When Connecticut Grizzlies co-founder Steph Calabrese saw Colleen Bannon play for the first time as a rising freshman during the club lacrosse season, Calabrese knew that she had a talented athlete on her hands. What she didn’t know then was what town Bannon was from, or that the duo would spend the next several years working with one another.

“Is that a Darien kid too?," said Calabrese to a Darien assistant at the time. The assistant responded "No, she is (from) Staples, she has some of the best hands I've ever seen." Calabrese agreed.

While the Blue Wave have produced countless Division I standouts over the past two decades, this talented athlete belonged to Westport.

Calabrese — a former Darien and Roanoke College standout — spent the last two seasons as an assistant for Staples, and was recently named head coach of the program. Bannon, now a rising junior midfielder recently committed to Lafayette, has developed into one of the best all-around players in the state.

“Colleen's game sense and field vision is one of the best I have seen in a long time,” Calabrese said. “This is a skill that can't be taught; you either have it or don't. Colleen is able to see two or three passes ahead on offense, she recognizes where she needs to be and where she should be to make things happen off ball as well as when she is feeding.”

Bannon spent most of her freshman season in attack for the Wreckers, and contributed right away. Preferring to set up her teammates, Bannon displayed a playmaking ability well beyond her inexperience.

She then moved back into a midfield role that required her to make plays on both ends of the field, and once again thrived in that role. She guarded many of the top FCIAC players who will be playing at the Division I level, providing invaluable experience in developing her game.

“Her defense to me is unbelievably strong,” Calabrese said. “I think she was put in a situation last year where she had to play midfield instead of just low attack, and she totally destroyed it on her one on one play.”

Regardless of her position, Bannon has excelled at the sport.

“I’ve always loved lacrosse,” said Bannon, who began club lacrosse in fourth grade. “I like the fast pace of the game and I like that’s it a team sport.”

The recruiting process began for Bannon prior to this summer. When the Wreckers were playing Greenwich late in the regular season, Lafayette’s coaches were there to watch senior teammate Amelia Heisler, who had already signed on to join with the team.

They noticed Bannon — who scored twice and added an assist in a 13-8 defeat — right away though, contacted Staples’ coaching staff and soon set up a visit.

Bannon attended a camp in June at the school that all but sealed her decision. After wrapping up her summer commitments with the Grizzlies, she chose the Eastern Pennsylvania school.

“I couldn't be happier and more excited for Colleen to play at Lafayette,” Calabrese said. “Not only do I think she will do incredibly well on the lacrosse field and in the classroom, I see her really being able to extenuate her strengths there.”

Another rising junior, club teammate and Darien’s Anna Stein, will join Bannon at the college. Heisler gave rave reviews of the program but the choice was ultimately Bannon’s.

“I talked a lot with (Heisler); having someone that was going and had the inside scoop was nice,” Bannon said. “I tried to zone out all benefits, though. At the end of the day I wanted to make sure that this was the right school for me. I loved the coaches, they were a big part of the decision.”

Bannon picked up the sport at a very young age as older brother Colin was developing his skills in the backyard. Colin is now a junior at Endicott College after a successful run with the Wreckers.

Bannon will also play field hockey in the fall, and spend the winter at Sono Field House getting ready for the junior season with Staples.

“I think her shot selection will grow and she will have this incredible arsenal of ways to rip goals,” Calabrese said. “I think she is going to develop into a tremendous leader and feel okay with the pressure of putting her team on her back sometimes and having to do more in some games than she did in others.”