A year after failing to qualify for the state tournament for the first time in its history, the Fairfield Ludlowe boys soccer team feels it has much to prove.

"We definitely let some opportunities go by in the middle of the year," Ludlowe head coach Kevin O'Hara said. "It's been brought up in our practices and meetings."

The Falcons fell just one point shy of the Class LL tournament in 2011, and despite losing four seniors, and two more defenders ­-- one apiece to transfer and injury -- O'Hara's confident in his program's talented youth.

"The highlight is our incoming freshman class," O'Hara said. "This is, by far, the strongest class we've ever had."

O'Hara attributes the Falcons' talented underclassmen to the terrific youth soccer programs in town. He says the Falcons will start the year with two freshmen on varsity, and the youth migration could go beyond just the initial pair.

"I'm not a coach who hesitates to move a kid up," O'Hara said. "Do I think it's a strong possibility? Not likely ... it's possible."

Even with some talented first-years, O'Hara will still count on some old reliables. Senior goalie Ryan Arrigio was the Falcons' top-goalkeeper in 2011. He and midfielder Tobias Gimand will be the Falcons' captains.

Mark Dubovskiy and Manuel Barral will join Gimand, manning Ludlowe's midfield.

Junior Jordan Layne will spearhead Ludlowe's defense at sweeper and freshman Richie Bellucci is a highly-touted, albeit young, defender.

Ludlowe's goals are making sure the Falcons' one-year state absence does not become two, and reaching the FCIAC tournament for the first time. O'Hara knows simply qualifying for both tournaments-- especially in soccer-- offers the chance to win the title.

"We've seen No. 8 beat No. 1 or 7 beat 2 in the FCIAC," O'Hara said. "You could say the same about the state tournament too."

ppickens@bcnnew.com; twitter.com/Pat_Pickens

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