WESTPORT—The Staples boys lacrosse team has been on an upward trajectory the past several seasons, highlighted by a 16-4 season in 2016 and an FCIAC playoff win for the first time in school history. A special group of players — most of them who were committed to play in college — have helped elevate the Wreckers into a perennial contender.

Though many of the senior-laden group graduated, the Wreckers will have at least six athletes suiting up next spring as three seniors and three underclassmen have already made a college selection.

Seniors Ethan Burger (Vermont), Tanner Wood (Syracuse) and Billy Hutchison (Colorado College) are all multi-year starters in Staples blue while a juniors Dobson Cooper (Vermont) and Evan Zinn (Johns Hopkins), and sophomore Donny Macaluso (Fairfield) are up-and-coming talents.

McNulty has created a unified force since joining Staples in 2008, and that’s exhibited in recruiting. Hutchison noted that Wreckers graduates and current Tigers teammates Ben Schwaeber and Ross Goldberg helped convince him Colorado College - which went 12-5 last year and reached the Division III NCAA tournament - was a great fit. Hutchison has been a key cog to the Wreckers defense for several seasons and will take on a more important role as the lone returning starter of the group.

"If it wasn’t for (McNulty) bringing us together as much as he has, I don’t think I would have that connection with them and therefore the connection with the school," Hutchison said. "He connects us."

Burger missed all last season with an ACL tear and is eager to return to the field. Burger also sat out the Wreckers football season this fall to continue recovery.

"It’s been tough to watch and not help the team out but I’ve had a lot of fun taking a coaching role helping kids," Burger said. "Now I’m ready to getting back on the field and helping the team out."

Wood and Zinn will join colleges who participated in the national championship tournament in 2016. Syracuse reached the quarterfinals while Johns Hopkins was named in the field of 16.

"It was a great feeling," Wood said. "I had a few other college interests but Syracuse with the coaching staff and facilities they have and the education I can get; I thought it was a great match for myself."

Most lacrosse players receive their offers during showcases that are held throughout the country. The events offer an opportunity to lock up a college spot, but also come with the pressure of needing to perform.

"There’s a lot of pressure because the main reason for those is specifically for recruiting," Burger said. "There’s a lot of added pressure but I think if you just go out, relax and play your game generally it ends up working out."

Staples graduated several college-bound performers from last season’s team, including all three attackers - Goldberg, Connor Chamberlin and Michael Reale. McNulty hopes that his younger group - who he’s helped develop through coaching winter teams and hosting local clinics in town - is ready to take the mantle.

Many of the current Wreckers also assist at the clinics that McNulty hosts.

"When the younger kids see results of the older kids going to off to college, I think that helps," McNulty said. "If you work at it and get good grades you can play somewhere."

rlacey@bccnew.com, twitter.com/ryanlacey11