When asked if he expects his team will be competitive in the FCIAC and in the State tournament, head coach Alex Whitten didn't hesitate.

"No, we plan to win them," Whitten said. "That's our M.O. for the year, and that's what we expect to do."

Whitten, who begins his fifth year at the helm, has reason to be optimistic. A solid core of starters from last year's squad, including 19 seniors, will form the heart of this year's team.

The Rams made an impressive run in the state tournament last season, making it to the Class M championship game in which they fell 12-2 to a streaking Wilton squad. New Canaan's last appearance in the state final game was 2008, and their last title came in 2003.

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Wilton, a thorn in New Canaan's side last year, also ousted the Rams 12-5 in the FCIAC quarterfinals.

The Rams finished last season 13-8 overall and 8-2 in the FCIAC.

The team only lost three key senior starters from last year. Chief among them was three-time All-American Joe Costigan, a playmaker on offense, who is now playing lacrosse for the University of North Carolina. Also gone from last year's squad is all-FCIAC goalie Jimmy Joe Granito, who has committed to Loyola, and long-pole midfielder Willie Gould, who has committed to Bryant University.

Co-captain Bobby Distler is chomping at the bit to get the 2012 season underway.

"Everyone's really excited," Distler said. "We have a bunch of good guys coming back, and we're a pretty dominant senior team."

The team will look to Distler, who plays midfield, to win faceoffs and provide an offensive punch. He was out for most of last season with a knee injury and now says "it feels good to be back."

Along with Distler, the team is led by senior captains Tom Carey in goal, Kevin McDonough, who will anchor the defense and Peter Kraus on attack. All three have committed to collegiate programs: Carey (Bryant), McDonough (Penn) and Kraus (Michigan).

The team can also expect fireworks on the scoring attack from senior Matt Blasco who had 58 goals and 21 assists last season. He has committed to play at St. Joseph University next year.

While Whitten remains positive, he does feel the need to instill in the team a sense of urgency.

"This is the year that hopefully we are going to accomplish a lot, so the seniors need to understand the finality of the season," Whitten said. "We have a lot of tough games, and we need to bring our A-game right from the start. If we can stay healthy, we should be OK."

Distler said that attention to details will be important.

"We need to focus on individual goals: Hustling, hitting the cage on our shots, doing well on ground balls," Distler said.

When asked what games he thinks will be big this year, Distler said, "We're excited to get back at Wilton after the matches last year, and Darien is always a fun game. Also, everyone is looking forward to Lawrenceville this year."