The New Canaan girls tennis team has quite the act to follow in 2012. But, for the matter, the same could have been said for 2011.

That's because the Rams have gone undefeated the past two years and have captured a state title in eight consecutive seasons. 2011 was New Canaan's first as a Class L team, but the move up didn't prevent it from again going unbeaten and wearing the FCIAC and state crowns.

Despite the increasingly high expectations, rookie head coach Erin Gildea believes her team is a in a good position as it begins its quest to stay on top.

"I think it's always great when you're coming off of a successful season; it's good for the program and it's good for the school," said Gildea, who takes over for the retired Gail Overbeck and is also the school's field hockey coach. "They have a lot of experience in the postseason, which is valuable, but it's also a pressure cooker as the defending FCIAC and state champions."

Experience is indeed working in New Canaan's favor, as the Rams return six of their 10 starters from last season's unbeaten squad.

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"I think we definitely like [being the defending champions] because it keeps us motivated," senior captain and doubles player Phoebe Wilks said. "Having been the best, it only makes you want it even more."

Senior captain Courtney Gallagher will lead the charge as New Canaan's top singles player.

"It's been really exciting winning it all, but it's also a little nerve-wracking because there's pressure to keep it up. It's definitely a challenge," Gallagher said. "I think we'll pull it out. We're working harder this year than any other year."

Gallagher will be followed by Jensen Lee at No. 2 singles, Kate Howard at No. 3 and Emily Brand at No. 4. Emma Gruber may also be in the mix for some varsity singles action.

"We lost two of our top three singles players [Kate Mannelly and Caitlin Gallagher], but I think we are really going to surprise some people," Gallagher said. "We've been doing a lot of fitness, and it's really helping us out."

Gildea indicated that she has selected her three doubles teams but that she does not know which team will play first, second and third doubles. The three doubles tandems are Wilks and Amanda Merjian, Sara Greene and Kristin Laub and Jacqueline Millisits and Tyler Kendall. Caroline Pratt and Giuliana Savini may also see some time at doubles.

"The singles we have pretty much set. That was a little bit clearer coming in as far as who could fill those spots," Gildea said. "As far as doubles goes, it's kind of a big task considering we have three brand new teams and we've had to partner them up."

New Canaan's season gets underway with a road contest against Fairfield Warde on Tuesday, April 10 at 4 p.m.

The Rams also sound like they're not taking any of their FCIAC counterparts lightly.

"We always have great matches with Greenwich. All the FCIAC teams are looking strong this year," Wilks said. "We play with girls on other teams over the winter, so we know some of their strong players."

jchik@bcnnew.com