As such, in an effort to stay positive, such talk can sometimes be lip service.
At Norwalk High, however, second-year coach Mike Surace apparently is not blowing smoke about his program.
Some talented youngsters are rising through the ranks and this is a pivotal year in the future of the Bears program.
Over the past four seasons, Warde has scored 25 goals against Norwalk — three 6-0 victories and a 7-0 win.
This year, the Bears and Mustangs were nil-nil at halftime in a game Warde won 2-0.
“This is the year we set the tone,” Surace said. “This is the year we’re going to be raising some eyebrows. This is going to be the old Norwalk anymore.”
With only three seniors on the roster, Norwalk is young as juniors and sophomores make up the majority of the starting 11.
Senior captains Melissa Guzman, a midfielder, and Imelda Lazaro, the team’s second-year starting goalie, will be in the starting line-up while Caitlin Thibault will bring leadership in a reserve role.
Junior Caila DeGrandi will be at center back (“She’s our rock back there,” Surace said) while junior Jenna Smeriglio will also provide support on defense when she’s not moved up to the field. Clara Lazaro, another junior, will also play defense along with Kaitlyn Troy, a sophomore.
Surace said with just three seniors on his roster, the junior class’s leadership is vital in helping the program turn the corner.
“I’m lucky to have such a fantastic group of very loyal players who work extremely hard in practice,” he said. “They’re leading by example.”
In the midfield, Norwalk is sophomore heavy and, while talented, will be gaining more varsity experience every time out.
Julia Sferlazza headlines the group.
“She’s our playermaker,” Surace said. “Most of our offense runs through her.”
Twin sisters Brenda and Briany Garcia will also see time there while Kailey Kotulsky brings size and physicality to the position. Stephany Escalante, another sophomore, will also see time in the midfield off the bench.
Up top, Kelly Halloran, a junior, will be relied upon to score some goals while freshman Madyson Suda brings in even more young talent.
“We have a lot of talent,” Surace said. “A lot of our sophomores played major minutes last year. We’re ready to make that jump.”
With cross-town rival Brien McMahon also boasting some major young talent, Surace credits two sources with the evolving face of girls soccer in the city.
The first is the Norwalk Junior Soccer Association, which has always produced strong players for the boys teams, but have lacked sending deep girls talent to the city’s high school.
“It’s definitely starting with the NJSA,” Surace said. “Some of the changes and improvements they’ve made have been key.”
Additionally more girls than ever are playing premier soccer year-round and not just joining high school teams in the fall for something to do.
“We have them playing year-round against a big level of competition,” Surace said.
Surace hopes it pays off at Norwalk and changes the fortunes of a struggling program that hasn’t made the state tournament since 2003.