There's some bad news for the Class M high school girls tennis teams from around the state.

Sure, the New Canaan Rams may have lost a few key players to graduation and a sport switch, but the Rams have not only won eight of the last nine M titles, they also welcomed back their top player, who was not a part of the last two championships.

Tina Tehrani, a senior who won the individual state tournament as a freshman before missing a bulk of her sophomore year due to injury, and who participated in tourneys outside of the team to improve her ranking during her junior year, is back on the roster.

"It's really firms up our singles roster. It's pretty strong," coach Gail Overbeck said during a late preseason practice.

Gone are graduates Lauren Ambler, who played in the No. 2 singles spot, and the No. 3 doubles tandem of Jen Popper and Kate Dewaele. Half of last year's No. 3 doubles pair, Kristen O'Haver, switched over to the track team.

Most of the singles lineup is back in place and, on paper, looks as strong as ever. Tehrani steps back into the top singles spot and junior Kate Mannelly, who proved to a top-notch No. 1 singles player as a sophomore, will shift to the No. 2 position and likely stands to have even more success this spring. Caitlin Gallagher and Courtney Gallagher, junior and sophomore, respectively, return to the bottom of the singles rotation.

The Rams' top doubles tandem, Alyssa Baker and Kimmy Glerum -- which went unbeaten last year until falling in the individual state tourney championship -- returns.

"There is pressure," Baker said. "We want to take it all the way this year."

The other doubles positions were up in the air as preseason winded down this past week. Regardless of how the lineup shakes out, the coach is confident her team will again be a force in the state and challenge for an FCIAC crown.

"Barring injuries we should be pretty strong I would think," said Overbeck, whose captains are Baker and Tehrani.

The Rams went 21-2 overall a year ago. They fell in the FCIAC finals to Greenwich for the second year in a row in one of the closest, most competitive matches between the two schools in the history of the rivalry. The Rams have won the FCIAC East division a dozen straight years, but as successful as the Rams have been in their division, they have not ruled the FCIAC since a 2006 championship.

"We need an FCIAC championship. Those are tough to come by," Overbeck said. "The FCIAC's the one that's pretty elusive."

In addition to Greenwich, Darien, Staples, Fairfield Ludlowe and Wilton are among tough conference teams to watch for.

The Rams, as has been the case for all of the local teams, had limited nice weather in preseason before things finally cleared up days before the season started. But Mother Nature didn't completely get in the way of the Rams as they prepared for the season.

"If it's not raining, you're out there, whether you need gloves or not," Overbeck said.

"I'm always excited for the tennis season, and even more-so this year. We have some of the best talent I've seen," Baker said.

With the return of Tehrani, this team could be as dominant as any in the past decade.