Darien has racked up eight consecutive winning seasons dating back to 2004, and it is looking to take the next step in 2012 after posting a 9-4-3 mark last season.
"Everyone on this team has a lot of skill. A lot are also other sport athletes, and all of us are really athletic. We can use skills from other sports to help us, and I think we have a lot of good endurance," said Kristy Gilbert, captain and left midfielder. "We definitely want to get into FCIACs and states and hopefully win one of them."
In his second year at the helm, coach Leigh Parsons believes that his team has the talent necessary to repeat -- if not improve upon -- last year's triumphs.
"It's always good setting the bar high. The cohesiveness and the team morale are good, and we have good depth this year. If we're all on the same page with the same goals, that's how you can achieve them," Parsons said. "There's no reason we shouldn't be pushing towards where we were last year, and hopefully a bit better. That's always a goal is to beat where you were last year."
Last year, Darien was the No. 5 seed in the FCIAC tourney, but was quickly ousted by No. 4 Greenwich 1-0. As the No. 16 seed in the Class LL state tourney, Darien scored a 1-0 win over No. 17 Fairfield Warde in the opening round before falling 2-1 to eventual state champion and top-seeded Glastonbury in the second round.
And while sustained success is certainly an impressive feat, particularly in high school where rosters can change dramatically from one season to the next, Darien sounds intent on establishing itself as the cream of the crop in the FCIAC.
"This year I think our team has a lot of chemistry. Everyone knows each other pretty well, and we have a lot of returning players," said Parker Hamill, captain and center-midfielder. "We just need to make sure that we're all there to help each other out, and if we do that I think we'll be good."
Darien's roster consists of only eight seniors, making it a relatively young team in 2012, but captain and right midfielder Vanessa Budd doesn't anticipate the team's youth to be of much concern.
"A lot of the girls we're playing with will be juniors and sophomores, and I think that they're really great players. Some of them are very experienced," Budd said. "I think we have a really great chance this year because we have a lot of returning players and we're going to be really good."
Parsons agreed with his captain, noting that many of the underclassmen have played at the varsity level since they were freshmen.
"We lost a few solid seniors from last year that will be missed, but we've had some girls step up," Parsons said. "We have three strong senior captains returning, we have a very strong junior class, we have a core of experienced players at this level and we're returning six or seven starters. They're comfortable going into games because they know the level of competition."
Darien also brings back starting goalie Phoebe Taylor, who enters her junior year.
Naturally, Darien is looking forward to going toe-to-toe with border rival New Canaan, another preseason FCIAC favorite.
"Definitely New Canaan, definitely Greenwich and also Wilton, our first game. That'll be a big one to win right off the bat," Gilbert said.
"Definitely Greenwich and New Canaan," Budd said. "Those are some of our toughest games this year, and I think we have a great chance of winning them."