There is always plenty of talk around the state about which conference is the best in any particular sport.
In girls lacrosse there should not be much debate.
It is the FCIAC that year in and year out produces the best teams in Connecticut, and there is no debating that.
Consider this: Since 2006 FCIAC teams have won 11 of the 17 state championships and have been runners-up nine times over that same stretch.
Last year two teams that did not win an FCIAC championship — Greenwich in Class L and Darien in Class M — both took home state titles.
For the record, it was Wilton that won the FCIAC for a second straight year with a win over the Blue Wave in the conference final.
What can be expected this year?
If you ask the coaches around the league, it is more of the same and perhaps an even higher level of play as more athletes have committed to training year round for lacrosse.
“It has changed,” Ridgefield coach Michelle Ralph said. “I think it will be tougher as these girls have been offseason training and they are getting stronger so it will be even harder to win this league.”
One thing that has changed are the rules governing man-up and man-down situations, so the teams that adjust to the new style of play the best may be the ones holding the FCIAC trophy above their heads in June.
“There have been some rule changes this year as far as defense is concerned,” Greenwich coach Caitlin Keane said. “It will be different, especially in man-up and man-down situations. So, introducing that new aspect to the girls is a focal point and adapting our everyday play to those new rules is key.”
5 teams to watch
- Wilton: The Warriors finished the 2011 season ranked No. 1 in Connecticut according to LaxPower.com, winning the FCIAC for the second straight year and for the fifth time in the last seven years, However, the Warriors have not won a state championship since 2004. Wilton will be led by Notre Dame-bound midfielder Casey Pearsall and defender Sammi Blicht.
- Greenwich: The Cardinals return several key players from last year’s Class L championship team including Emily Johnson on defense and Claire Feeney on attack. The Cardinals were the last team not from Darien or Wilton to win the FCIAC, taking home the crown in 2003.
- Darien: The Blue Wave won the Class M title last year and return Brynn Gasparino on attack and North Carolina bound Caylee Waters in goal. Darien won the FCIAC in 2009 and has taken home the title 10 times since 1993.
- New Canaan: The Rams have been runners-up in the FCIAC eight times, last winning the title in 1993, but are poised to make a run at a championship this season behind Sarah Mannelly and Olivia Hompe on attack and Elizabeth, O’Sullivan in goal.
- Ridgefield: The Tigers may be the dark horse this year having only lost four players from last year’s squad.
Ridgefield will be paced by Caroline Ogden on attack and Maggie Philbin in goal.
The Tigers have never played in a FCIAC or state final.
5 offensive players to watch
Pearsall, Wilton; Mannelly, New Canaan, Feeney, Greenwich; Gasparino, Darien and Sarah Nesi, Ludlowe.
5 defensive players to watch
Blicht, Wilton; O’Sullivan, New Canaan; Waters, Darien; Johnson, Greenwich and Emily Tropsa, Darien.
5 games to watch
- New Canaan at Darien, April 17: Any time these two tangle in any sport it is big, but the Rams would love nothing more than to knock off their bitter rivals.
- Ridgefield at Wilton, April 17: The FCIAC schedule makers must have been going for a rivalry day on the 17th because the game between the Tigers and the Warriors will be just as heated. If the Tigers want to take a leap to the next level they are going to have to beat one of the elite teams.
- Wilton at Darien, April 26: Any time the top two perennial powerhouse teams in the conference square off, people need to pay attention and this showdown should be no different.
- Greenwich at New Canaan, May 8: Greenwich has hopes of winning the FCIAC title this year, but to do so they are going to have to get by the Rams at some point.
- Staples at Ridgefield, May 15: The final game of the regular season is between two teams that both want to prove they belong in the same conversation as the top teams. A FCIAC playoff spot could very well be on the line when these two face-off.
Top players by team
- New Canaan: Sarah Mannelly, Sr. midfield; Olivia Hompe, Jr. attack; Bea Eppler, Jr. attack; Julia Tuttle, Sr. defense; Elizabeth O’Sullivan, Jr. goalie
- Danbury: Maria Pugliese Sr. defense; Ashley Winch Sr. Defender; Tori Doyle Sr. midfield; Raven Winters, Jr. attack; Pauline Kaplan, Jr.Midfield
- Ludlowe: Kendall Stevenson; Sarah Nesi; Mary Deliberti; Meredith Petralia; Lizzie Pratt; KC McAuliffe; Julia Tomeo
- Greenwich: Shannon Colligan, Sr. attack; Hannah Jeffrey, Sr. goalie; Tori Dunster, Sr. attack; Claire Feeney, Sr. attack; Emily Johnson, Jr. defense
- Norwalk: Megan Carney, Sr goalie; Christine Mace Sr. attack; Jen McCarthy Sr. attack; Thenya Taiyanides Sr. attack; Victoria Price Sr. defense
- Trumbull: Ashley Austin, Sr. attack; Camille Bova, Sr. midfield; Emma Connolly, Sr. attack; Stephanie Dicostanzo, Sr. defense; Natalie Probst, Sr. midfield
- McMahon: Karen Marin, midfield; Karley Barreno, midfield; Corey Blattman, midfield; Allison Granata, midfield; Caroline Deorio, midfield
- Stamford: Lauren Shapiro
- Darien: Emily Tropsa, defense; Caylee Waters, goalie; Brynn Gasparino, attack
- Ridgefield: Caroline Ogden, attack; Maggie Philbin, goalie; Taylor Fischer, midfield; Melissa Galione, defense; Morgan Hyland, defense
- Warde: Lindsey Adams, Jr. defense, Jen Jacob, Sr. midfield
- Wilton: Casey Pearsall, attack; Sammi Blicht, defense
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