Jason Stock may be new to the South-West Conference, but the new New Milford High School girls soccer coach is well aware of how tough of a challenge his team faces in defending its conference crown.

With a solid group returning from its championship run a year ago, the Green Wave will likely be in the title hunt again this fall. But successfully navigating the SWC minefield — in which almost every team is a contender and every game a grueling battle — is never an easy task.

“The expectations are pretty high just because of the level they’ve been at before,” Stock said. “I’m very excited about it, because hopefully we can continue to progress in that, and to get even better.

“It’s always going to be a tough conference because there are so many good schools in it,” Stock continued. “Our goal is to go ahead and hopefully win the SWCs again, but it’s not an expectation. We’re striving to achieve it. Every game is a tough one in this conference, and I’m really looking forward to that.”

Stock, who follows Greg LaCava at the helm, had previously coached the girls team at Lewis Mills High School in Burlington and guided the 2013 Spartans to an undefeated run through the Berkshire League before falling to Weston in the second round of the Class M state tournament. The Spartans out-scored their opponents 108-9 in 2013, Stock’s final season at the controls.

Among those returning from last year for the Green Wave are senior goalkeeper Colleen Lynch, senior forwards Jenna Barron and Monica Baxter, senior back Jenna DiCandido and junior midfielder Elizabeth Swanson.

“We have a good majority of the team coming back, which is always a good thing,” Stock said, “and there are some good new players coming up.”

Barron and then-senior Rachel Weir each scored a goal in the second half in last year’s SWC final, a 2-1 Green Wave triumph over top-seeded Masuk one year after the Wave had lost in double-overtime in the conference championship game to Pomperaug.

Lynch, of course, earned the win in goal in last year’s final, making four saves and coming up big in the second half as the Wave overcame an early 1-0 deficit. She also pitched a shutout in the Wave’s victory over Weston in the semifinals.

Stock is happy to have her as the Wave’s last line of defense.

“She’s a great player,” he said. “It’s nice to have a good ‘keeper in there, a safety net in the back for us.”

Once the regular season begins, Stock will find out quickly how his team matches up against the other SWC contenders — because the Wave plays a bunch of them right in a row.

New Milford is scheduled to open the season Friday on the road against Immaculate, the reigning Class L state champion. Then comes a home showdown with Pomperaug on Tuesday, a rematch on the road with Masuk on Sept. 17, a home matchup with Barlow on Sept. 21 and a visit to Newtown — the Wave knocked the Nighthawks out of the Class LL state tournament last year on penalty kicks — on Sept. 24.

“It’ll be an interesting start, a trial by fire,” Stock said.

A trial by fire, indeed.

Welcome to the SWC.

rgregory@newstimes.com