What's the secret to the success of the New Canaan girls golf team? Head coach Dave Fine thinks the formula relies on playing as well away from New Canaan Country Club as the team does at the friendly confines off of Route 123.

While there are a few girls golf programs that have made the ascension to success in the FCIAC, many of them don't often have as much fortune when a match involves having to hop on a team bus beforehand.

"Course familiarity," Fine said. "We take pride in the fact we play just as well away as we do on our home course. Other teams are an entirely different team at home than away. Greenwich, for example, puts up their best rounds every year at the Grif (Griffin Country Club). Then they'll come away to New Canaan and shoot 200, while they'll shoot 190 at home."

With the exception of Woodway Country Club -- in Darien -- the New Canaan girls seldom play any other course outside of the Country Club of New Canaan from April to September. There is something to be said for adaptability to different courses; the local links have different landscapes and are very challenging for golfers at every level.

So with that question answered, how will the Rams program -- which has just one loss in the past three seasons -- continue its dominant ways and go on without Laura Valk, the All-State talent who led the Rams to titles in recent years?

"Even though we did lose Laura," said Fine, "with what we make up with the girls progressing and where we last year, we will be OK."

Bridget Maguire and Emily Milano, both seniors, will be asked to carry the weight of one of the most successful programs at the high school. The co-captains will be flanked in the starting lineup by senior Amy Paturzo, who has some experience as well, as she played in states last year.

Fine also dropped this grenade on the rest of the conference.

"I think our consistency across the board is going to be better than it has been in the past. Emily, Bridget and Amy have played varsity for three years. Emily and Bridget have played in the FCIACs and states for two years. We've won the FCIAC two years in a row and won a state match. They know what it takes to be the best. They've been there before, know what this program has become and are going to be able to get these (younger) girls ready. We can be just as good this year."

There are plenty of unknown "weapons," if you will, on this year's team. But there is a name that's been synonymous with winning. New Canaan golf isn't done with the Loop family yet: Christina Loop, a junior, is also a part of this team. She'll try and steal a spot from Bridget O'Leary and/or Alana Patterson.

The Rams lost practice time last week due to Spring Break, which came during the worst week imaginable; the weather was so nice, the golf teams rarely get such luck every single day in practice leading up to the season.

"The girls usually go away on vacation because I don't like to keep them here; you never know what the weather's going to be like," Fine said. "The first two weeks they got out there, saw a little bit of the nice weather, but not like [last] week."

Within the conference, the Rams will be expected to blaze the trails yet again, but it's now become a more balanced league. Girls golf still isn't played at every FCIAC school, but the ones who have put in a decade's worth of work into their programs are now seeing players who are not only good, but ones that can and are seeking opportunities at the next level.

"The competition this year is much, much stronger than the competition has been in the past," Fine said. "Since I've been coaching there's been three or four or just really two teams at the top and then the rest kind of were a little bit of a pushover. Now, you know, all of these teams have solid players and are really progressing."

Still, once again, Rams girls golf is atop the FCIAC. That feeling never seems to go away.

Feels like home.