FAIRFIELD — There wasn’t much hesitation in Julia Delaney’s voice as she chose the right word to describe the way the 2012 soccer season ended.
“I would definitely call it a slump,” she said. “It just went downhill.”
After starting last fall with nine straight shutouts and boasting an imposing record on paper, the Fairfield Warde girls’ soccer team faltered in the back half of the schedule.
The Mustangs lost five of their final nine games and ended with a quick exit in the first round of the Class LL State Tournament.
“We were all surprised. It wasn’t fun,” Delaney said.
This fall, Delaney and the rest of the team is hoping to avoid the pitfalls they experienced a year ago. They started the season with a hard-fought 4-2 win over Darien and feel this is a more focused and well-rounded squad.
“(There’s) definitely more of a focus on the game ahead, take things one step at a time,” Delaney said. “Get everyone on the same page.”
“The players are there, they want it and they’re hungry for it,” Warde head coach Tom Cunningham said.
The Mustangs feature a talented roster that includes seven starters from last year. While a strong defensive effort has always been at a premium in the Cunningham era, the seventh-year head coach is challenging the team on the offensive side.
“The one thing that I felt like we really need to focus on is scoring more goals,” he said. “Year after year we play solid defense, we play great team defense. We want everyone getting involved in scoring and finding the net.”
Finding an offensive flow shouldn’t be an issue. The Mustangs graduated Emily Pullen who led the squad in goals, but have a handful of players who have shown they can score, too. Nell Carpenter, Jenn Maldenado and Megan Overby all found the net in the team’s victory over Darien, while Sarah Reilly, Anna Glovin and Carpenter recorded an assist.
“Preseason I’ve seen that we have firepower we have a very well-rounded deep team with a lot of girls that can score goals,” Cunningham said.
Defensively, Delaney will be a key piece backed by three-year starter Katie Brennan in the net.
“It’s such a blessing (to have her) she’s really an awesome goalie,” Delaney said of Brennan. “She sees the whole field.”
The trick for the Mustangs will be to maintain the high-level of play they hope to achieve for the entire season. Delaney said last year was good experience, as they took the negatives and learned from it.
Warde will be the hunt for a title in the ever-tough FCIAC and another state tournament appearance and hopefully beyond.
The Mustangs travel to Trinity Catholic on Tuesday for a 4 p.m. game and then face Brien McMahon on Thursday on the road. They host New Canaan Saturday afternoon at 2:30 p.m.
Delaney said she has high goals for the season, but is taking the one game ahead approach to focus on.
“We have a lot of talent. I’m looking forward to how far we can go and I think all these girls are excited as well.”