Darien boys soccer is making no bones about its plans for 2014.
The Blue Wave wants to make the playoffs and a big, offensive statement along the way.
"At the minimum, we expect to make the postseason," Darien's fourth-year coach Jon Bradley said. "I think we're going to surprise some teams. No one gives us credit each year, which does make it simpler to get on the field and do what we do. I haven't really looked at any other teams to worry about what they do."
An heightened inward focus has been an early theme of the team's preseason, given the self-reported struggles the Wave had with maintaining a productive attitude last season. The record books show a 7-7-2 campaign for Darien in 2013, which culminated in a second-round state tournament loss to No. 11 Daniel Hand. But according to current team co-captain John Mackie that final mark could've been much higher.
"It's a lot about the effort and the attitude of the team," Mackie said. "I think in past years we've struggled in that category and we've really got to work on focusing all our energy towards soccer and working towards our goal because I know if we do that, with the team we have, we can really have a successful season; one we haven't had in the past few years."
Furhtermore, if the Wave is to surge to a winning season, it will also most certainly be on the back of its potent offense.
"We're also really excited to have a strong attacking team this year," senior co-captain Michael Maccarone said. "We're excited to push up the field and score a lot of goals."
Senior co-captain Henrick Stockinger returns to work the center of the field for his third consecutive season, though the team may be without another key player in forward Kai Bjornstad. Bjornstad suffered a foot injury against Blind Brook (N.Y.) in a scrimmage on Wednesday, the severity of which has yet to be fully determined.
Overall, though, Darien feels ready to reach the heights it did in Bradley's first two seasons at the helm, when the program notched 10 victories and then nine. The Wave's first crack at forcing the FCIAC to take notice again will come on Tuesday in its season opener under the lights at Fairfield Ludlowe. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. Further down on its schedule, the Darien captains have circled a rare match with Greenwich.
"We don't play Greenwich that much. We didn't play them last year, and they usually have a strong team," Maccarone said. "So we're definitely looking forward to that."
Should the Blue Wave achieve a win total akin to Bradley's early years, it could make the FCIAC tournament for the first time in 2011 and truly create some noise. As always, time will ultimately tell. But for now, Darien feels the cupboard is more than full enough to cook up a special season.
"We definitely have the individual talent," Stockinger said. "I think the main thing is we have to work together as a team, stay disciplined. We just need to work hard, and it will all come together."
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