Make no mistake: The New Canaan girls soccer team is seeking championship trophies to add to the New Canaan High School mantle in 2012.
And with a varsity roster predominantly made up of seniors and juniors, all of whom bring one more year of experience and the familiarity of playing with one another for several years, the Rams may have as good of a chance as any team in the FCIAC to turn this dream into a reality.
"We definitely want to come together as a team and work together to be able to get to states and FCIACs and go on to win both. And hopefully we'll have a good time while doing that," said Abigail Sawabini, captain and forward/center-midfielder. "We've got a lot of players who can make good passes, can shoot and can do all the things that we're going to need to do on the field. I'm impressed by our passing."
The Rams believe team chemistry will be critical if they are to reach their preseason goals of an FCIAC and/or state crown.
"Our main goals are to make it to the FCIAC and state finals, and even be undefeated. We're a very close-knit group so I think that'll help," said Kelly Armstrong, captain and defender. "We want to score more goals. We've had some trouble scoring goals, but I think this year we'll definitely have an easier time."
After witnessing his team post a regular season record of 12-2-2, good for second best in the FCIAC in 2011, fourth year coach Kirk Bamford sees no reason why his team shouldn't again be among the very best in the conference.
"I think you've got to give yourself goals at the start of the season," Bamford said. "We've been competitive over the last couple seasons, and there's no reason we can't be competitive again. I think it's a realistic goal and that the girls are looking forward to the challenge."
Tuesday was only the second official practice, but Bamford has liked what he's seen so far.
"We're working hard. The girls have had a good preseason, and they've come in strong and ready to go," Bamford said. "I'm very encouraged by what I've seen so far right through the program."
In 2011, these Rams posted two separate winning streaks of four and eight games. Unfortunately, the latter streak ended at an inopportune time at the hands of No. 7 Fairfield Warde, which upset No. 2 New Canaan in the first round of the FCIAC tournament.
As the No. 7 seed in the Class LL state tournament, New Canaan regrouped to win two contests (2-0 in overtime against No. 26 Middletown and 2-0 over No. 23 Hamden) before a 3-0 loss to No. 18 Trumbull in the quarterfinals brought the season to a close.
"Every season we set the bar higher than last season," said Anna Borea, captain and center-midfielder. "We're just going to keep moving forward. Hopefully we'll make it to the FCIAC finals and state finals. Every game counts."
As is usually the case with any high school team prior to the start of the season, the Rams have several players vying for starting roles, but according to Sawabini, that should only strengthen the team in the long run.
"It keeps the team competitive and makes every player earn their spot on the field which will make us a better team," Sawabini said.
Some highlights of New Canaan's 16-game regular season schedule include opening day at home against Greenwich at 4 p.m. on Sept. 12, a home rematch with Fairfield Warde at 7 p.m. on Sept. 19, a trip to Darien at 4 p.m. on Sept. 27 and a home tilt on Senior Night against St. Joseph at 6 p.m. on Oct. 19.
Although all three captains stressed the importance of winning every game in the always competitive FCIAC, they indicated that there were one or two clashes that the Rams were especially excited to get underway.
"Darien is a rival of ours and also Greenwich and Westhill, but every game matters so we have to win them all," Sawabini said.
"Greenwich. The first game it will be exciting just to see how we all come out and play, and they're a big rival of ours anyway, so it'll be a good game," Armstrong said. "We have a bunch of hard workers. I think it all just needs to come together. Everyone's excited to get the season rolling."