Kate Dawson is hopeful her second year as Fairfield Ludlowe's girls soccer coach is similar to her first.
She'd just like the postseason be more fuitful this season and carry the Falcons a little deeper.
Ludlowe returns 18 varsity players -- including 13 seniors -- from a team that went 10-7-2, reached the FCIAC tournament and won a Class LL state playoff game.
"I think this senior class learned a lot from the seniors before them," Dawson said. "They bonded together and took leadership roles. I'm impressed with the way each and every one handled it."
Despite its successful overall record in 2012, Ludlowe dropped four of its final five games, including an FCIAC quarterfinal at St. Joseph and its season finale at Glastonbury. Both were one-goal losses, and Dawson saw how her club wore down by the season's end.
"I kind of learned that it is a long season," she said. "What's challenging is keeping the level of play consistent for the whole year. It's something I'm focused on this year."
Still, consistency does not necessarily lead to wins in the loaded FCIAC. The Falcons open their season with games against Trumbull, Wilton and St. Joseph -- three teams that defeated Ludlowe in 2012.
"There's no weak team in the FCIAC," Dawson said. "Those are programs we respect, but we have to believe in our potential and not fear anyone."
Despite its veteran leadership, Ludlowe lost four starting defenders, including two-time All-FCIAC first-team defender Ally Doyle. Doyle passed on knowledge to returning stalwart defender Caroline Rooney. Along with Rooney, junior Annie McNamar will offer back-line confidence and experience in front of first-year goalkeeper Suzanne Finnerty.
Up front, Ludlowe will rely on midfielders Krissy Bradley -- a four-year player who will continue her soccer career at Gettysburg in 2014 -- and three-year starter Alex Wyckoff. Each will look to distribute the ball to forward Lindsay Zilling.
With an experienced roster, Dawson is hopeful for improvement from last year's successes.
"We definitely want to build on last year," she said.
"We want to make the FCIAC tournament and make a deep run into the state tournament. We'd like to make it to that next round in the state tournament," Dawson said.