Members of Darien High School's softball team have plenty of reasons for confidence and motivation as they swing the bats, run the bases and tag out runners this spring. The Blue Wave retained all but one starter, outfielder Michele Piccaro, who graduated from last year's 16-4 team.

"We're pretty well-rounded. We've got pitchers back, we've got solid defense and we can hit," Darien coach Nick DeMaio said.

The team's captain is senior shortstop Nicole Buch, and the Wave will also be led by the following assistant captains: Catcher Olivia Gozdz, third baseman Courtney Bell, pitcher Jessica DeMaio and outfielder Kelly Fahy.

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"I'm very excited -- it's my senior year," Buch said. "We're looking very good. Hopefully we can continue off of what we did last year."

Buch said that working hard, playing a full seven innings, and practicing hard to prepare for games will be key to success this spring. The team qualified for the Class L State Tournament as the No. 7 seed and, following a first-round win over No. 26 New Canaan, a familiar FCIAC rival, the Blue Wave saw its season end in a 1-0 second-round loss to No. 10 Windsor.

"We want to be in the playoffs -- that's what our goal is and achieved that the last few years," DeMaio said. "If they play up to their capability they'll be there."

Darien got off to a nice start this season. The Wave crushed Bassick 24-0 in the season opener on April 6, then pounded Trumbull 16-3 before proving it could win a tightly-contested battle in a 5-3 victory over Masuk from the South-West Conference. Darien then lost its first game, a tough 5-4 decision to a similarly experienced New Canaan team which also brought back most of its lineup from a year ago. The Darien coach expects the top teams in the FCIAC, such as defending Class LL champion Westhill, to again be top teams, but he expects battles on any given day.

"I think it's going to be pretty balanced but I think when it all shakes out the ones that made the playoffs last year probably have the best chance of returning," DeMaio said. "The league is pretty even so they're going to have to buckle down and really focus to win some of these games."

DeMaio said the team doesn't have a set goal to win a specific number of games, or to win a championship, but he believes the Wave has a good chance of winning a title or two with the right attitude and breaks going their way.

"It's one of those things where if you get to the playoffs anybody can beat anybody. It usually comes down to the team that doesn't make mistakes and the team that has its heart in the right place," DeMaio said.

Buch leads off and is followed by DeMaio, Gozdz, Courtney Bell and Fahy.

"We're looking for big things from the top of the order," DeMaio said.

Julia Domiziano, Brittany Osborn, Emily Moscatello, Emily Blozio, Ali Aparicio, Sammy Wood, Kelly Nicoletti, Danika Hornick, Megan Foley, Emily Karlik and Emma Hamilton round out the varsity roster in the early going.

"They've been playing together for a long time so that's a good thing," the coach said.