When she was younger, Mariah Matheis looked up to her brother Case, now a sophomore at Duke, as a role model. She attended all of his lacrosse games at Darien, where he finished as the program's career leader in points, goals and assists.
Nowadays, Case's little sister is looking to make her own mark on the Darien's girls program that will be seeking its 13th FCIAC and state championship this season. After seeing some action in a non-starting role last season, Matheis will open 2014 alongside fellow junior starter Anna Moorhead and be expected to be more involved in the offense.
"She's a lefty attacker, very dynamic, good vision, has a great shot, team player," Darien coach Lisa Lindley said. "She and Moorhead are my two veteran attackers now."
While the Blue Wave appear to be set at many positions, Lindley's biggest task is finding two other starters to play with Matheis and Moorhead at attack. Among the candidates are senior Julia Black, junior Dani Dunn, sophomores Susie Ropp, Kayleigh Morrill and Schuyler van den Broek and freshman Gabby Noto.
Whoever steps in will have a difficult act to follow, as Darien graduated four all-Americans from last year's team that rolled to the FCIAC and Class L title en route to a no. 10 ranking nationally by Lax Power. Defensively, the team returns seniors Jackie Brokaw and Ellie Bennett, with junior Julia Arrix in midfield alongside Schoen and fellow seniors Emily Stein and Hollis Perticone. Senior Kyra Gardner plans to take over in goal. The four Blue Wave four captains -- Stein, Schoen, Bennett and Perticone -- are chasing a third state championship in their four years. Schoen and Stein will also be seeking back-to-back seasons with All-Americans honors.
Darien is scheduled to open its regular season on Wednesday against Norwalk, but large tests loom immediately afterward including games against New York powers Garden City, Farmingdale, Manhassett and Suffern. The Blue Wave's only loss last season came in overtime against Garden City.
"There's going to be such a learning curve versus playing teams where we destroy people every day," Lindley said. "I'd rather take a loss against a quality opponent than waste my time."
Presently, Matheis has committed to Georgetown, as one of 12 Darien players on the who have announced their college intentions.
Others include Bennett (Dartmouth), Black (Wesleyan), Brokaw (Colby), Perticone (Middlebury), Kelly Karczewski (Amherst), Gardner (Amherst), Dunn (UConn), Caroline Benitez (Florida), Arrix (Villanova), Morrill (Pennsylvania) and Sammi Nielsen (Cornell).