The New Canaan boys swim team is back with a title to defend in the 2011-12 season: The Class M State championship. And, by the sounds of things, the Rams seem intent on adding another championship trophy to the mantle.

"Looking at the team now, I know we're ready to work hard. We're definitely going to attack that State meet and try to win it," captain Austin Wolff said. "A lot of the guys are really pushing it, which is something the team likes to see. When it comes down to those meets, the extra effort is what really gets you to the top."

New Canaan's practices are just under way, but several team members mentioned that the Rams have added a good amount of new faces for the 2011-12 season (six incoming freshmen and three first-year upperclassmen swimmers).

For ninth year coach Jason Paige, having greater numbers can help for a variety of reasons.

"It's definitely good to have more guys on the team. This team has come a long way and I've seen us with teams this size before, I've seen a team with no freshman class and I've seen a team very slim on numbers," Paige said. "So, right now to have these bodies in here will help us push in practice. We only have so many spots to fill when it comes to meets, so if people want those spots, they're going to have to work for them."

More Information

Fact box

New Canaan won last year's Class M State championship by scoring 567.5 points, comfortably ahead of second place Darien's 517.5 points. According to several swimmers, entering the 2011-12 season as the defending Class M champs should only sharpen the team's focus as it gets ready to defend its title.

"This is the first year that we've had a big increase in the number of kids that joined the team, which will add a lot of depth to our lineup. Having more bodies is always better," captain John Santoro said. "I think teams will be gunning for us. Last year, we edged out Brookfield and they're going to be very strong, but I definitely think we can be repeat champions."

"They're all looking good; they're here to work hard. They know that this is a championship-caliber team," captain Ian Robert said. "We're here to win. We're looking to defend what we've been holding on to for the past 10 or so years. We've got to maintain the tradition."

New Canaan turned in an impressive finish in last season's 53-team State Open, claiming fourth place with 306 points and finishing behind only Greenwich (388), Darien (321) and Ridgefield (312).

The Rams face a stiff challenge right off the bat, opening their season by traveling to face Darien on Dec. 14 at 3 p.m. Other critical FCIAC matchups include Greenwich, Westhill/Stamford co-op and Staples.

"Darien, of course, will be one of our most exciting dual meets," Santoro said. "Also, Westhill/Stamford is going to be really exciting."

Winning back-to-back championships of any kind is no small task, but Paige and company are looking forward to the challenge.

"We're looking at what we have coming back, we're looking at what we have that's come in and we're trying to figure out what kind of a shot we have to defend our title," Paige said. "It's not going to be easy. It's definitely going to take a season's worth of preparation to get ready for it."