With seven seniors returning from last year's stellar 23-1 season, which included yet another FCIAC championship, the Blue Wave volleyball dynasty likes its chances once again.
Having been molded under the adroit direction of veteran coach Laurie LaRusso, the returning seven form the largest contingent of experienced seniors in recent memory.
While most teams would long for such a season record, Darien was a bit crest-fallen last year. It had fully expected to claim another state title, but the top-seeded Wave fell to No. 4 Southington 3-1 in the Class LL state semifinals.
It is a memory that still stings a bit. Darien had claimed a state championship in 15 of the last 19 seasons. The team has also won 20 of the past 22 FCIAC crowns.
"We're really using (the loss in the state semifinals) as motivation to push us much farther this year," senior captain Kelly Kosnik said.
Senior captain Riley Sousa agreed.
"We need to mentally build from that loss," Sousa said. "We need to put it behind us but keep in the back or our mind as a motivation."
Of course, it is unfair to focus on the one loss in a truly remarkable season. The Blue Wave won 23 straight games, often in convincing fashion.
Their goals this year, which for any other team would seem like a pipe dream, are to claim both the FCIAC and the state crowns. And if any team has a realistic chance, it is Darien. They also hope to be the first Darien team to win a state championship in the Class LL division, in which they competed for the first time last season.
"We've been working hard in the offseason, and we really want to push to have this be our year," Kosnik said.
Every team deals with departing seniors from the previous year, and Darien will certainly miss some key players. Charlett Stevenson, who was a starter the past two years, as well as Katie Stueber, and Amanda Sommi are three names that top the list.
"All our seniors last year were very important to our team," Kosnik said.
"We're trying a ton of different combinations. We don't even know who's playing where yet," Sousa said. "We're all working on everything instead of having one person being the star."
For a team that was undefeated in the FCIAC last year, Darien holds no particular grudges. Still, Sousa thought that Fairfield Ludlowe would be a big regular season match-up.
"Last year they gave us a run every game," she said.
Greenwich, Staples, and New Canaan should also provide stiff competition, but Darien feels ready.
"I know there are a lot of good teams out there, so we need to bring the best game we can when we play all of them," Kosnik said.
Darien kicks off its season on Wednesday when they host the Trumbull Eagles at 4 p.m.