With solid leadership and three starters returning, the Darien girls basketball team seems to have a solidformula in place to continue the success it achieved last season when the Blue Wave finished 12-10 and qualified for the FCIAC playoffs.
"I feel like I couldn't have come in at a better time," she said. "They are really a great group of girls. I'm excited."
The Blue Wave once again will be led by their Big Three of senior center Meg Marren, one of the top post players in the FCIAC, senior forward Kate Bushell and junior point guard Emily Stein. Bushell can play both forward positions.
Darien earned the No. 8 seed in the FCIAC playoffs last year and figures to contend again this season. The Blue Wave, who suffered a 42-29 loss to Farmington in the first round of the Class L state tournament, graduated the Giggart twins -- Amy and Susan -- along with Leslie Yuen.
"They are showing a lot of intensity and being very aggressive," said Lauten, who coached the Darien YMCA's girls basketball travel team for the past five years. "I know it's not easy transitioning into a new program, but they have bought into the system."
While Lauten is beginning her first basketball head-coaching job on the varsity level, she is not without coaching experience.
In addition to her time with the travel team, she also served as Darien's freshman girls volleyball coach in 2010 and 2011 and worked for the Connecticut Chargers, a summer lacrosse program run by Darien mentors Jeff Brameier and Lisa Lindley, for boys and girls players in grades 5-12.
"She is serious and will push us hard to make the program better but also knows how to make it fun," Stein said when Lauten was hired in June. "She will be a big help for us offensively with new plays. I'm looking forward to her offensive coaching the most because we have the talent to score a lot of points."
Kelly Karczewski came off the bench last year as a freshman, but is expected to start this season in the backcourt as the shooting guard alongside Stein.
While the first four starting spots appear to be set, Lauten said the fifth slot is still up in the air. Darien opens its season on Wednesday at Wilton at 7 p.m.
After taking over the reins, Lauten put the players on a conditioning program and the effort appears to be paying off. The Blue Wave may not win all their games but the way Lauten sees it, they won't lose because they got worn down.
"I think we're very athletic, very quick," she said. "We're strong. I never want to lose games because we were tired or we couldn't keep up with the other team. I feel like the girls have done a good job staying in shape."
Following Wednesday's contest, Darien plays its next two games at home. The Blue Wave take on Fairfield Ludlowe on Friday in their home opener and are then off until hosting Westhill on Friday, Dec. 14.