Staples girls volleyball coach Jon Shepro has experienced the ups and downs of coaching in last two seasons alone. His 2013 team came within two sets of winning a Class LL championship, but last year the Wreckers went 9-12 and missed the FCIAC playoffs.

Having appeared in the state tournament for every season since 2000, the Wreckers are ready to bounce back and challenge the elite teams of the FCIAC once again.

“We want to make improvements from last year,” Shepro said. “We have a lot of girls who have worked hard and want to make this season a success.”

The Wreckers take an experienced group to battle with eight seniors and eight juniors. Setter Maya Lawande and outside hitter Nicole Lynch will captain the team, while fellow seniors Colby Siegel and Emily Lustbader will be key contributors.

Staples will rely on a tall group featuring middle Reece Schachne, who honed her defensive skills a year ago at the net.

“She worked hard in the offseason to get better,” Shepro said. “She was one of our better players last year and she’s a really good blocker. She can hit the ball very well in the middle.”

Junior Reeve Jackson has been a bright spot in preseason, according to Shepro.

The preseason included a 12-team jamboree at Staples against local competition. The Wreckers open the season Sept. 11 away to Ledyard, and a tough FCIAC test comes Sept. 17 against Fairfield Ludlowe. Staples faces defending FCIAC champion Darien at home Oct. 16.

“The goal every year to be better the next day than we were the day before,” Shepro said. “There is a very high ceiling with this team and I would expect by the end of the season we’ll be a lot better than we are now.”

Lawande added that cohesion will be crucial to the Wreckers’ chances this fall.

“Getting into a groove and knowing where everyone is important,” Lawande said. “There’s six girls and not a lot of space between us; that will be a big thing for us.”

Rival Darien has won 12 of the last 13 FCIAC titles and is once again the favorite .