The 2011 Darien boys tennis team is going to have to deal with the adversity of losing exactly half of its roster to graduation from the previous season. Six out of 12 players from last year have moved on from Darien High School, and the large turnover has resulted in a new-look lineup for this year's squad.

According to fourth year head coach Tom Stepkowski, the silver lining of having so many players move on is the simple fact that there are more varsity spots to be had for last year's JV players.

"[Players graduating] has opened up slots for some of the best JV players from last year," Stepkowski said. "At first, I was looking at this season as a true rebuilding year, but now we're looking to try to make FCIACs and compete a little bit."

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In 2010, Darien closed out the regular season with a record of 10-6 to surpass the required .500 winning percentage to qualify for the State tournament before falling in the semi-finals. Despite losing so many key members, expectations remain the same for 2011.

"The biggest thing is that last year we lost six starting seniors with a lot of experience," senior captain and fifth singles player Rupert Hansford said. "But a couple of new kids and a lot of old kids have really stepped up. We want to have best season we can and obviously make the state tourney."

Hansford is one of only three seniors on the team along with first team doubles player and captain Malcolm Willis and No. 6 singles player and captain Miller Schweizer.

"There's a lot of competition. It's still up in the air for some [varsity] spots," Willis said. "A lot of newcomers from the JV the team are making a good competitive run."

Although varsity tennis lineups are often subject to change, Stepkowski has penciled in the following players to start the 2011 campaign: Gavin McNulty at first singles, Ryo Usami at second singles, Charlie Khachian at third singles, Cal Kevorkian at fourth singles, Rupert Hansford at fifth singles, Willis and Dominic Hansford at first doubles and Will McCoy and Donald Brown at second doubles.

Despite their youth and relative inexperience at the varsity level, the members of the Darien boys' tennis team have stormed out of the starting blocks with a 3-0 start to the season, claiming a 5-2 win at Trumbull, a 6-1 win at Danbury and a 7-0 win in the home opener against Brien McMahon.

Darien gets an early-season test in the form of crosstown rival New Canaan on April 14 at 4 p.m. at New Canaan High School. Other big challenges will come in the form of home matches against Staples on May 5 and Greenwich on May 10, both perennially tough FCIAC opponents.

"We played Brien McMahon and I thought it would be tough, but we swept them 7-0 and everyone played really well. We started off the season just how we wanted to," Rupert Hansford said. "Hopefully we can give Greenwich, Staples and New Canaan a run for their money because we usually can do that."