Staples High's girls soccer team sneaked into the state tournament last season as the 27th seed in Class LL, but the Wreckers weren't satisfied with their results.
Their No. 1 goal is to end a two-year absence from the FCIAC playoffs. Staples finished 12th in the league standings last season, meaning it will have to climb at least four spots to qualify.
"Speaking for every girl on the team, we want it so badly," senior co-captain Meghan Lonergan said. "Everyone has that insatiable hunger to win."
Last season, Staples' postseason stay was brief. It lost to eventual LL state champion Newtown 1-0 in the first round to finish 5-8-4.
The Wreckers feature a blend of experience and youth. They return nine players -- six starters -- but also have 11 new players. Seven of the newcomers are freshmen.
The returning starters include two seniors -- Lonergan, a center back, and fellow captain Gea Mitas, a center midfielder -- along with four juniors.
"We're going to move on from (last season)," Mitas said, "and try to do our best this year. Even though we have younger players, I think they will make a bigger impact than the level of play we had last year."
Junior goalkeeper Mary Bennewitz is back with a year of experience after starting as a sophomore. The other junior starters returning are center back Megan Root, center midfielder Maggie Walsh and wide midfielder Lauren Garcia. Other returning players include seniors Sydney Crossfield and Caitlin Hoberman, as well as junior Paige Murray.
"I think a big thing is team chemistry. So far in the beginning of the season, it's been great," Lonergan said.
The Wreckers went 2-0-1 in a preseason tournament last weekend at Conard High in West Hartford, holding opponents scoreless. They expect to be strong on defense and up the middle, given their experience in those areas.
"(We have) a lot of experience down the middle of the field, which is great for leadership and communication," second-year coach Heather Driscoll said. "I'm super confident in the core players."
Driscoll suspects that much of the team's scoring this season will be done by committee.
"From what we saw at the jamboree last weekend, we spread the ball around a little bit and shared the scoring, so hopefully that will be the case," she said.
With all the new players, the Wreckers have spent the preseason building camaraderie on and off the pitch. Driscoll thinks some of the freshmen may be able to crack the starting lineup right away.
"It's just getting them to mesh on the field," Driscoll said. "They are all talented players, but we have to put it all together as one piece."
Staples opens its season on Wednesday at Brien McMahon at 7 p.m.
Bob Birge is a freelance writer