A standout senior coupled with five strong newcomers give the Fairfield Ludlowe gymnastics team reason to feel optimistic about the season.

Senior captain Dani Pasquarelli, who is approaching 1,000 points, is a returning First Team All-FCIAC and Second Team All-State all-around performer. Pasquarelli is joined by freshman Perry Kindel, who trains at the Darien YMCA and is expected to be Ludlowe's top performer this year.

Two other freshmen, Kelly Kochersterperger and Jordan Feeney train at Gymnastics and Cheer Academy (GCA) in Fairfield and are expected to be at or near Pasquarelli's level and compete as all-arounders.

Last year, the Falcons finished 9-4 in the regular season, took fourth at FCIACs and was eighth at Class M.

"Our goal is to at least bump up to third at FCIACs and move up two spots at states as well," Pasquarelli said. "We go up against good teams and we'll try our best and see how far we can make it."

They will miss 1,000-plus point scorer Sophie Tomeo, who was a First Team All-FCIAC and Second Team All-State selection last year, but Ludlowe, who has 17 girls in the program, 10 on varsity (to go with seven JV girls), is confident the incoming freshmen will more than make up for Tomeo's graduation.

"I think we have a strong team this year," Falcons coach Kim Longobucco said. "We have a lot of new freshmen and they are ready to help. Dani is back and she is just as strong as she was in the past."

Emma Sweet is a balance beam specialist and she is the other senior captain. Sweet also performs on floor exercise. Juniors Holly Eichrodt and Genevieve McNamara also return and train to be all-arounders. Eichrodt scored on the uneven bars and beam at Class M last year and McNamara is especially strong on vault.

Sophomore Anne Moeder is an all-around gymnast. Freshmen Cate Seymour and Charlotte Hill train to be all-arounders and work out at GCA.

"I'm definitely excited about the year," Sweet said. "We have freshmen who will score for us and we'll do better than we did in the past at FCIACs. We have a good support system and we're very encouraging of each other, which helps."

Ludlowe opens the season Jan. 2 at its new facility, GCA, against Trumbull.

"The key for us is this month of practice," Longobucco said. "We have to make sure our routines and sets are on and that we'll be ready in January. We're working on requirements and start values to make sure we get the most out of our routines. It's very exciting and it should be a good year. It's all about staying healthy and making it to February, which is the most important month."