Darien girls soccer coach Leigh Parsons doesn't believe his team's 6-7-3 regular season record in 2012 was indicative of its level of play.
The third-year coach noted that many of Darien's defeats came as the result of a bad break here and a missed opportunity there, and seeing as how only one of the Blue Wave's losses was by more than two goals, Parsons would appear to have a point.
"The girls never really played poorly in those games. It was that period where we hit a post or the goalie makes a good save; we were doing everything but putting it in the net," Parsons said. "Once we kind of got by those and it clicked before states we were getting the ball in the back of the net. To make it to the last eight in the biggest group (LL) is a good feat, and they should be proud of where they got to."
In the win-or-go-home atmosphere, the No. 25-seeded Blue Wave took down No. 8 Ridgefield in the first round and No. 9 Hamden in the second round to make it to the quarterfinals, falling to No. 1-seeded Glastonbury.
"We realized that this was it. We took it to every team we could," said Kelly Karczewski, a senior captain and midfielder. "We practiced a lot harder than we had, worked a lot harder than we had in games and started coming out with fire. That made a big difference."
Fellow senior captain and midfielder Emily Stein believes her team "really gelled" in the state tournament.
"We hope to take that into this season and have it throughout the season," Stein said. "We need to come to play each game 100 percent. I think our problem last year was we would come out weak and strong, and we have to be strong the whole game, and that's going to make the difference this year."
That isn't to say that Darien doesn't see room for improvement following its sub-.500 regular season campaign.
"One of the things we're really stressing this season is keeping a positive attitude around the team," Karczewski said. "I think that's really going to make a difference, and we definitely want to win FCIACs. We haven't done that in a while."
Parsons indicated that he's pleased with the mix of returning seniors and up-and-coming underclassmen, and he's thrilled to bring back Phoebe Taylor in net.
"She's one of the best goalies in the state. Having a goalie of that caliber is a big, big bonus which we're lucky enough to have," said Parsons, whose team narrowly missed the FCIAC tournament in 2012. "Defensively, we have Kendra Fitzpatrick coming back, who's a very skillful, attacking left-footed player and has looked strong in the preseason. We had our scrimmage yesterday, and Elizabeth Fucigna played in the back, who looks really good. There's a lot of girls yesterday who really staked a claim."
Darien's depth is rather apparent all over the field.
"Midfield, we're obviously going to miss Julia Black (due to injury), one of our captains. She'll be sorely missed, but she's been around all the practices and been a very good positive influence. Emily Stein is back: Workhorse, good on the ball, good in the air, just a good well-rounded player," Parsons said. "Dillon Schoen is coming back, an attacking player. Kelly Karczewski was up front yesterday. We knew we'd have a good returning class, but to see the depth we have is positive too."
Black may not be able to play, but she's doing everything she can to make sure her teammates are ready to roll.
"We really want to qualify for both FCIACs and states and from there just try and win a championship," Black said. "We have a bunch of returning players who have all played together, but then we also have new players and our team camaraderie is really strong. We all play well together."
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