After the Staples boys swimming team competed in the State Open on March 22, the 2013-2014 winter season is officially in the books. It was a winter that saw outstanding individual achievements from several standouts, and team performances that ranged from disappointing to outstanding.
Here's a look back at the 2013-2014 winter season and the Westport News picks for most valuable players on each team.
MVP: David Katz
The Wreckers began the season with a thrilling last-second 42-38 win over Danbury Dec. 18 that included a four-point play from senior David Katz trailing by three late, but Staples struggled to build off the success. Staples lost six of its next seven games before snapping the skid with a 63-48 win over Fairfield Warde Jan. 17.
Staples then dropped eight straight, a stretch that eliminated it from postseason contention.
The Wreckers closed the season on a positive note, upending playoff hopeful Norwalk (72-66) Feb. 17 and ending the season with a 64-61 win over Trumbull Feb. 26. The win over the Eagles was the final for four Staples seniors -- Katz, Andrew Felman, Darryle Wiggins and Todd Goldstein.
"The seniors were a great group, coach Colin Devine said. "They kept everybody together with leadership. It's a great group; I'm going to miss them. I wish them all the best in their careers."
MVP: Abby Lustig
The Wreckers' "race to eight wins" in order to qualify for the Class LL state tournament fell one short this season despite having two chances late. Back-to-back close losses to Norwalk (53-45) and Westhill (46-34) ended Staples' season -- its second straight missing the playoffs after qualifying the previous 28.
The Wreckers' offense was paced by junior swing guard/forward Abby Lustig, who averaged about 16 points per game this season. Most of the Staples offense was supplied by juniors, including Tessa Mall and Madeline Schemel.
"You can be reasonably assured we will be in the mix next year," coach Ed Huydic said. "With the youth that we have plus the junior class we have. ... 28 in a row, if we go two in a row without (qualifying); to come back the following year won't be so bad."
MVP: Anna Violette
Staples hoped to be contenders for the FCIAC championship this year, and, despite a good regular season, ultimately finished fifth at FCIACs Feb. 15.
A costly late-season injury to one of its top scorers -- sophomore Eliza Donovan -- was too much to overcome.
The Wreckers finished eighth of eight teams at the Class L meet March 1 with 125.85 points. Staples was on pace to place in the top five, but a disappointing performance on the bars (26.85) proved costly.
MVP: Jack Mendillo
Prior to the season, the Staples/Weston/Shelton co-op was an afterthought in both the FCIAC and Division III races. By the time March rolled around, the Wreckers were a factor in both.
Despite a late-season swoon that included dropping six of seven, the Wreckers reached the FCIAC playoffs, where they were overwhelmed by eventual finalist and Division I finalist Darien 6-2 Feb. 28.
Staples rebounded in the Division III tournament, defeating Lyman Hall -HK 6-2 to reach the quarterfinals. The Wreckers put a serious scare in top-seeded Masuk before falling 6-3 March 13.
The future looks just as bright. Led by one of most electric first lines in Division III, junior Jack Mendillo (31 goals 23 assists), sophomores Derek Nussbaum (24 goals, 23 assists) and Ryan Johnson (14 goals, 17 assists) are all slated to return next season.
MVP: Meg Fay
The Stamford/Westhill/Staples co-op hockey team enjoyed progress this season in posting a 6-14 record. The team had only three combined wins over the previous two years.
The highlights of the season came in a pair of wins over Greenwich 7-2 Jan. 4 and 3-2 Feb. 26.
Westhill's Miolene and Staples' Meg Fay -- a pair of outstanding juniors -- supplied a large portion of the goals this term. Stamford graduates just four seniors and a strong influx of young talent should keep numbers up.
MVPs: Hannah DeBalsi, Oliver Hickson
In addition to the dominating season Hannah DeBalsi had, the season was a success for the Staples girls and boys indoor track teams. The girls captured first Class LL title in school history Feb. 8 and finished second at the state open to Wilbur Cross by 2.66 points Feb. 17.
Tyler Scanlin (600 meters), Erica Hefnawy (1000), Bridget van Dorsten (high jump) and relay teams of Sarah Neckritz, Kathryn Lieder, Olivia Wiener and Brynly Marsh among others all played a role in taking home the trophy.
The Wreckers boys team finished third at the Class LL meet and eighth at the state open. Junior Oliver Hickson finished second in the 1600 and eighth in the 3200 at Class LL, and senior Peter Elkind finished second in the 1000.
MVP: Jonathan Blansfield
The Wreckers enjoyed their finest season in years, posting a 10-1 record with its lone blemish coming to FCIAC, Class LL and State Open champion Greenwich. Staples finished second, fifth and eighth, respectively in those meets.
Times consistently dropped during the dual meet season. Northwestern-bound Jonathan Blansfield set records in the 100 and 400-meter freestyle in January before winning the 500-yard freestyle in record time (4:35.35) at the FCIAC meet.
North Woods, Chris Mombello and Daniel Williams also played crucial parts in the landmark season. Staples' second-year coach Frisk Driscoll won FCIAC Coach of the Year honors for the first time.
MVP: Justin Ludel
The Wreckers spent much of this season developing their younger athletes that will serve as the foundation for a program on the rise. Underclassmen Kieran Clark, Luke Montgomery, Justin Ludel and Charles Lomanto all got valuable experience.
Staples went 1-7 in meets, mostly as a result of not being able to fill each weight class. Injuries also hurt the Wreckers down the stretch.
Ludel (138 pounds) was the lone Wrecker to win a match at the FCIAC championships, advancing to the quarterfinals. Staples will lose just two seniors to graduation.