A look at FCIAC girls volleyball playoff chase

Rachel Hage makes the pass as Jess Gibbs looks on.
Rachel Hage makes the pass as Jess Gibbs looks on.

The fall athletic season has flown by and the FCIAC volleyball tournament is just two weeks away.

The playoff race is a wild one, with eight teams separated by just two games from fifth place to 12th place.

The St. Joseph Cadets have been flying high and are unbeaten in league play heading into their showdown against the second-place Ridgefield Tigers on Monday.

The winner of that game will have an inside track to the top seed.

Among the many storylines in FCIAC volleyball at the moment is the fact that last year’s two finalists — champion Stamford and runner-up Brien McMahon — are in danger of missing out on the tournament altogether.

McMahon is currently in a tie for the eighth and final playoff spot, while Stamford is in 12th place.

Both teams will be looking for big finishes, and would be dangerous first-round opponents.

Each team has either five or six matches remaining, so there will likely be a lot of shuffling of spots before the final tournament field is set.

Here’s a look at the playoff contenders:

1 – St. Joseph (10-0)

It’s been 10 up, 10 down in league play for the Cadets, who will face one of their biggest tests when they host second-place Ridgefield on Monday at 4:15 p.m. If the Cadets win, they’ll have a two-game lead for the No. 1 seed with just five matches remaining. They already own the head-to-head tiebreaker against third-place Greenwich.

Remaining Opponents: Ridgefield, Ludlowe, McMahon, New Canaan, Darien and Staples

2 – Ridgefield (9-1)

The Tigers suffered their first FCIAC loss of the season on Thursday when they lost at the Greenwich Cardinals, 3-0. Ridgefield will try and rebound against first-place St. Joseph on Monday. A win would push the Tigers into first place, but a defeat would likely drop them to third place due to their loss to Greenwich. Either way, Ridgefield is in great shape to host an FCIAC quarterfinal game.

Remaining Opponents: St. Joseph, Staples, New Canaan, Norwalk, Westhill and Warde

3 – Greenwich (9-2)

The Cardinals are also in a good spot to earn a quarterfinal home game for the tournament. They knocked off Ridgefield 3-0 on Thursday and just two of their final five opponents are layoff contenders: Warde and Danbury. The Cards will keep an eye on the St. Joe’s-Ridgefield contest on Monday, as a loss by Ridgefield could bump Greenwich up into second place.

Remaining Opponents: Central, Wilton, Warde, Danbury and Trinity

4 – Danbury (8-3)

The Hatters have taken care of business this fall, with victories over six playoff contenders and a narrow, 3-2 loss to unbeaten St. Joseph on Oct. 2. This week, Danbury will face three teams with a combined league record of 3-16, before a huge showdown against Greenwich at home on Oct. 23. A game against another playoff hopeful, Trumbull, closes out the regular season.

Remaining Opponents: Trinity, Central, Wilton, Greenwich and Trumbull

5 (tie) – New Canaan (7-4)

New Canaan has been a remarkable story this year. The Rams missed the state tournament by one game in each of the past two seasons and are now contending for an FCIAC playoff spot. There’s still some work to do, as they’ll face rival Darien on Wednesday, then take on powerhouse Ridgefield and St. Joseph squads, before finishing up with contenders Staples and Westhill.

Remaining Opponents: Darien, Ridgefield, St. Joseph, Staples and Westhill

5 (tie) – Staples (7-4)

Speaking of the Staples Wreckers, they’re right there with the Rams after topping Westhill and Stamford in a pair of five-setters last week. Staples has a similar schedule to New Canaan, as the Wreckers also face Darien, Ridgefield and St. Joseph in the final six matches. The New Canaan-Staples match-up at NCHS on Oct. 25 shapes up to be a key one for both teams.

Remaining Opponents: Darien, Ridgefield, Ludlowe, New Canaan and St. Joseph

7 – Trumbull (6-4)

The Eagles stumbled with two straight losses to FCIAC front-runners last week, but they’re in prime position to move up during their final six games. They’ll face four teams with losing records, with key matches against Warde on Wednesday, and then Danbury to conclude the season.

Remaining Opponents: Wilton, Warde, Norwalk, Trinity, Central and Danbury

8 (tie) – Brien McMahon (5-5)

Last year’s conference runner-up started the FCIAC schedule with three straight victories, including a 3-0 win over Greenwich, but then dropped its next four, making its playoff situation a bit more tenuous. The Senators have their fate in their hands, as they’ll face the two teams they’re tied with — Westhill and Warde — on Oct. 18 and 25, respectively.

McMahon’s Remaining Opponents: Norwalk, Westhill, St. Joseph, Wilton, Warde and Central

8 (tie) – Warde (5-5)

A 2-5 stretch had put the Mustangs out of the playoff picture for a spell, but they picked up a huge win when they knocked off Darien 3-0 last week. The home stretch isn’t easy, with five playoff contenders in six contests.

Warde’s Remaining Opponents: Stamford, Trumbull, Greenwich, Ludlowe, McMahon and Ridgefield

8 (Tie) Westhill (5-5)

The Vikings are in a tough stretch as they’ve lost four straight to fall into an eighth-place tie. A positive is that Westhill owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over Warde. The Vikes also have a chance to knock off some of the teams around them, as McMahon, Stamford, Darien and New Canaan are on the schedule for the final two weeks.

Westhill’s Remaining Opponents: Ludlowe, McMahon, Stamford, Darien, Ridgefield and New Canaan

11 – Darien (5-6)

It’s been a roller coaster ride for the Blue Wave, which has swapped wins and loses since the start of the schedule. Out of the playoff bubble at the moment, Darien has a chance to get back in as it trails its next three opponents by just one or two games in the standings.

Remaining Opponents: Staples, New Canaan, Westhill, St. Joseph and Norwalk

12 – Stamford (4-6)

The defending FCIAC champions are under the .500 mark within the division and will need a big finish to get into the tournament. The Knights are perfectly capable, of course, and the schedule is favorable as they finish with matches against four sub-.500 teams in the final six contests.

Remaining Opponents: Warde, Norwalk, Westhill, Central, Wilton and Trinity

13 – Ludlowe (3-7)

The Falcons edged a bit closer to the playoff picture with two straight wins, including a victory over Darien last week. While it is just two games away from the eighth-place tie, Ludlowe will need a big finish and some help to slip into the tournament. First up: a match at Westhill on Monday.

Remaining Opponents: Westhill, St. Joseph, Staples, Warde, Norwalk and Wilton