As far as Roy Colsey is concerned, his first season as Ridgefield coach will be all about gaining respect.
And the former All-American at Yorktown and Syracuse is ready to do just about anything to make sure his team gets it.
No, seriously, anything.
We will play anyone, Colsey said. This team does not get the credit it deserves, but that’s okay. We will. This is as good an offensive team as any in the country.”
Colsey is obviously not one lacking in confidence. And who can blame him, really? Ridgefield, No. 7 in the latest LaxLessons Top 25 regional rankings, is loaded this season and could very well be the top dog in the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference and beyond.
Colseys confidence could be construed as arrogance. He is, after all, the new guy and is inheriting a team with as much if not more talent than any south of Syracuse and north of Baltimore. But to be fair and to hear Colsey say it, hes very respectful of Connecticuts standard-bearer, Darien, and its highly successful coach, Jeff Brameier.
Darien is a powerhouse,” Colsey said. “They win the FCIAC seemingly every year. Its like with Yorktown in Section 1. Its them and everyone else. Brameier deserves a ton of credit for what hes done over there.
Which is win 11 FCIAC titles since 1992 and four straight state championships.
Were out to earn respect, Colsey said. Thats the bottom line. Its a bigger honor to win FCIACs than states. Its not like New York, where the state championship is everything. The road here goes through Darien.
And that road should be devoid of potholes considering what Ridgefield has coming back. University of Virginia-bound attackman Matt White is as good a player as any to start with. Hes drawn comparisons to Joe Marasco of Section 1s Somers and gifted junior Kevin Interlicchio of Yorktown, players committed to Syracuse and John Hopkins, respectively. For his money, Colsey said hed take White over both.
Whites game is not to score eight goals in a game, Colsey said in reference to Interlicchios incredible showing against St. Anthonys this past weekend. Hes not as explosive as Marasco, but hes extremely well-rounded. White is the best player on the field at all times. Marasco and Interlicchio are better pure goal scorers, but White is the guy you build a team around.
Luckily for Colsey and unfortunately for his opponents, he doesnt have to worry about building much because Ridgefield also boasts several other offensive stars that are going Division I next season. The list includes: attackman Colin Scott (Denver), middie Brendan Walsh (Fairfield) and middie Matt Baker (Colgate).
And thats not all.
Youd be hard-pressed to find a group as naturally gifted as this one, Colsey said. I have four kids going D-I and three juniors that will probably go D-I as well. When my offense is out there on man-up, I have at least one D-I kid on the bench.
Ridgefields prowess on offense is not lost on Brameier. He said he fully expects Ridgefield to give his defense a serious go when push comes to shove.
I know they are returning a lot of their top guys White, Scott, Walsh. They have their whole attack back and two really good middies. Offensively, they should be very explosive, Brameier said. But we have a lot of teams to worry about before someone we play in May.
Colsey did express some concern over his teams half-field offense and defense. While most everyone will agree Ridgefield will be unstoppable in transition, set offense execution could be a work in progress.
Im a bit nervous about our 6-on-6 offense, Colsey said. We have a lot to do in that regard. They just played street ball last year, a lot of run and gun. There was no method to the madness. There hasnt been a lot of structure in place.
Our defense and goalie are unproven, Colsey added, They are making great strides, getting better every day, but Im not telling anyone anything they dont already know. We may lose games 21-20. There will be shootouts.
Ridgefield opens Wednesday against Bridgeport Central. Its non-conference schedule includes Somers of Section 1, Massapequa from Long Island and New Jersey power Lawrenceville. Oddly, Ridgefields other non-conference game is against FCIAC rival Wilton. The conference is so big, only a certain number of games count in the standings.
Its a shame the Wilton game doesnt count, but of course we wanted to add them and that game will surely prepare us for the FCIAC final four, Colsey said.
While Colsey has some questions about his defense, that is certainly not the case at Darien, a program that has become a household name nationally because of its well-rounded style of play. The No. 2 team in this weeks LaxLessons Top 25, the Blue Wave appear to be no different in 2009 than they have been for the last 20 years. Brameier preached work in progress in his interview with LaxLessons.com, but its hard to argue against his team being the likely favorite to once again win the FCIAC, regardless of the high expectations at Ridgefield.
Theres always somebody good that well have to beat, Brameier said. Wed rather it be like that than have to waltz through it. Thats why we play our tough out of conference schedule against teams like Manhasset and Yorktown and Malverne. Nobody is going to hand us the trophy just because we won the last four state titles.
Even a team as powerful as Darien has concerns. For Brameiers bunch this season, its the prospect of perhaps playing the entire season without its best offensive player, Nikki Dysenchuk. The all-state attackman suffered a torn ACL during football season and may not be available until the county or state playoffs, if at all.
When you graduate kids you expect (some rebuilding), Brameier said. But when you lose a kid like Nikki, its tough. Its disappointing for him not to be able to play, and for us to play without him.
But Brameier appears to have the heir apparent already in place in freshman Case Matheis. The attackman earned rave reviews for his play at the Hand tournament and will be the first freshman to ever start for Brameier in his 26 years at Darien.
Thats a lot of pressure to put on a freshman, but so far hes handled it well, Brameier said.
But Matheis certainly will not be alone as he’ll play alongside Loyola-bound Tyler Foley, as well as middie John Bolton (Lafayette).
Offensive expectations aside, Darien is built from the defense out and it starts with poles Corey Caputo (Hofstra) and Matt Gorski (Ohio State).
Weve had a good learning experience through the preseason. The hard part is you dont play in a lot of situations that matter. But now that the regular season is about to start the excuses end up being a loss, Brameier said. Hopefully, well keep progressing. Theres a lot of question marks. There are a lot of grey areas on offense. Were going to have to wait and see who our go-to guys will be.
The Blue Wave open against Staples today, and will jump right into the thick of their grueling non-conference schedule Saturday when they take on Manhasset, this weeks No. 5 team in the LaxLessons rankings.
Lets not overlook Greenwich in this FCIAC debate as well. The Cardinal have their own incredible offensive player in attackman Jared Horowitz (UPenn), as well as goalie Kyle Feeney (Bucknell) and junior middie Colin Dunster.
Greenwichcoach Paul Burke said he is especially excited about the teams close D unit, led by Tufts-bound John Heard and sophomore Adam Sands.
“I think Heard is going to surprise a lot of people,” Burke said. “He’s been behind a lot of really good defenseman so he didn’t really get a chance to show what he could do. We’re talking about a 6-foot-3 or 6-4 kid who can run.
“Adam is a mean kid already. He has all the tools to become the best defenseman to ever come out of Greenwich.”
On the offensive side, Burke admitted its hard to temper his enthusiasm over players like Horowitz and Dunster.
“Jared is capable of carrying us on his back all year. He’s certainly a different type of player. Ridgefield’s White is a gifted kid and is certainly No. 1 in our conference. Jared is not faster or stronger than most guys, but he does a great job of controlling his body and getting off great shots,” Burke said.
“Colin will be a Division I player. I think he’s most responsible for our one-goal win over Darien last year.”
Burke is also very high on Feeney, who he said, “is probably the best returning goalie in the FCIAC.”
Burke, however, stopped short of saying his team should be considered a favorite in the county. He’s taking more of a wait-and-see approach.
“I’d say we’d be in a group with Wilton and New Canaan, with Darien and Ridgefield a little ahead of us,” he said. “But this team is already showing me they are a lot like the team from 2007 that lost in the Class L state finals.”
It wouldn’t be a preview of the FCIAC without at least some mention of storied programs Wilton and New Canaan. But the truth is both will be feeling growing pains in 2009 and will have a hard time staying with Darien and Ridgefield.
Wilton, with new coach John Wiseman at the controls, has two key pieces to rely on in 6-3, 225-pound three-year starter Joe LaSala at close defense. On offense, the Warriors will be counting on high-scoring attackman Peter McMahon (Bryant).
New Canaan on paper is very young, but has a budding star in sophomore Joe Costigan, who had a goal and an assist against Darien last year in a game the underdog Rams nearly pulled out after trailing big early.
“If you think New Canaan will be a pushover, you obviously don’t know much about their tradition,” Burke said.
So there you have it. Five teams with their eyes on the prize. Will there be a new world order in the FCIAC? Has the “Big 3” been replaced by the “Big 5?”
Probably not, but without question there will be statement games every week.
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