Parity is a common keyword during the days leading up to the start of the FCIAC boys soccer season. If you believe the league coaches, balance could be taken to a whole new level this fall.
One of the few sports that does a preseason poll of coaches, no fewer than seven teams received at least one first-place vote, an indication that perhaps a surprise team will emerge, and a compelling regular-season race is in the works.
5 Teams to Watch
1. Greenwich: The Cardinals received four first-place votes, and for good reason. Coming off a 10-6-3 finish, there is balance and experience all over the field, with the potential for an explosive offense.
2. Norwalk: After losing as the top seed in the FCIAC Tournament for the second straight year, the Bears rebounded to make a run to the state semifinals. Personnel losses were heavy, but there are sound technical replacements to step up. Norwalk was the other team to receive four first-place votes from coaches.
3. Staples: The Wreckers lost a number of starters after falling to Trumbull in the FCIAC final -- their fourth straight appearance in the title game. That would be a concern at most places, but a rebuilding season in Westport usually means falling maybe one or two seeds in the postseason tournament.
4. Ridgefield: The Tigers missed out on the conference playoffs a year ago, but seem poised to bounce back in a big way. Their first FCIAC title in nine years is a realistic goal.
5. Wilton: Why put the Warriors in the fifth spot, over Darien, New Canaan or Trumbull? Coming off a 10-7-2 record, they could have one of the strongest midfields in the area.
5 Players to Watch
1. James Hickok, Staples: The Wreckers' goalkeeper is a true cover boy, literally and figuratively. He adorns the cover of a new book by his coach, Dan Woog. And coming off a season in which he had 12 shutouts, Hickok, with lightning-quick reflexes, has the potential to be an All-American.
2. Pieter Zenner, Greenwich: Playing just over half the season, Zenner scored 13 goals last season. He will be one of the state's most dangerous forwards.
3. Andrew Melitsanopoulos, Norwalk: The Bears are counting on Melitsanopoulos to anchor what should be a very sturdy defensive unit.
4. Kyle Dedrick, Wilton: One of the league's more unsung players, the Warriors are hoping Dedrick will help them control the middle of the field -- and leap into championship contention.
5. Nick Weinstein, Trumbull: The game within the game at last year's FCIAC final was the battle between Weinstein and Hickok in net. The Eagles lost a lot a talent to graduation, but Weinstein's poise is reason for optimism.
5 Games to Watch
1. Greenwich at Norwalk, Sept. 11: A preview of the FCIAC final on opening night? One of many big games in the season's first week.
2. Staples at Ridgefield, Sept. 13: See Greenwich at Norwalk, only two days later. A good early test for both.
3. Greenwich at Wilton, Sept. 13: The Cardinals' second straight tough road test and a chance for the Warriors to serve notice to the league.
4. Staples at Norwalk, Oct. 1: The start of a crucial midseason stretch for the Wreckers, which is followed by a rematch with Trumbull and home games against Greenwich and Darien.
5. Darien at New Canaan, Oct. 8: Two intriguing teams would love for their annual rivalry to be pivotal to the standings.
Top Players by Team
Fairfield Ludlowe: Ryan Arrigo GK; Tobias Gimand MF; Manuel Barral MF.
Greenwich: Pieter Zenner F; Mateo Gowland MF; Will Gittings FB; Emmett Clarke GK; Nico Patrk FB
New Canaan: Steve Valente, Justin Pertierra
St. Joseph: Sean Martino; Zac Psaras D Tim Keckler GK
Trinity Catholic: Giovanni Ninivaggi MF: Nick Bellacicco FB: Rafal Bierezowiec FB; Christian Camposano MF; Tom Gaudioso GK
Westhill: Jacques Baudoin F; Junior Cordeiro MF; Cory Benz SW
Wilton: John Prinner MF; Kyle Dedrick MF; David Brown MF; Sam Slater MF; Rob Aravena ST; Troy Lamason FB; Peter Como GK