Pitch Perfect: Unbeaten Ludlowe Boys Soccer Team Eyeing Top Seed In FCIAC Playoffs

Ludlowe goalkeeper Fred Meagher is congratulated after Friday's 2-1 win over Staples. (Photo: Lauren Price)
Ludlowe goalkeeper Fred Meagher is congratulated after Friday’s 2-1 win over Staples. (Photo: Lauren Price)

FAIRFIELD — Quick quiz: name the lone FCIAC boys soccer team that is still unbeaten.

Greenwich? Lost twice. Staples? It has been injury-ridden and is battling to qualify for the league playoffs.

Norwalk? Good guess, but the Bears were taken down for the first time by Greenwich on Monday.

Give up? The answer is Fairfield Ludlowe, which is currently 10-0-3 and, with its last three games against teams under .500, positioned to finish as the regular season champion and No. 1 seed in the FCIAC Tournament.

That would be quite an accomplishment for a program on the upswing and looking to make runs at the top spot an annual occurrence.

It also would come attached with some baggage.

“I never thought we would still be undefeated,” admitted Kevin O’Hara, the Falcons’ coach. “I did think we had a very good team. But we are still getting used to playing high-pressured games.”

Matt Doyle is one of the veterans key to the Falcons' success. (Photo: Lauren Price)
Matt Doyle is one of the veterans key to the Falcons’ success. (Photo: Lauren Price)

Being a consistently elite program means winning the important games, something O’Hara and his players admit is a work in progress.

Last year the Falcons were 12-3-1, the best regular season record in team history. But they were eliminated by Stamford in the first round of the league playoffs and by Danbury in the second round of the state playoffs. O’Hara said though his team was the surprise of the FCIAC a year ago, he thought it should have had a little more staying power.

Though Ludlowe was hit hard by graduation losses, there were still a number of experienced players coming back, led by a particularly strong junior class.

“This all started last year,” O’Hara said. “We’ve been very involved with the youth programs in town the last six or seven years and last year’s senior class in the first one that went all the way through it. Now we are starting to see more kids come through the program.”

An aspect of the Falcons’ maturity was on display Friday afternoon at home against Staples. After the Wreckers broke a scoreless tie in the second half, Ludlowe answered with two goals for the win.

“As soon as (Staples) scored they didn’t sink, they got fired up,” O’Hara said.

The Falcons have conceded just eight goals so far, with seven shutouts. Against the teams that would be in the league playoffs if the season ended today, they are 4-0-2 — they don’t face either Greenwich or Wilton.

Ludlowe goalkeeper Fred Meagher after making a save late in the win over Staples. (Photo: Lauren Price)
Ludlowe goalkeeper Fred Meagher after making a save late in the win over Staples. (Photo: Lauren Price)

“We’re doing really well playing as a team,” said senior Lorin Tobey, the skilled center back who has been sidelined the past six games with an ankle injury. “We are winning the 50-50 balls. We came into the season with high expectations.”

The way this season is shaping up, the postseason should be wide open. Academy soccer has helped level the playing field. And there is greater parity this fall than at any time in recent memory.

Consider the Falcons’ first round opponent as of today would be Wilton, which was a card-carrying member of the undefeated club until two weeks ago, and is 1-4 since. All four losses were by one goal.

Seedings may be of lesser consequence this year than most; the team that summons the most consistency during the playoffs will take home the title. The word “upset” may not apply to lower seeds sending home higher ones.

The Falcons want to make sure their hard work over the past month is rewarded.

“We came in wanting to get farther than last year,” said Matt Doyle, the midfielder who is having another big year. “We want to use that playoff experience from a year ago and extend it.”

Ludlowe won’t be sneaking up on any unsuspecting opponents this year. It is now a team that is targeted, and must adapt to the challenge.

“I’d like to think we’re starting to get a name,” O’Hara said. “We have very technical, very skilled players and they work hard. The kids are dynamite. They learned a lot from last year’s seniors. I’m excited to see what happens.”

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