The defending FCIAC and Class M state champion Darien High School boys' volleyball team may be one of the teams to beat -- and holds the distinction as the best until a rival dethrones it -- but the Blue Wave team members still believe they have something to prove this spring.

"We sort of have a chip on our shoulder to prove to the league that there's more to our team than [All-FCIAC and All-State graduates Calder Billhardt and Austin Cockerill]," Darien senior captain and setter Matt Lee said. "Our goals are to win FCIACs and states and defend our titles."

Without a doubt, the Blue Wave will have to have players step up to overcome the losses of two of their better players from a year ago, but the Wave retains a wealth of talent from last year's squad which went 17-1 in the regular campaign before going on to knock off eight-time conference champion Staples of Westport in the pinnacle match.

Lee notes that the team has six returning players who started at times last year, and plenty of players who have varsity exposure off the bench.

"We've all been here before. We all know what coach [Laurie LaRusso] expects and we all have what it takes to win," Lee said. "We also have great chemistry this year."

While Lee wants the Wave to prove to the league that this year's squad is as good as last season's, fellow senior captain Sam Bryan, an outside hitter, also sees this as a year to prove there is enough interest in the program at DHS. Bryan believes it's important for the varsity players to perform at a high level to keep interest among underclassmen in the sport at Darien High.

"It's a winning team so we want people in the school to recognize that it's a really good program," Bryan said.

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Bryan also would like to see the Wave retain its hold on the FCIAC and Class M crowns and is excited about the 2012 season.

"We look forward to it," he said during a preseason practice as the Wave geared up for its opener. "We have high expectations because every season you become a better person and you become mentally tougher."

The Blue Wave roster includes fellow senior captain Sam Bryan and Matt Lee, outside hitter and setter, respectively. Other seniors are Tommy Nicholls, Matt Collier and Ryan Stracuzzi. Juniors are Sean Lee, Jose Herrera, Nick Palmer and John Fucigna, and the lone sophomore is George Phillips.

Staples and Ridgefield are among the toughest teams in the FCIAC. Last year, Darien's only setback was an early season 3-1 loss to Staples. The team, in its 17 regular season wins, dropped very few games, winning most of the matches by 3-0 scores.

This year, the Wave began the campaign with a 3-0 triumph over Harding on April 4. Darien faces Staples twice -- on the road on April 11 and at home on May 7. The team visits Ridgefield on April 30 and closes out the regular slate against new-to-varsity and natural rival New Canaan on May 16.