over the Tigers. “We weren’t sure if we were going to play. Then we played and we weren’t sure if we’d be able to continue. Every day you came into the gym and you were just thankful you were playing.”
When Layla Bloomingdale’s kill hit the floor to put the finishing touches on the win, the Wreckers knew they were thankful to be champs, as well.
“In the beginning of the season we didn’t even know if we were going to be able to play so this is just honestly incredible,” senior setter Annabelle Iannone said. “We didn’t take anything for granted. We put everything we had into every set and going out like this, senior year, this is just amazing.”
The Wreckers showcased their depth throughout the contest, especially at the net, where Iannone had four different players she could go to consistently.
“Oh my gosh, forget about it, she’s awesome,” Shepro said of his setter. “Having all those options is just a setter’s dream, to run all those different things through different people.”
Ally Schwartz (13 kills) and Bloomingdale (12 kills) led the way, with Elle Videler and Linnea Jagenberg also finding key points throughout the match.
And those Wreckers took turns dominating.
Schwartz had a strong first set, including four kills during an 8-1 Staples run where the Wreckers took an 11-5 lead.
Iannone added an ace and Lucie Nivaud had a dink shot for another point during the stretch as Staples set the tone for the game.
“We are two very skilled teams and they came out strong today and deserved the victory,” Ridgefield coach Lidania Cibere said. “We just made way too many unforced errors.”
Despite not playing its best, the Tigers threw a scare into the Wreckers in game two.
Staples led by as much as 17-7 before the Tigers clawed their way back into the match.
Two spikes by Siovhan Moroney, an ace from Sarah Gagliardi and a block by Kate Garson helped draw Ridgefield to within 20-19.
Tied at 23-all, though, Staples went for the jugular with kills from Bloomingdale and Videler to close out the set.
“We have a lot of different options and our outside hitters were great,” Shepro said. “We had some serious depth this year.”
The third set was close for a while until the Tigers’ miscues started catching up with them, turning a 13-9 game into a 20-10 Staples lead.
Six of the points during that stretch came courtesy of Ridgefield errors.
Three kills by Schwartz pushed the lead to 23-13, with Bloomingdale earning the final two points to clinch the championship.
“It’s so exciting,” Schwartz said. “We didn’t even know if we were going to have a season and we started outdoors on the tennis courts and when we got inside it was just so exciting to see how much better everybody had gotten. All the work we put in we did for his moment. It’s nice to see it pay off.”
The fact both teams were able to complete the season — as odd and obscure as it was — was not lost on the two coaches.
“You have a tournament, and this is the tournament they give you, so you play the teams they put in front of you,” Shepro said. “We played it like a state tournament. But getting to play at all just shows you how much you love to play volleyball and being around your teammates, and you appreciate it even more knowing you could lose it at any point.”
Ridgefield almost did, in fact, making today’s title game appearance all the more special.
“We were so lucky we got this season in,” Cibere said. “Two weeks ago we were forced to take a whole week off and we were all but cancelled. It’s like I told the girls, to finish this season on the last day we could play is an accomplishment in itself. I’m so proud of these girls.”
Staples finished the season 8-2 while Ridgefield wound up 6-3.