If all you can judge by is what you can see, then Darien already has plenty to be hopeful for this fall.
We have a really strong squad this year.
— Leigh Parsons
“We’ve had three preseason friendlies and the girls have looked very strong in all of them,” said Wave girls’ soccer coach Leigh Parsons. “We’ve got a good senior class, some good captains coming in. It’s a really good atmosphere.”
Darien loses all three of its senior captains from last year.
It is set in goal though, with returning veteran Phoebe Taylor. She is part of a troupe of 14 seniors that is the team’s main strength.
“A big class of seniors who have been involved in the program for the last three years,” said Parsons. “They are really starting to look like they are playing well.
“We have a really strong squad this year.”
Taylor could be the difference between a good season, and one that surpasses many people’s expectations.
“She’s one of the best goalies in the state,” Parsons said. “She’s got it all: she can organize from the goal, she’s good with her feet, she’s a good shot-stopper from long range, short range; she really does have all the attributes you look for in a keeper.
“She is just a really solid keeper that we are lucky to have.”
Seniors Taylor, Emily Stein, Kelly Karczewski, Julia Black are captains.
Only, Black, a standout since she was a freshman, is going to have to sit out this season.
“Julia’s the one we are really going to miss,” said Parsons of the center midfielder. “Unfortunately she tore her ACL just before the season.”
Darien’s back-up goalie is sophomore Kate Fiore, who is also injured, out to start the season.
“She has a good punt,” Parsons said. “She has a lot of potential, we’re lucky to have her.”
Defense has Daphne Budd, Elizabeth Fucigna, both strong.
“(Fucigna) has really stepped up,” said Parsons. “She’s come into preseason looking super strong; winning the ball, organizing us.”
Junior Kendra Fitzpatrick is playing at left back.
“She is good on the ball,” said the coach. “A good attacking player and a very good 1v1 defender.
“So we really do look solid back there. A young back line, but it looks solid.”
Darien’s got something better than a prayer at midfield.
“We are very blessed,” said Parsons. “We’ve got a lot of options there.”
Stein is in the middle, while Dillon Schoen has a “kind of free role” at midfield according to Parsons.
“Her and Emily really compliment each other,” he said. “Good on-the-ball decisions.”
Katie Cronin and Erin Karczewski are midfielders with good heads on their shoulders.
“They’ve got good soccer brains,” Parsons said. “They’re fast, they’re good on the ball.”
Sticky-foot playmaker Morgan Sawitsky is up front.
“She’s very good at holding the ball and distributing (it),” Parsons added. “And Kelly Karczewski has been playing off her. She’s just a presence; very tenacious.”
Grace Peter and Emma Lesko, a freshman, have looked good in preseason.
Alexa Sheldon returns to boost the midfield.
Senior Kellyn Berrigan does the same at the back, along with Claire Billeter.
“And Sage Thacher has been looking good,” Parsons said. “So we’ve had a lot of good players.”
Dani Dunn is roaring out of preseason looking likely to snare some goals right away.
“Very fast; teams have trouble dealing with her pace,” Parsons said. “And there is a lot more to the team.”
It’s a team Parsons has put his stamp onto in his third season.
“Our style of play is clicking,” he said. “Keeping their shape and moving the ball around. They are having purpose with their passes. So it’s been really positive.”
Darien opens up tough, on the road and on the grass, 4 p.m. Sept. 11 at Warde.
Players include: seniors Haley Close, Haley Duncan, Shannon Hall, Schuyler Platt, Lisa Travaglini; junior Caroline Benitez; sophomore Megan Shanahan; freshman Morgan McLaren.