The defending FCIAC and Division I State champion Staples boys golf team appears to be in good position to successfully defend its titlesthis spring.

Sure, the Wreckers lost their top player, Dylan Murray, to graduation, but the team welcomes back a familiar talented player.

Senior Andrew Gai, who played with the Staples team in his first two years, spent his junior year playing junior golf, traveling throughout the country and completing his third year studies online.

"That's a big, big plus," Staples Coach Tom Owen said of getting Gai back. Owen added that Gai is one of the best golfers in the state.

There's more good news for the Wreckers as they look to retain a hold on their championship status: The team brings everyone else back to the courses. "We have a strong team returning from last year," Owen said.

Gai and fellow senior Kirk Massie are the two captains. They are joined by junior Austin Alianiello, senior Brian Wright, senior Conor Mahoney and junior Sam Shaffer.

Five will play in each match with Maloney and Shaffer likely rotating in and out of the lineup, Owen anticipated as the season got under way last week.

The Wreckers are actually the two-time defending state champs, after earning a second-place tie with Greenwich in 2008.

Owen has been impressed with the play of his now senior golfers, but not at all surprised. "It's a great run with these kids," the coach said. "I knew when they came here as freshmen it was something special and they haven't let me down. I'm very lucky; it's been an excellent run. Hopefully we can continue that this year."

Staples finds itself in a bit of a different scenario this year than in past campaigns, Owen believes. "We were the underdogs the last couple of years. Now people are looking to us to take us down," he said.

Wilton, Greenwich and New Canaan should be the toughest FCIAC competitors the Wreckers will contend with this spring, Owen anticipates.

The coach believes that the biggest question mark is whether or not his team can keep its focus.

"On paper we certainly do look good but you can throw that right out the window when we get out on the course," Owen said.

Gai, having been on course all over the country for the last year, believes he has improved his on-the-road game, and looks forward to the challenges of trying to help the Wreckers win another title (or two) this year.

"I'm pretty excited -- it should be a good year. We have a good chance at repeating," Gai said.

"We definitely have a good feeling with pretty much everyone coming back," added Massie, who also pointed out that Gai should help the team thrive. "It should be a good year."