Justin Ottavio's Fairfield Warde boys soccer team rarely struggles with a senior-laden group.

This year, the Mustangs return 16 from a squad that reached the state tournament in 2012. Of those 16, 14 are seniors, meaning the Mustangs should be poised to compete with the FCIAC's big boys.

"We look to be extremely competitive this year," Ottavio said. "Collectively, [Warde's senior class] is a driven and determined class, looking to etch its name into Warde's record books."

Those seniors are experienced but also have lived through the highs and lows. Mike Foley, a returning senior defender, is back for his fourth season on varsity; his first was the magical 2010 campaign that culminated in an FCIAC runner-up trophy and a Class L quarterfinal appearance.

Jack Mappa and James Baldwin will be the captains for the Mustangs this year, with each entering his third year as a varsity player.

Though Warde has not reached the FCIAC tournament since falling to Staples in the conference championship three years ago -- it has not posted a winning season since 2010 -- Warde has endured a pair of excruciating 1-0 state tournament losses in the past two years. Warde fell in the Class LL first round in 2012 to second-seeded Amity by the narrowest of margins to finish with a final record of 6-9-2.

Such is the nature of soccer, but Ottavio believes his squad will play more like the 2010 team than it did during the past two seasons.

"Our bench is deep, and our determination is unrelenting," Ottavio said. "We hope to play long into November."