Staples prep for FCIAC showdown
It is a tale as old as time. A song as old as rhyme. No, not “Beauty and the Beast.”
But the FCIAC tournament season.
Although the classic animated film recently received a live-action revamp, each spring as the weather begins to warm up - teams across the top conference in Connecticut prepare for a slugfest unlike any other.
As the school year prepares to come to a close, a slew of Staples teams are focusing on a conference championship against some of the toughest competitors that the state can offer.
The classic strategy of “survive and advance” rings out true on the road to the title. For several Staples teams, entering the tournament playing well it is as critical to success as preparation.
“A lot of teams in April and March start out 9-0,” Wreckers’ baseball coach Jack McFarland said. “But we want to play our best ball in May and June and that’s how we’re feeling we’re doing it right now.”
Staples baseball team was hovering somewhere in the middle of the pack about two weeks ago in the FCIAC standings, but after some big wins - including a walk-off win against Ridgefield - McFarland’s squad finds themselves in position to lock up a No. 2 seed going into tournament play.
While the Wreckers - and the rest of the conference - await for a final decision on the protest between Danbury and Wilton for final seeding results, getting to this point for Staples has been a direct commentary on the upperclassmen.
“We got great senior leadership,” McFarland said. “It’s really what’s carrying us.”
But the baseball team isn’t the only ones that are going into the conference tournament red-hot.
Both Staples’ girls and boys’ tennis are undefeated and each sit pretty atop the state standings, respectively.
The winning ways are infectious in Westport and building the right bit of momentum to compete against the gauntlet that will test the fortitude and the skill of each player and coach, both mentally and physically, can push a team over the top — which is why going into FCIAC’s riding a win streak can’t hurt things at all.
While the baseball and tennis teams have maintained a consistent level of play toward the end of the season, Wreckers boys lacrosse have pushed their way into the conversation in the FCIAC tournament.
Despite the freight train that nationally-ranked Darien has been through the entirety of the season, Paul McNulty’s team seems to have hit their stride at the perfect time.
Fighting back from several crushing defeats this season - most notably a double-overtime loss to New Canaan - the boys lacrosse team has continued to show the mental grit and fight it would take to possibly pull the upset over Darien come tournament time.
Riding a four-game, in-state winning streak entering postseason play - Staples dropped an out-of-state matchup to St. Anthony’s (N.Y.) last weekend - the Wreckers have clawed and grind their way to a favorable position in the standings -- thanks largely in part to the offensive explosions against Brien McMahon, Stamford, and Westhill.
“We’ve had some close losses this year,” junior Evan Zinn said. “Those have given us some energy and we want to come into playoffs, make a push, and get past the first round like last year.”
Regardless of the outcome, getting to the conference tournament for all the teams at Staples is an achievement. It is a completed goal toward an even loftier one later down the road -- a state title.
But the focus, determination, and toughness it will take to be the last team standing will be paramount in both the conference and state tournament.
It will take experience and exercises in perseverance to continue on through the tournament that will be a testament to the teams, the players, and coaching staffs.
So enjoy the ride and play hard because when the dust clears in the FCIAC — it may not be a tale as old as time.
But it still will be an amazing story to tell.