Last year ended with FCIAC schools occupying all four spots in the CIAC Class L and M girls lacrosse championship games, with Darien and New Canaan claiming titles.
Don’t be surprised if there is an All-FCIAC repeat in two months. Darien coach Lisa Lindley said last year’s team may have been her best ever, high praise for a program that possesses 12 league and 12 state titles.
Scarier still, the Blue Wave players think this year’s team could be even better.
It will probably take a seismic upset to derail a Darien team still upset at losing a non-league game last year and missing out on a perfect season.
Not that there aren’t a lot of talented opponents. Greenwich, which lost to Darien in the state final, has a number of strong pieces. New Canaan suffered perhaps its heaviest graduation losses, but the team’s cupboard is never bare. Wilton is fortunate to have the parts to replace the departed starters that helped it to the Class M final.
And many eyes will be focused on Danbury, the feel-good story of last spring after going 12-3 during the regular season and winning a game in the state playoffs.
Darien. It is hard to put much stock in national high school polls — it is difficult enough comparing teams in the state that most writers never see — yet when a national website includes Darien as an answer in predicting the best team in the country, that should be sufficient proof that the Blue Wave are pretty good. They will be led by three returning All-State midfielders: Hollis Perticone (Middlebury), Dillon Schoen (Stanford) and Emily Stein (Northwestern). They form a unit of unparalleled ability. Actually all of Darien’s starters will be playing in college. Mariah Matheis leads the attack, with Ellie Bennett and Julia Arrix spearheading the defense.
Wilton. The Warriors, the only other school besides Darien to win a league crown since 2003, have the personnel to return to the state final and get a victory. Makenna Pearsall is a dominant midfielder, while Annie Cornbrooks, Sara Dickinson, Laura Knapp and Shannon Quinlan combined for 96 goals in a balanced attack. Casey Tucker and Maeve Kennard lead a sturdy defense.
Greenwich. The Cardinals have reached the FCIAC final just once since 2007 but have the confidence they can end that streak. The catalyst is speedster Carolyn Paletta, a game-breaker and strong leader. Her sister Natalie Paletta will be one of the headliners on defense. Anne Dunster, Maddy Graves and Meghan Collins will key the attack. Greenwich lost a lot from a year ago but remain a threat.
New Canaan. The Rams are as much of a mystery coming into the season as a consistent winner can be. Many of the players who helped them to the Class M title and FCIAC final are now playing in college. One reason for confidence is in goal, where Nathalie Deney, who stepped in during the postseason until the state final for the injured Liz O’Sullivan, was spectacular. Elizabeth Miller and Isabel Taben will help the Rams control the midfield. There will be a lot of unfamiliar names to start. The rate of maturation will help dictate the team’s fortunes.
Dillon Schoen, Darien. Lisa Lindley called Schoen one of the best five players she has coached. Lindley is particular with her praise.
Hollis Perticone, Darien. Perticone is headed to Middlebury so she can play two sports. This spring she will just leave opponents seeing double.
Emily Stein, Darien. Stein, an explosive scorer, finished with six goals in last year’s state final.
Carolyn Paletta, Greenwich. Paletta is headed to North Carolina next season. First she will try and surpass last year’s 80-point effort.
Makenna Pearsall, Wilton. A junior who has already verbally committed to Notre Dame, Pearsall is the master of the draw control.
Elizabeth Miller, New Canaan. With a number of new starters, Miller’s calming influence will be invaluable for the Rams.
Players To Watch
Danbury: G Ketsia LeFranc, D Najmah James, M Lindsey Eanniello, M Lauren Guiry, M Brittany Kenyon, D Bianca Melillo.
Darien: A Mariah Matheis, A Manna Moorhead, M Hollis Perticone, M Emily Stein, M Dillon Schoen, D Jackie Brokaw, D Ellie Bennett, D Kelly Karcewski, D Julia Arrix, G Kyra Gardner.
Fairfield Ludlowe: M/A Ali Gorab, M/A Bryce McClure, A Ellie Palazzo, A Sophie Butcher, A Brittany Rosenfeld, D Reagan Steed, M Miranda Rosenfeld.
Fairfield Warde: Sarah Reilly, Meredith Nerreau, Gabby Howard
Greenwich: D Nicole Graham, M Carolyn Paletta, A Anne Dunster, A Maddy Graves, A Meghan Collins, D Natalie Paletta.
Brien McMahon: M Delaney Nollman, A Sally Aubrey, M Maddy Vineyard, G Stephanie Escobar, M Aleigh Fitzpatrick, M Isabelle Greco, D Lynette Lopez, D Molly Hussey, A Emily Raymond, A Rachael Kurtzman.
New Canaan: D Lizzy Burke, G Nathalie Deney, M Elizabeth Miller, A Isabel Taben.
Norwalk: A Jenna Sheridan, M Tess St. John, D Julia Ferguson, F Hannah Froelich, M Marissa Mastrianni, M Grace Bradley, D Arissa Troy, M Brianna Fitzgerald.
Ridgefield: Shannon Walsh, Erica Ely, Maddie Wiley, G Maddie Burns, G Erin Norrison.
Stamford: M Jasmine Li, M Kelly Niesen, M Caroline Ryan, D Britney Moise, D Camry Evans, D Mackenzie Brown, D Stephanie Gelonisi, A Jenn Krupa, A Annie Archer, A Kaitlyn Hutter, A Adrianne Caitan, G Lesly Sanchez.
Staples: Paige Murray, Meredith Hood, Jenna McNicholas, Amelia Heisler.
Westhill: Emily Gaa, Erin Gray, Lindsay Bagwin, Rachel Katz, Isabella Montenegro, Nicole Senerchia, Brittany Martin.
Wilton: A Annie Cornbrooks, A Sara Dickinson, A Laura Knapp, A Shannon Quinlan, A James Madison, M Makenna Pearsall, M Charlotte Noels, M Laine Parsons, M Cecily Freliech, D Casey Tucker, D Maeve Kennard, G Hannah Wiltshire.
(Teams missing did not reply to requests for information.)