Going into the season, the Staples girls tennis team needs to overcome at least two hurdles in order to reach the promised land.

Staples' two biggest obstacles are Greenwich and New Canaan, the teams it hasn't vanquished since 2003.

Although the Lady Wreckers are favored over the rest of the ultra-competitive FCIAC, it's plausible that they could be picked off by a surprisingly-improved squad. They could also be tested by upstate powerhouse Glastonbury in the Class L tournament.

But if Staples performs like it usually does, it will also be in the thick of things. Last year, the Lady Wreckers were 14-2 in the regular season, 16-4 overall, after winning a playoff game in both the FCIAC and Class LL playoffs.

The team reached the FCIAC semiw and Class L quarterfinals.

And Staples feels it has what it takes to get over its two biggest barriers in the FCIAC and Class L.

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"I think we're looking strong and hitting well," Lady Wreckers coach Amanda Giudice said. "We're going in there to win FCIACs and states. We're very strong, and moving the ball around the court a lot more than we did last year."

Staples lost Molly Rudinger, who was steady at third and second singles, to graduation. Rudinger moved up to second singles when first singles player Katie Reiner suffered a shoulder injury.

The Lady Wreckers also lost doubles players Farrel Levinson, Hannah Bjornson, Alex Walsh and Kate McNee to graduation. Levenson also played a few matches at singles before being moved to doubles.

Working in Staples' favor is the return of five starters from last year. Sophomore Melissa Beretta, who moved up from second singles to first singles, is expected to be stronger at No. 1 singles this year.

Senior captains Leigh Rubin and Nicole Marcante, along with classmates Kate Collins and Margeaux Stamm are also back. Junior Lea Bradley was a backup last year, and is expected to start this year.

Five newcomers join the Lady Wreckers. Juniors Alexis Teixeira and Frankie Lynch and sophomore Kelsey Shockey move up from JV. Freshmen Xenia Bradley, Gabbi Titlebaum and Avery Wallace also made the varsity squad.

"I think we'll be pretty strong," Marcante said. "We have good returnees and some good

newcomers."

Rubin said, "We have some good freshmen, and the JV players who moved up to varsity, improved. We have a lot of talent and a deep team where everyone is close to the same level."

Except for Beretta, Giudice isn't sure about her lineup. At least in the early part of the season, she plans on changing things up until she finds the right combination that works.

Although the coach is optimistic, she is aware that it will take some work in order for everything to come to fruition.

"We have to keep our minds in the game we're playing, and be consistent with our serves," Giudice said. "We have to move the ball."

The captains are also optimistic. They know that Greenwich and New Canaan are their main hurdles, and have an idea on how to jump over them.

"We hope to do better than we did last year, and make it to finals at FCIACs and states," Rubin said. "We have to go in with the confidence and focus, and have the attitude that it's not going to be a blowout. We have to be consistent, and not go for big shots."

Marcante said, "We have a shot of making it farther because we all improved, and we have a strong lineup. We have to be consistent and not make unforced errors. Our doubles teams have to work well with each other."