For the most part, in sports, teams are competing against other teams. In the case of individual sports, such as golf, the athletes are, in effect, competing with themselves and the course. For New Canaan High School's girls' golf team, the courses will be the "competition" the Rams will focus on this spring.

New Canaan lost all five of its golfers from the varsity lineup from a year ago, as four graduated and one opted not to return. Everyone teeing off for the Rams in 2011 is new to the varsity greens and fairways, meaning expectations are not high for winning success from match to match.

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But the girls have plenty to play for -- and not just improving their personal games. The basis for qualification for the state tournament is course differential, meaning that win or lose, the Rams can work their way toward the postseason by "beating the courses." The teams with the top 15 course differentials in the state qualify, regardless of records.

"If we can get that differential and get into states I think our season is going to be an entire success," coach David Fine said.

Even if the Rams don't get into that top 15 mix, the season can still be a success of sorts given that the up-and-coming Rams are all freshmen, sophomores and juniors and can develop their games as they look toward the future.

Without seniors, the team has what Fine calls "CIT's," or captains in training. The Rams are led by juniors Krissy Parrett, Chloe Davis and Amanda Chin, all of whom have experience from the junior varsity team, along with Kate Gilhool, who joins the squad after playing lacrosse and tennis in each of her first two high school spring campaigns. Sophomores Gabbie Balzano and Bridget Falcone are among the other golfers on a roster of 11 whom Fine expects big things from sooner or later.

New Canaan was sixth in the state a year ago, and lost Emily Milano, Bridget Maguire, Amy Paturzo and Elana Patterson to graduation. Senior Christina Loop did not return to the team.

"It's all wide open. We've got a clean slate," Fine said. "We don't really have an expectation up front."

The coach added that qualifying for the State tourney would be a nice thing just for the girls to get some playoff experience.

Tough competition in the FCIAC includes some of the best golfers in the state, such as those from Greenwich, Fairfield Warde, Trumbull and Darien.

"Everybody in the FCIAC has the ability. All of these other teams have the ability to do well," Fine said.

With no pressure or expectations to speak of, the Rams have some things going for themselves this spring.

"It really gives an opportunity for them to take chances in situations and find themselves as the golfer they are -- to find their own game and explore that," Fine said.

"They have a lot of talent. They all have the ability to be as great as any of the talented girls we've had in the past," the coach added. "We really have a lot of potential for the future."

"We're going to try to do the best we can this year. I think the expectation is really to build the experience."