When you wave good-bye to a graduating senior class consisting of nine starters, there is simply no getting around the term "rebuilding" over the following season.

Consequently, Darien girls soccer coach Leigh Parsons has decided to take on his program's new reality head-on. But that doesn't mean the fourth-year headman will be lowering his standards. For as much as the players wearing the Blue Wave jersey have changed, team expectations remain ever the same.

"It is a rebuilding year this year, so to speak," Parsons said. "But we've had some really girls come in as freshmen. We had six freshmen make the team who have been contributing. The returning girls are looking sharp. Even though it's a rebuilding year, we expect to have a good year.

"If we play the way we can, work hard into practice and take on the tactical stuff, we should be able to push for states and the FCIAC (tournament). There's no reason why this group shouldn't be able to do that."

Leading the on-field push will be senior captain Kendra Fitzpatrick, who is joined at the top by a pair of third-year varsity players, juniors Daphne Budd and Erin Karczewski. Fitzpatrick landed on the All-FCIAC second team last fall and aims to be one of the top defenders in conference this season. And if past seasons are any indication, she'll be able to push up to aid the attack, as well.

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"Kendra Fitzpatrick is skillful. She's going to create a lot of problems for teams," Parsons said. "We have some others players who can create problems in games. There should be an excitement within the girls. There's an excitement from the coaches from what we've already seen."

Along with speedy junior Katie Cronin, freshman Katie Ramsay is near the top of the Wave's list of problem-creators, having scored a goal in each of Darien's first two preseason scrimmages. Fellow first-year player Charlotte Harmon likewise performed well in those exhibitions from here right-back position. She'll be joined on the backline by sister Grace Harmon, a returning junior.

Other projected freshman contributors include Onora Brown, Lauren Larizza, Christine Fiore, Emily Bergwall and Emily DeNunzio. In particular, DeNunzio ought to see regular minutes, as Parsons believes she brings a load of latent to the center-back spot.

"She's got potential to be one of the best defenders in the league," he said. "She reads the game well, she sees the game well. She's just fit in really well, seamlessly even, with the team."

Sophomore Emma Lesko returns after a solid freshman campaign, bringing back much-needed experience to the young squad. Such know-how is no more imperative than in goal, however, where junior keeper Kate Fiore likely holds the key to a good season for Darien. And Parsons is confident she'll get the job done.

"She communicates well, she's good with her feet and is a good shot-stopper. We're very fortunate to have here," Parsons said.

The Blue Wave will kick off its home opener on Monday against Fairfield Warde beginning at 4 p.m.