While neither the Fairfield Warde nor Fairfield Ludlowe girls' swim teams can boast strength in numbers as they plunge into the 2014 season, there is optimism at both schools.

Falcons coach Sara Peck and Mustangs coach George Palmgren each has a nucleus of returning swimmers.

"We have talent and strength over a range of strokes this year," Palmgren said in a preseason prospectus sent to the Citizen. "With a robust senior and junior class of swimmers, they will no doubt be great leaders for the younger girls."

Seniors Brittany Pond (50-yard freestyle), co-captain Sapir Shoshan (breaststroke) and Brianna West (backstroke) will be the top swimmers for Warde this season.

Other key performers include junior Victoria Fletcher (500-yard free) and co-captain Emily Christensen.

While he admits that the Mustangs don't have the "numbers" that he'd like -- he lost eight swimmers from last season -- he says that the team is focused and "dedicated to surpassing personal best records both individually and as a team."

LUDLOWE

Over at Ludlowe, Peck says that the team has been "working hard each season to improve, not only as individuals but as a whole team."

The Falcons went 3-6 last fall, but one of those wins came against Warde. Sophomore Hannah Arman (100 backstroke, 100-yard freestyle) qualified for the State Open meet last year in both events and also swam on a relay team in the states.

Another sophomore, Brianna Auray, qualified for the states in the 50-yard freestyle and the 100-yard breaststroke. Freshman Sarah Grinalds a swimmer to keep an eye on, according to Peck.

The Falcons' tri-captains are Cella Blumenfield, Annabelle Wanner and Melanie Albright.

"Our team has been growing in both numbers and talent over the past three years," said Peck, who will be starting her fourth season at Ludlowe.

"The girls are motivated to do well and put in the effort both in and out of the pool. They have a great sense of what it means to be `team players.' I'm very excited to start the season. I'm looking forward to seeing how the team has grown."

Ludlowe opens the season Sept. 12 at St. Joseph.