Last season, New Canaan became the first team since 2006 to repeat as FCIAC boys lacrosse champions, quite a feat considering the amount of ultra-competitive squads in the conference.
The Rams have the talent and experience to record a three-peat and make another strong run in the state tournament, but there are plenty of teams in the FCIAC that will have something to say about that.
Darien, which has 12 FCIAC championships to its ledger, is seeking a bounce-back season after falling to New Canaan in the FCIAC semifinals and Wilton in the Class M quarterfinals.
"We broke our 25-year streak of not getting to the final four in states, so we have to start a new streak," Darien coach Jeff Brameier said. "Last year, we had our worst record in many years, so we have to get our reputation back."
Greenwich is another team that will try to end New Canaan's FCIAC championship reign. The Cardinals, who dropped an 8-5 decision to the Rams in the 2013 FCIAC title game, return a solid core group of players from last season.
"Our team has a lot of experience, which hopefully, will pay off," GHS coach Scott Bulkley said. "We're good on paper, but that's all you are is paper until you show up and do something once the season starts."
Not to be overlooked is Wilton, which has won the most FCIAC championships (13) and has appeared in more title games (22) than any team in the conference. Warriors coach John Wiseman knows his team has to be at its best each game against the top-notch competition the league has to offer.
"I think we're seeing more and more parity in the FCIAC," Wiseman said. "A lot of teams are well-balanced with a lot of depth."
Staples and St. Joseph, both of which reached the Class L and Class M finals, respectively a year ago, should also make their move up the conference standings. Here's an overview of the conference.
TEAMS TO WATCH
NEW CANAAN: The Rams, who were edged by Joel Barlow 5-4 in the Class M Tournament semifinals after winning their second straight FCIAC championship, bring back a group of players well-versed in playing big games. Senior attackman Harry Stanton, an All-FCIAC and All-State selection in 2013 and senior defender Seth Neeleman, headline New Canaan's list of impressive returnees. Senior goalie Trent Nader emerged as one of the premier netminders in the FCIAC last season and is poised for another strong year. Junior attack Michael Kraus and seniors Ted Bossidy and Cole Turpin give the Rams midfield strength, while junior Frank Cognetta helps anchor the defense.
GREENWICH: A lot of coaches in the FCIAC are high on the Cardinals after what they saw last season. Scoring shouldn't be a problem for Greenwich, which returns All-FCIAC, All-State midfielder Kyle Foote (Loyola University-bound), senior attackmen Ryan Flippin, Jamie Paradise, Sam Saleeby and Luke Finneran and junior attack Decker Curran. Duke University-bound senior Jack Harrington, who earned All-State and All-FCIAC honors last season, leads a defensive unit including senior Jack Nail, junior Griffin Tiedy, senior Nick Schepis and senior Cole Perry.
DARIEN: Brameier is "cautiously optimistic," that his team will be where it wants to be by season's end if the Blue Wave continue to work extremely hard. The Blue Wave possess one of the top goalies in the state in senior Phil Huffard. An All-FCIAC selection as a junior, Huffard, will take his skills to Yale next season. Junior All-FCIAC attack Peter Lindley, along with juniors John Reed and Owen Koorbusch, lead a Blue Wave squad that has plenty of punch offensively. Kyle Cornell, Harry Gillespie and Ian Coyne are a rock-solid tri of midfielders.
WILTON: After a bit of a slow start last spring, the Warriors picked up steam. By season's end, they found themselves with their second state championship in three years. "It's not how you start, it's how you finish," Wiseman said. "Though I wouldn't mind building a little bit earlier this season." Senior midfielder Brendan Devane (All-FCIAC), who scored a hat trick in the state final victory against Joel Barlow, is one of the conference's premier players. Josh Worley and Jameson Hill give the Warriors a lot of quality depth in goal. Wiseman likes what he sees from first-year faceoff specialist R.J. Romeo and expects significant contributions from Harrison Bardwell, Jack Dexter and Mike Brown. Ryan Brameier should help ignite the team offensively, once he returns from an injury.
RIDGEFIELD: The Tigers have appeared in four of the last six FCIAC finals and should be one of the teams to beat this season. Coached by Roy Colsey, Ridgefield was edged by Greenwich in the FCIAC Tournament semifinals a year ago.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
KYLE FOOTE, GREENWICH: Foote's quickness and outstanding shooting ability makes him one of the most dangerous offensive players in the league. After being injured in the FCIAC finals, the Cardinals missed his presence during their Class L quarterfinal-round loss to Staples. He will play at Loyola next season.
HARRY STANTON, NEW CANAAN: The senior attack was the MVP of last year's championship game. The Wesleyan University-bound Stanton earned First Team All-FCIAC and All-State honors last season and is one of the Rams go-to players in crunch time.
PETER LINDLEY, DARIEN: Slowing down the speedy junior attack is the focus of most teams that face the Blue Wave. Lindley, who has committed to UMass, was a member of the First Team All-FCIAC squad last season.
WILL BONAPARTE, RIDGEFIELD: Bonaparte is regarded as one of the best midfielders/faceoff men in the FCIAC, and state. The senior standout, who is a threat offensively as well as in the faceoff X, made First Team All-State last spring. He will take his talent to Maryland next season.
JACK HARRINGTON, GREENWICH: The senior is an imposing presence on defense for the Cardinals. The all-state player will play at Duke University next season.
PHIL HUFFARD, DARIEN: A three-year starter, Huffard has helped key the Blue Wave's success with an always consistent effort in goal. He'll play at Yale next spring.
JOSH MILLER, BRIEN MCMAHON: The senior goalie was awarded with All-American and All-State honors for the Senators as a junior.
BRENDAN DEVANE: Everyone team that plays Wilton knows about Devane's ability. The midfielder is one of the Warriors leaders on and off the field.
GAMES TO WATCH
GREENWICH VS. NEW CANAAN, MAY 1: This is a rematch of the 2013 FCIAC final, won by New Canaan. The Cardinals, who went 0-2 against the Rams a year ago, will look to gain a measure of revenge.
DARIEN VS. NEW CANAAN, MAY 3: There's usually a lot of excitement involved when these longtime rivals meet.
DARIEN VS. WILTON, APRIL 24: The Warriors, who peaked at the right time in 2013, knocking Darien out of the Class M playoffs in the quarterfinals.
STAPLES VS. GREENWICH, APRIL 22: The Cardinals beat Staples twice last season before falling to the Wreckers in the Class LL quarterfinals.
RIDGEFIELD VS. WILTON, APRIL 22: This is a matchup of two physical teams with a load of talented midfielders.