By Mary Albl
WESTPORT — In her first year at the helm, Staples’ head coach Heather Driscoll never once played with a full roster. Last fall featured an injury-ridden Wreckers roster that was depleted and searching for answers, all the while getting to know Driscoll and her expectations.
“That was definitely frustrating moving players to different positions and made for a bit of a challenge,” Driscoll said of last season.
Staples finished the year with a 5-8-4 record, and a first-round exit in the Class LL State Tournament, a 1-0 loss to eventual state champion Newtown.
Now, a year later, the Wreckers enter this season more confident, self-assured and with a young but talented lineup.
“This year especially is very different than last year,” senior co-captain Meghan Lonergan said. “We were just getting used to her (Driscoll). This year is going to be better because we know her coaching style and the new players are learning pretty quickly.”
While Staples added 11 new players, the team brings back experience and leadership with nine individuals, six of those starters. In the scrimmages Staples has held thus far, Driscoll pointed out maturity and guidance from the veterans as well as a more fluid and fast-start offense; an item they struggled with last season.
“I saw a lot of young freshman that are going to do a great job for us,” Driscoll said. “I saw some good maturing and communicating, and goal scoring. We scored five goals in the preseason, compared to last year when we didn’t score any.”
Leading the Wreckers this season will be junior center midfielder Maggie Walsh, junior wide midfielder Lauren Garcia and senior center mid and co-captain Gea Mitas.
Lonergan as well as junior Megan Root will anchor a defense that features second-year starter Mary Bennewitz in the net.
“We have so many new players, but our core is right down the middle of the field center mid/center back,” Driscoll said.
Added co-captain Root: “Lauren Garcia I expect is going to be one of our top finishers this season.”
While Staples is still fine-tuning the chemistry, Mitas said this year’s team already has more of a sense of readiness for the season. Lonergan added that the work rate during practices has also improved. Two years without making the FCIAC Tournament, the Wreckers do not want this season to end with any lingering doubts.
“You know you have to start strong,” Root said. “You don’t want to leave with any regrets.”
Staples opens the season on Wednesday at Brien McMahon at 7 p.m. The team’s home-opener is Sept. 19 at 4 p.m. against Ludlowe.
“We’re going to surprise people to be honest,” Driscoll said.