FAIRFIELD >> A season ago, Fairfield Warde girls’ basketball coach Dave Danko called it a two-year process. He garnered a squad that featured no seniors. The main objectives were to learn, grow and gain experience. The season unfolded with the Mustangs going 8-13 and went toe-to-toe with No. 4 Glastonbury in the opening round of the Class LL tournament, falling 45-40.
Flash forward a year later. The Mustangs have what Danko calls “The most depth at any position he’s had since Fairfield High.” It’s a group that encountered many rough patches last year, including a streak late in the season where they went 1-6. There was a lot of learning but for the players that went through it, a year later they are better because of it.
“I think we viewed (last year) as more of a building block,” senior post and co-captain Kaitlin McKenna said. “I think with every loss we took personally and we’ve been able to grow and learn from our mistakes.”
“With all the losses last year it opened our eyes to this year,” senior co-captain Tiara Fountain added. “This is our last year, go big or go home.”
Warde’s lineup features eight seniors and a talented crop of underclassmen that don’t present a lot of gaps.
The team has a lot to offer with speed, size and shooters. McKenna said the team had some tough scrimmages but were very competitive and fared well early on. Danko listed senior McKenna (who he said will be the anchor of the team), along with Fountain, senior Michele Treglia, Kenzie Burns and sophomore point guard Lejla Markovic as his starting five, with a talented supporting cast.
“You’re going to see kids step up,” Danko said. “Every night you have to be ready. (But) I like what I have here. They’ve been working hard and been positive. It’s a program.”
It’s a program that only hopes to continue to get better. The goal is to make the state tournament again and contend for a spot in the FCIAC tournament.
“We all know what it takes to be the best and what is takes to win,” McKenna said.
Warde opens the season on Wednesday as they host Harding at 7 p.m. They will get a tough early season test on Friday at home against Ridgefield.
McKenna said the team is excited to get the season going and the Mustangs are anxious to see how a season of growth translates.
“There’s always pressure but that’s what makes a good team a great team,” Fountain said.