For Fairfield Warde girls basketball coach Dave Danko, the 2012-13 season seems like a bit of dejà vu.
Danko will enter this season without a senior -- a fact that is troubling to some. But as Danko sets to embark upon his 19th year at the head coaching helm, he sees this differently.
"We're looking at this as a two-year plan for the juniors," Danko said. "It's a learning experience for these guys."
Warde graduated its five senior captains after a 12-9 campaign in 2011-12. Only two regulars-- junior captains Tiara Fountain and Kaitlin McKenna -- return and Danko realizes what seniors bring to the table.
"You can't replace a senior as far as maturity and leadership," he said. "There's something magical about a senior and the effect they have on a team. We're going to be missing that."
Yet with two years to groom talented players for a run at FCIAC and state championships, the squad is reminiscent of Warde's 2007-08 club. That team finished 18-6 and then reached the state finals in 2008-09. The group is also accustomed to winning thanks to an undefeated junior varsity campaign in 2011-12.
"They're going to grow and build confidence," Danko said. "They're coming off a season in which they didn't lose."
Although Danko realizes the FCIAC is tough-sledding to predict such a drastic improvement with an inexperienced squad.
"Teams in the FCIAC are very balanced and competitive," he said. "There are going to be road bumps that we'll have to get through."
Fountain will play as a guard and forward and will be joined by classmates Michelle Treglia, Kenzie Burns and Rachel Maltz. Danko also hopes MaryKate McTague, Carley Strachan and Gabby Howard give the front-court size and toughness.
"We feel like we have good speed and size," Danko said. "We feel we have all the ingredients to get back to the playoffs and keep our streak of 20 straight seasons in the state playoffs alive."
Reaching the Class LL tournament is Danko's goal, but he also appreciates what putting on a show for the Warde fans means.
"We're going to put out an enjoyable, fun product that people will be excited about," he said.