Ten months after the Darien girls lacrosse team fell to Greenwich, 11-9, in the semifinals of the Division I state tournament, Lisa Lindley is taking a down-to-earth view of the season ahead.
The veteran coach is concerned about a brutal schedule as Darien takes on four New York powerhouses outside its FCIAC schedule — Garden City, Farmingdale, Manhasset and Suffern. The Blue Wave also faces Connecticut prep school power Loomis Chafee.
"We have a really, really hard schedule this year, so I don't anticipate us winning more than half our games," Lindley said. "If we do, I think that's a bonus, but realistically I don't think we will."
Lindley may not get much sympathy from the other FCIAC coaches. This is a program that has won 10 state and FCIAC championships.
Even though the Blue Wave were denied a fourth consecutive state title a year ago, they still finished 15-5. Like the boys, Darien generally reloads instead of rebuilding.
The Blue Wave are young, but they do return eight players from last year's team. Despite Lindley's apparent pessimism, Darien boasts a solid senior nucleus, led by attackman Ellie Bullitt, who is headed to the University of Massachusetts in the fall, and goaltender Claire Dickson.
The other seniors include midfielder and co-captain Emma Getsinger, defender and co-captain Emma Tuzinkiewicz, attackman Parker Schram, defender-midfielder Trisha Vossler, and defender Olivia Taylor.
"I'm really pumped," Getsinger said. "I think our team is looking really good, improving every day. I think we're excited to play the big rivals like New Canaan and Greenwich and Wilton and the out-of-state teams."
Darien will get a chance to avenge the tournament loss to Greenwich when they host the Cardinals on April 23.
That completes a six-game stretch in which Darien hosts Suffern (season opener, April 9), visits New Canaan (April 13), hosts Loomis Chafee (April 16), then plays on the road at Manhasset (April 18) and Wilton (April 21).
"I think we're going to have a great season," Tuzinkiewicz said. "There's a lot of younger girls on the team, which is exciting, and there's a lot of girls that will be filling starting positions."
"We've been having great practices, everyone has been hustling to every ball. We've been working on some new offensive plays and defensive systems, which are really going to be helpful," she added.
Lindley does see one benefit from the tough schedule: it should better prepare the Blue Wave for postseason play.
"I think playing these hard opponents will help us be ready for the postseason and I think that's always a positive," she said. "Realistically, this team is probably about a year away from being really elite."
Due to the popularity of girls lacrosse, the CIAC expanded the state tournament to now include three divisions — Class L, M and S — as opposed to just Division I and II.
Darien is in the 27-team Class M division with FCIAC schools Fairfield Warde, New Canaan and Wilton. Greenwich, a bigger school, was placed in Class L.