If you are part of the Staples High School girls golf team, there are two matches on the slate that are of significant interest -- May 1 and May 22, both against Greenwich. The Cardinals are the only conference team to beat the Wreckers in recent years, winning both regular-season clashes last spring a year after the rivals split a pair of head-to-heads.
"It's an extremely competitive rivalry," said Staples Coach Bob Byiteck, in his 18th year with the Wreckers. "It's a two-team race."
Greenwich beat out Staples for first in the FCIAC championships, and the teams finished in a second-place tie, behind Berlin, at the State Open. Both Staples and Greenwich return their top four golfers this spring, Byiteck said, which means the level of competitiveness stands to remain very high.
"(His players) know about Greenwich and they're looking forward to the competition, and I'm hoping they can beat them," the coach said.
Weather permitting, Wreckers will have four matches under their belts before the Cardinals visit Longshore Country Club May 1. The teams will meet, the second time around, at Greenwich's Griffith E Harris Golf Course.
There's more to the season than those matches with the Cards, Byiteck acknowledges, although the coach speculates getting past Greenwich in the postseason will again be a necessary achievement to garner the success his team is shooting for.
"I know that Greenwich is still there and so is Berlin."
The Wreckers are led by senior captains Faith Garcia and Christy Cantor, and junior captain Mary Bennewitz. The fourth returning top scorer is junior Anelise Browne. Garcia was a First Team All FCIAC honoree last year, and is headed to Monmouth University in West Long Branch, NJ. "She's a leader. She can shoot in the high 30s," Byiteck said of Garcia.
"It'll take these four girls all to score well in each match and, as a team, we need to shoot in the 160s to win every match," Byiteck said.
The biggest strength of this team is "having these four girls all returning with varsity experience," Byiteck said. "They play the game and they're good. They can score, they have experience and they compete. They know how to stay focused."
All of the area teams, as is the case in starts to the spring, are behind as they try to get into regular-season form despite limited time out on the course.
"It's been frustrating because of the weather," Byiteck said.
What's more, Longshore is undergoing significant renovations and isn't slated to open until April 18, and the first match of the season is set for April 22 when Ridgefield comes to town for a 3 p.m. start.
The Wreckers have been practicing at Fairfield's Patterson Club. "It's a big negative not being at Longshore," Byiteck said. "It's a big disadvantage. You need 10 to 12 times to practice at your home course before the season gets started."
The girls won't be afforded the opportunity to re-familiarize themselves with the rolls on the greens and the distances on the fairways, but the coach is confident his team members will overcome this circumstance.
"They all drive the ball well, they hit their irons well, and they all putt well," he said.