FCIAC Girls Lacrosse Preview: Favored Darien has plenty of challengers
Twenty years ago, when girls lacrosse officially became an FCIAC varsity sport, it was no surprise that the teams emerging as the best were from lacrosse hotbeds Darien, Greenwich, New Canaan and Wilton.
What has been a bit surprising, however, is that 20 years later virtually nothing has changed, only that Darien and Wilton have gained a slight edge on the other two.
Darien, which defeated Greenwich in last season's FCIAC championship game, has won four of the last seven titles and 11 out of 20. Wilton has won four times since 2005 and six out of 20. Greenwich has two FCIAC titles but only one in the last 18 years, although the Cards are the two-time defending Class L state champions. New Canaan, runner-up in three of the last five seasons, hasn't won it all since winning the first league crown in 1993, despite going undefeated during the regular season last year.
So, where does that leave us in 2013? In a pool of FCIAC coaches, the unanimous top four were (drum roll please): Darien, New Canaan, Greenwich and Wilton. And so it goes.
Darien is loaded again and New Canaan, which won the Class M state championship last season by defeating Wilton, has perhaps the top player in Olivia Hompe. Greenwich and Wilton have plenty of talent on hand, although Wilton will have to get by without all-state attacker Casey Pearsall, who will miss the season with a torn ACL.
More InformationFCIAC Girls Lacrosse: Players to watch by team
Darien: A Taylor Hardison, A Jena Fritts, A LexiePerticone, MF Kristy Gilbert, MF Emily Stein, MF Dillon Schoen, MF Hollis Perticone, MF Caroline Benitez, D Ellie Bennett, D Vanessa Budd, G Caylee Waters.
New Canaan: A Lily Citrin, A Bea Eppler, MF Olivia Hompe, MF Brianna McEwan, D Wheatley Raabe, D Kelly Armstrong, D Abigail Sawabini, G Liz O'Sullivan.
Greenwich: D Emily Johnson, MF Carolyn Paletta, A Emma Christie, A Sophie Waine, A Anne Dunster, MF Maddie Graves, D Natalie Paletta, D MolliHaimerl, D Claire O'Connor, MF Emily Bacon.
Wilton: A Casey Pearsall (74g, 44a), A Megan Boepple (40g, 18a), A Sara Dickinson (28g, 12a), A Annie Cornbrooks, A Laura Knapp (12g, 15a), A Shannon Quinlan (41g, 7a), A Kat Vincent (16g, 16a), MF Tegan Helms (72g, 25a), MF Makenna Pearsall (4g, 10a), D Lydia Freliech, D Haley Crimmins.
Ridgefield: Liana Mathias, Casey Briody, Hannah Dighton, Carolyn Murray, Eliza Marcus, Shauna Norris.
Danbury: A Raven Winters, MF Pauline Kaplan, MF Lindsey Eanniello, D Naimah James.
Staples: Ryan Kirschner, Paige Murray, Jenna McNicholas, Meredith Hoode, Megan O'Shea, Amelia Heisler.
Fairfield Ludlowe: Lizzie Pratt, Meredith Petralia, KC McAuliffe.
Fairfield Warde: MF Katie Tangney (28g, 12a), MF Meredith Nerreau (15g, 3a), A Caroline Magee, G Jahzmin Howell, Katie Keegan, Caroline Lambert.
Westhill: C Lindsay Bagwin, D/W Jessica Michelotti, D/W Rachel Katz, D Emily Gaa, A/W Sara Martelli.
Stamford: A Jasmine Li (30g, 20 a), A Lindsey Colandro (10g, 5a), A Justine James, MF Brianna Gordon, MF Kelly Nisesen 15g, 5a), D Ashley Kuppersmith, D Kelsey Santagata, D Kaela Schneider.
Brien McMahon: MF Cristina Castagna, G Michele Petrucci, MF Allison Granata, D Gabbie Robinson, D Marlyn Rodriguez, D Megan Kilcoyne, D Aleigh Fitzpatrick, MF Caroline Deoriom, A Delaney Nollman, A Molly Vineyard.
Trumbull: C Carly Goroff, G Arianna Matz, MF/A Natalie Crowe, MF Melissa Lindine, D Kelly Reho, MF Avery Collins.
Norwalk: Sarah Krysiuk, Luisa Chacon, Emmy Roddy, Leigh Costa.
The following team did not return requests for information: St. Joseph.
When it's all said and done, one of the above will probably be holding the hardware but don't count out Staples and Ridgefield. Staples, in fact, beat out Greenwich to win the Western Division last season before falling in the playoffs.
Five teams to watch
1. Darien: The Blue Wave, who move up to Class L this year, have at least six or seven players who should earn all-league honors. After reaching the FCIAC final in five of the last seven years, it would be a surprise if they don't make it six out of eight.
2. New Canaan: The Rams finished strong in 2012, winning the Class M title while knocking out rival Darien in the quarterfinals. But failing to reach to the FCIAC final after a 10-0 regular season should provide plenty of motivation.
3. Greenwich: The Cards had plenty of similarities with New Canaan in 2012 after winning the Class L title. They, too, are still smarting after Darien ruined their FCIAC campaign -- their third runner-up finish in eight years.
4. Wilton: There's no replacing the Notre Dame-bound Pearsall, who had 74 goals and 44 assists last season. But the Warriors have three other returning players who scored at least 40 goals in 2012, so a third league crown in four years is still possible.
5. Staples: If there is one team that could break up the Great Four at the top it's the Wreckers. They came close last season, after winning the West, but stumbled in the playoffs and then lost by one to Hall in the Class L quarterfinals.
Sleepers: Ridgefield, Danbury, Fairfield Ludlowe.
Five players to watch
1. Olivia Hompe, New Canaan: Perhaps the best girls hockey player in the state, Hompe may be even better in lacrosse, the sport she will play next year at Princeton.
2. Emily Stein, Darien: How good is she? Last season the then sophomore was offered -- and accepted -- a scholarship to Northwestern, winners of the six of the last seven national titles.
4. Emily Johnson, Greenwich: Perhaps the school's best female athlete, Johnson is one of six returning vets, and one of the three back on defense. Good luck trying to score on the Cards.
5. Tegan Helms, Wilton: With the knee injury to Pearsall, the Warriors may need even more out of their top returning scorer, who had 72 goals and 25 assists last season.
Off the bench: Caylee Waters, Taylor Hardison, Jena Fritts, Kristy Gilbert, Darien; Liz O'Sullivan, New Canaan; Carolyn Palettaa, Greenwich; Megan Boepple, Kat Vincent Wilton; Shauna Norris, Ridgefield.
Five games to watch
1. Darien-New Canaan, April 25: Even if it wasn't a match between two of the top teams in the league, the rivalry alone makes this a must-see contest.
2. Greenwich-Darien, May 7: The Blue Wave's second game against a defending state champ could be a tasty appetizer for a rematch in the FCIAC final and Class L finals
3. Staples-Wilton, April 30: With the injury to Wilton's Pearsall, this could be the Wreckers' big chance to finally crack the big four's domination in the league.
4. Trumbull-Greenwich, April 19: Trumbull may not be a contender yet, but Eagles new coach is Mike Spinner, who coached Greenwich to the 2002 state final.
5. Stamford-Danbury, April 18: Stamford was edged out by Danbury for the final playoff berth last season, and a win here could help reverse that result.