The goal is clear every year for the Fairfield Warde girls basketball team, and that's to add to the streak of qualifying for the CIAC state class tournament. Last year was number 22 in a row for the Mustangs, as they made the grade in Class LL in 2012-13 as the No. 29 seed, but lost in the first round to No. 4 Glastonbury, which advanced to the semifinals.
"We would like to build on that game," said veteran coach Dave Danko, whose team finished at 8-13 last season.
Danko, whose career record is 328-131 entering his 20th season as coach of the Mustangs and Fairfield High School before that, has his entire group from last winter at his disposal. Warde graduated no starters or letter-winners. Senior forward/center Kaitlyn McKenna and senior guard Tiara Fountain earned all-conference recognition a year ago, McKenna as a second-team selection and Fountain as a third-team choice.
McKenna averaged 12.3 points and 10.5 rebounds a game last season and Fountain supplied 9.5, 3.8 assists and 7.5 rebounds per game. Both would like to continue their basketball careers in college. Danko expects those captains to lead the way on the court.
"We have depth at every position," Danko said. The Mustangs' challenge? "We're blending in the youth with an experienced and tested senior class," he said. Warde has eight seniors, one junior, five 10th-graders and four freshmen on the varsity roster.
The Mustangs placed fourth of seven teams in the FCIAC East last winter with a 7-11 divisional record. Warde completed its preseason schedule of five scrimmages and participation in a jamboree on Monday with a visit to Notre Dame-Fairfield.
The competition for the eight playoff berths for the FCIAC tournament could attract 13 strong teams, of which Danko anticipates the Mustangs will be in the mix. "If you stub your toe on any night, you may be looking from the outside in," Danko said. Another goal besides making the states is to get into the FCIACs, which the Mustangs' seniors have yet to do.
The season opened on Wednesday with a home game against Harding, with game No. 2 Friday in Fairfield against Ridgefield at 7 p.m. Danko expects Ridgefield, along with Danbury, Stamford, Westhill, Wilton, Trumbull and Ludlowe to be the cream of the FCIAC this winter. Warde plays host to Ludlowe on Feb. 11 at 6 p.m.