Last season, defense was the key strength of an up-and-coming Ludlowe boys' soccer team that made the FICAC tournament for the first time and advanced to the second round of the CIAC championships.

And this season, defense again is the reason why the Falcons are off to a fast start.

With shutout wins over Darien (3-0), Stamford (2-0) and St. Joseph (4-0) on Tuesday, Ludlowe is off and running.

"It's still early in the year, but I like what I'm seeing," Ludlowe coach Kevin O'Hara said. "The attitude has been fantastic, they've been working hard. We're young, we only have about five seniors but we have a huge junior class, that's the bulk of our team, but we're deep and these kids can play."

En route to a best-ever 13-5-1 record last season, Ludlowe's defense produced 10 shutouts. And with three of its four defenders -- and goalkeeper Mickey Petrini -- all returning this season, O'Hara is excited about what he's seeing early on.

"They're solid back there," he said.

Offensively, Ludlowe doesn't rely on one key scorer to put the ball in the back of the net. Instead, the Flacons have several players who can score.

"We've got two big forwards, both guys, (senior) Matt Doyle and (junior) Michael McArdle, they've got a lot of speed. Our midfield is all juniors but they're very creative and very hard-working. Our offense is spread out, just the way I like it."

Another thing that O'Hara likes is team's experience. Of the 24 players on the roster, 18 saw varsity action last season. But that doesn't mean that there' are no new faces.

"I've got this kid, Matheus (Nascimento) a sophomore, he's stepped up," said O'Hara. "He's a solid back. He didn't play with us last year. And we've got a young man, Tarcio (Almedia) younger brother of our center-midfielder (Tulio Alemdia), he's playing with us and he's a freshman. He can play. The future looks bright for them."

As does the present.

"Our goal is we'd like to do at least one better in everything than we did last year," O'Hara said. "Last year we made FCIAC's for the first time,but got knocked out in the first round, so we'd like to try and get to the second round this year. Then, we lost in the second round of the states, so we'd like to go one more round there."

YOUNG WARDE IS 2-0

The Mustangs, under coach Justin Ottavio, are off to a surprising 2-0 start this season after wins over Central (4-0) and Bassick (5-4).

"As a team, we return only a handful of varsity players from our 2013 campaign," Ottavio said in an e-mail this week. "We have created a very competitive environment at practice, which has accelerated our learning curve. We are young with regards to varsity experience, but we compensate for it well with our pride, unrelenting determination and unity."

That unity was never more evident than in the Mustangs comeback win over Bassick -- a game in which Warde trailed 4-2 at halftime but rallied to win with three second half goals.

"Our game against Bassick was legendary," said Ottavio. "It was nothing less than amazing. Bassick has a very skilled and dynamic striker who scored three goals on us in 25 minutes. We made a very critical adjustment at half and dealt with a lot of adversity to win the game. I was extremely proud of our resiliency, determination and mental fortitude."

Luis Cari and Jason Deck each scored two goals against the Lions and Hunter Rempe added one.

Against Central, goals were scored by Deck, Joey Ciccarelli, Dylan Reilly and Anthony Zarlenga.

Junior goalkeeper Michael Lerman has made 10 saves in the Mustangs' first two games.

"The Central victory provided our young team with confidence," Ottavio said. "We moved on and off the ball well. We maintained possession and dictated the tempo of the game. In the second half, our high-work rate ultimately prevailed, as Central couldn't keep up with our pace."

PREP SPLITS PAIR

The Jesuits stand 1-1, defeating North Haven 3-1 on Monday after falling in their season opener at Guilford 2-1.

N.D. BLANKS 2 FOES

The Lancers, who won just five games last season, have won their opening two matches of the season, starting with a 6-0 win over Law before beating Kolbe 1-0 on Tuesday. Felipe Canzian netted the game's only goal.