Every preseason, there are a handful of themes you can always count on from Blue Wave field hockey. Talk of championship aspirations, how to achieve at a higher level than last season and "aking things one day at a time.
This fall, each of those components remain in place, but the days leading up to Darien's 2014 season opener also have a new twist.
Blue Wave coach Mo Minicus, now in her 15th year at the helm, is taking her 2014 team back to basics. For Darien must replace 10 seniors, including seven starters, from last year's state title team that went 21-1-1. And their replacements are not only currently working to get accustomed to new positions, but also new starting teammates. As a result, Minicus has opted to minimize their responsibilities and focus on fundamentals.
"Every year it is one day at a time," Minicus said. "With this group, with our youth and inexperience, it's been `let's keep things simple and do what we can do and do it well.'"
Of course, bringing an entire team together successfully is never a one-person operation. And that's where the Wave's four senior captains, Mary Brown, Rebecca DeMaio, Julia Russo and Kyla Johns step in.
"Our biggest goal so far in the preseason, and at the start of our season, has been to build good chemistry," senior captain Julia Russo said. "(We're) letting everyone know we're all on varsity and we're one team."
Early in fall practices, Darien worked to build its teamwork through various drills, including one that partnered every player with another and forced one of them to shut her eyes. Then, the other half of the pair would verbally guide her blind partner through various skill exercises, before switching roles in order to build trust.
"Our team has definitely been growing," Johns said. "And I think one goal our team has to achieve is to communicate and have that teamwork because once we have that, we'll be a successful team."
Communication and trust will be of no greater importance than to the brand new Blue Wave defense, which will be anchored by last season's back-up varsity goalie, Kaeleigh Morrill. Meanwhile, more young players, such as sophomore Gabby Noto, will be relied on to dictate play in the midfield.
Up front, Johns, who scored the final goal of the 2013 Class L championship last November, is set to help lead a powerful Darien attack. She and her fellow captains know they will be counted on to produce a high number of goals this season, particularly early, as the units behind them develop.
Nevertheless, they are confident their team's blend of experience and talented youth will come together as yet another formidable Darien squad this fall.
"Don't underestimate us," Brown said. "I really think we have a lot of potential as a young team."
In addition to the captains, Marissa Baker and Georgia Cassidy, who earned All-FCIAC honorable mention, also return as starters from a year ago.
The Blue Wave opens its season on Wednesday, Sept. 10 at home against Ridgefield beginning at 4 p.m.