It's been a pair of transition years since taking over as Staples field hockey coach in 2012, but third-year coach Ashley Del Vecchio is quietly confident she finally has a group ready to pose a threat to the top dogs of the FCIAC.
Returning 10 seniors, Staples won't be shy of experience once the season rolls around. Elizabeth Bennewitz (defense/midfield), Jenna McNicholas (forward) and Maggie Fair (defense) will captain a deep group this year.
"I feel very confident in them," Del Vecchio said. "We had 92 girls come out for tryouts, so it was really competitive. A lot of them have been playing club over the summer; they're looking good.
Bennewitz will take most of the shots from penalty corners. McNicholas led the team in scoring last year and Fair is a mainstay in the defense.
The Wreckers went 7-9-0-1 to qualify for the state tournament last season. Staples lost its final game to Westhill 4-1, costing it an FCIAC playoff spot. Generating offense is the main goal of season as the Wreckers tallied 19 goals in 15 games last year.
"This year we are focusing on scoring," Del Vecchio said. "The last couple years we haven't had a lot of scores in our games. It's going good so far."
"I think we have a great bond, and every spot position on the field has a real good player," Del Vecchio said. "We have really strong substitutes; the whole team is strong."
Staples has a chance at a fast start as it opens the season with games against Danbury (Sept. 9), Westhill (Sept. 15), Trumbull (Sept. 18) and Fairfield Ludlowe (Sept. 20). The Wreckers have a brutal five-day stretch in mid-October that includes games against Greenwich, New Canaan and Wilton.
The biggest change from last year to this will be in the stands. The "Tame the Hill" project created rows of seating over what was the hill at Ginny Parker Field. The construction is complete and stadium seats will be installed soon. The Staples field hockey and lacrosse teams, along with the Westport youth field hockey program all raised money for the project.
"It's really exciting," Del Vecchio said. "It's been so difficult for parents and everyone to come watch. This whole field and facility is so nice the seating is the finishing touch."
Del Vecchio will have a new assistant in Christina Mitchell after Kristin Schultz departed Westport to teach in Massachusetts. Mitchell, a Norwalk High graduate, was named All-FCIAC for the Bears as a senior.