DARIEN, Conn. —
There are plenty of FCIAC boys lacrosse teams that have their sights set on the league and Connecticut state championships in 2010. Tabbing any squad other than Darien as the team to beat, however, is like trying to take the crown while the king is still sitting on the throne.
In other words, anyone who wants the title will have to measure up against the Blue Wave.
"You have to look at Darien as the pinnacle of Connecticut lacrosse until somebody consistently knocks them off," New Canaan head coach Alex Whitten said. "They graduated a senior class of 24 guys, so that’s a big group of kids to replace, but they’re always going to be good. They’ve got a lot of kids in that program, a lot of kids who are technically proficient and they make you pay for mistakes."
Darien head coach Jeff Brameier’s team has compiled a gaudy resume during the last two decades. The Blue Wave has reached the state semifinals for 22 consecutive seasons and is riding a streak of five straight state championships. Darien lost the FCIAC title last season, falling to champion Ridgefield in the final, 7-6 in overtime, but came back to win the State Class M title two weeks later, 17-11, over Wilton.
The Wave has a lot of big shoes to fill, but as is usually the case in Darien, reinforcements haven’t been hard to find.
"We’re fine," Brameier told the Darien Times. "The kids work hard, there’s a lot of talent every year coming around. This year’s no different."
Darien will be led by its senior co-captains: Andrew West, Brian Gleason, George Benitez, Eric Parnon, Robbie Winter and Connor Sullivan. West is a standout goalie who earned All-FCIAC second-team honors as a junior. West will play at Dickinson College next year.
Benitez, who is heading to Stony Brook, and Parnon, who will attend Maryland, will star as long pole defenseman, while Gleason and sophomore Case Matheis will lead the attack. The Blue Wave’s strength is in the midfield, where a core of strong players will look to run circles around opponents. The group includes seniors Brian Annecchino, Alden Frelinghuysen and Bobby Nolan, juniors Graham Maybell and Wyatt Keith and sophomore Henry West.
FCIAC champion Ridgefield is also looking to replace several key departures, including Connecticut Player of the Year Matt White, now starting at Virginia. Also gone are All-Americans Colin Scott, Matt Baker and Brendan Walsh. The Tigers do return a few midfield weapons in seniors Mike Galione, who will attend Lafayette, Aaron Mathias, who will attend Amherst, and Casey McKnight, who will attend Washington State. Joining that trio at midfield are seniors Kurt Mueller and Ian Vazquez.
Ridgefield also features an outstanding faceoff specialist in senior Duncan Morrissey, also headed to Amherst. The defense will feature junior Matt Shannon, who has committed to North Carolina.
Darien’s rival, New Canaan, is loaded for the spring and may have a golden opportunity at winning the FCIAC title with 17 seniors on its roster. The Rams’ midfield corps features junior Joe Costigan, who has committed to North Carolina, Cody Newton, Sam Stanton, Todd Bratches and faceoff specialist Ron Balzano.
Defense was New Canaan’s strong point last season and the group returns several veterans, including junior goalie Jimmy Joe Granito, and senior long poles Ian Knechtle, Kevin Campbell and Bobby Femia. The Rams also picked up a strong attack when Oliver Norton transferred from Loomis Chaffee (Windsor).
"When we lost to New Fairfield (in the Class M first round) last year, 10-2, it was necessary for us to lose a game in that way," coach Whitten told the New Canaan Advertiser. "It really sent a message to our guys about putting forth effort towards their lacrosse endeavors. We asked those guys to commit to the program and we’ve gotten that."
New Canaan opened the season with an impressive road win over Greenwich, 10-4 last Wednesday. Greenwich is in a transition year as former Darien assistant Scott Bukeley has taken over for former coach Paul Burke. The Cards managed just four goals in the opener, but should have no trouble scoring as their season shifts into gear with an attack led by senior Colin Dunster and junior David Dickson, a transfer from Brunswick (Greenwich).
Greenwich will have another early season test when it takes on Wilton, last year’s Class M runner-up, on Tuesday. Wilton graduated the program’s all-time leading scorer Peter McMahon, but returns several strong players. The Warriors will feature attack Mike Francia and defensemen Scott Thomson and Pat Holland. A dark horse in the FCIAC is St. Joseph, which defeated Weston, 12-11, for the Class S championship last spring.
The Cadets graduated a ton of talent, but should be able to make a run behind midfielders Pat Mulligan and Pat Corcoran, attacks Connor Brawley and Mike Marini, and goalie Tim Izzo. St. Joe’s gets a big test Tuesday when it hosts New Canaan in Trumbull.
Dave Stewart, the Sports Editor of the New Canaan (Conn.) Advertiser, is a MaxPreps.com writer and photographer. He may be reached at 203-966-9541 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.