Losing high caliber seniors to graduation makes things challenging for the Staples girls swimming team. Compounding Staples' problems is that it will only face one easy opponent instead of four, which it faced in years past and will mostly face the upper echelon teams in the FCIAC this year.

The Lady Wreckers lost Helene Neuhaus, Natalie LeBlanc, Charlotte Katter, Cat Friel and diver Megan Kratky to graduation from last year's team that was 6-5 in dual meets, placed sixth at FCIACs, fifth at Class LL and seventh at State Open. Neuhaus, LeBlanc and Katter are swimming in college, Kratky is diving for Dartmouth College and Friel is rowing for Marist College.

"In dual meets, we swim against eight of the top teams in the state," Staples Coach Mike Laux said. "We lost a lot across the board."

Laux considers his team to be a middle of the pack FCIAC team and believes in order to have a winning record, it must defeat Trumbull, tomorrow at home in the season-

opener. Trumbull lost only two top swimmers to graduation and defeated the Lady Wreckers the past two years. Other middle-of-the-pack opponents (by FCIAC standards) Laux hopes to beat and feel he'll have good meets with are Westhill, Ridgefield and Norwalk. He concedes defeat to Greenwich and Darien and knows he's an underdog against New Canaan and Wilton, but hopes to pull off an upset.

Facing the iron of the state instead of a few easy opponents cuts both ways for Staples.

"It's bad because you can't play around with the lineup but it's good because I know I'll have a good meet with them," Laux said.

Lady Wreckers senior captain Stephanie Nussbaum said, "I think overall, we have a young team with not much experience, but with a tough dual meet schedule, it should get us ready for States."

Senior captain Margot Bruce said, "We're looking to have a very good season and better than we expect because we have some talented freshmen. Our focus is to do the best we can. We probably won't have a good dual meet record but we're focused on having personal best times."

Nussbaum is expected to score in the 100-freestyle and Bruce will be relied upon to be consistent in distance freestyle events, the 200-yard and 500-yard freestyles. Staples is buoyed by the return of senior captain Molly Loftus, who is expected to be its top scorer and has top 10 times in Staples history in the 200-free and 500-free. Loftus is expected to swim for a Division I college next year.

"My goal is to get best times," Loftus said.

Maddie Mafilios (sprint freestyle) and Schaefer Andrews (diving) are the other senior captains. Other seniors who are expected to contribute include Caitlin Wiederecht (individual medley, butterfly, middle distance freestyle), Joanna Wexler (sprint freestyle), Sarah Hyman (breaststroke) and Dani McGovern (sprint freestyle).

Junior Gabby Wimer has been the top swimmer in her class since arriving to Staples and is expected to contribute in the 50-freestyle, 100-free and butterfly. Nicole Brouillet (backstroke) and Ciarra Pucci (sprint freestyle) are two returning juniors who are expected to contribute. Joining the Class '12 is Caroline Valerio, who transferred from Suffield Academy and is expected to make a difference. Michelle Mastriani is the diver in the class and qualified for States last year.

Sarah Cooperman (breaststroke, IM and distance freestyle) leads the sophomore class. Anita Vohra (breaststroke), Patricia Maragos (breaststroke) and Alexis Teixeira (backstroke) also swims for the Class '13 and Lizzie Cope is its diver.

Gabby LeBlanc, Verity Abel and Jocelyn Krim lead a talented freshman class.

"I think we'll be very good by the end of the season," Laux said. "By the time we're in shape, we'll be really good. I like my captains and I'm very enthusiastic about the upcoming season."

Laux' goal is to finish in upper half of FCIAC, top five in Class LL and top 10 at State Open.

"We have a lot of great swimmers and not just freshmen but sophomores and juniors alike," Mafilios said. "If we work hard in practice and listen to our coaches, we'll do well this year.

Loftus said, "We are excited and have a lot of potential. We're hoping for best times. Even though we lost some great swimmers, we have a lot of incoming freshmen and we hope to do well. As a team, we try to push each other."

Nussbaum said, "We're emphasizing conditioning more and we hope it will help us."

The divers are also expected to contribute. Andrews placed sixth in diving at Class LL last year and the five girls who beat her, graduated.

"I'm really excited," Andrews said. "We have four girls, one in each class. We'll have a great season and I'm excited. I'm hoping to have a good season and I hope to finish in the top five at Class LL and top 10 at FCIACs and State Open. The other divers will do great and I hope they will qualify for States."