Shelton had arguably its best season in school history a year ago, taking home its second consecutive SCC tournament title and advancing to its first Class LL state final when Danbury, after beating the Gaels in the semifinals, was eliminated for using an ineligible player.
The Gaels lost a lot to graduation, including All-Area performer Mikey Sciortino, but will still contend along with Prep for the SCC Hammonasset Division championship. Hand won its first Class L state championship in 19 years and has plenty back to make a good title defense.
The other two divisions are up for grabs. Hamden and Xavier tied atop the Quinnipiac in 2016 and very well could do so again. Cheshire didn’t lose a game in the Oronoque last year. That may be a tall order with Guilford and Notre Dame-West Haven improved.
5 TEAMS TO WATCH
HAND: The Tigers lost as the top seed in the SCC tournament quarterfinals the last two seasons, but rebounded last year to win its first state championship since 1997. With a lot of experience returning, the Tigers will be a factor in November.
GUILFORD: The Indians had a so-so regular season, but upset Hand in the SCC tournament quarterfinals, then made a spirited run to the L semis as the No. 14 seed, falling to Hand. The Indians will be better during this regular season.
FAIRFIELD PREP: Losing Biagio Paoletta and goalkeeper Dan Szabo will hurt, but the Jesuits won’t drop off too much.
CHESHIRE: May not be unbeaten in the SCC Oronoque but will still contend and could be a postseason factor.
SHELTON: Nineteen wins is probably too tall an order, but no one is writing off the Gaels, especially playing them at Finn Stadium under the lights.
5 PLAYERS TO WATCH
LIAM AKERS, HAND, D: Anchors an experienced defense that will be tough to score on in 2017.
THOMAS KANTER, AMITY, M: All-SCC First Team selection as a junior. Should be a top performer on an improved Spartans’ team.
KEVIN LINN, LAW, F: Has 35 goals in three years for the Lawmen.
OWEN MCSHANE, HAND, D: Teaming up with Akers in the back. The Tigers should be able to lock down the opposition late in games.
CALEB TONDORA, Foran, D: All-State product a year ago is an important part of the Lions’ hopes to contend in the SCC Quinnipiac.
5 GAMES TO WATCH
Sept. 12, CHESHIRE AT SHELTON: Former SCC Housatonic Division rivals square off under the lights at Finn Stadium.
Sept. 25, SHELTON AT FAIRFIELD PREP: Rematch of last year’s SCC tournament final. Prep shut out Shelton in both regular-season matchups last year.
Sept. 27, HAND AT GUILFORD: It won’t go to penalty kicks this time – the SCC doesn’t use them during the regular season – but the league’s best rivalry is always a hotly-contested game.
OCT. 6, WEST HAVEN AT NOTRE DAME-WEST HAVEN: West Haven will have adjusted to life without three-time Area Register MVP Salah Oumorou. Notre Dame always tough to beat at Veterans Stadium.
OCT. 18, FAIRFIELD PREP AT HAND: Never easy to beat Hand at night at the Surf Club. Jesuits played the Tigers to a scoreless tie last season.