To be the best you've gotta ... well, you know. The New Canaan High School girls lacrosse team is among the best teams in the FCIAC. In an effort to tune up for postseason battles, the Rams, instead of relying on the few tough conference rivals they have to prepare them, turn to non-FCIAC competition.

Last year, the Rams lost to FCIAC foes Darien and Wilton and narrowly defeated Greenwich, but had their way with every other conference opponent, winning regularly by double-digits.

The Rams went 13-3 in the regular season, with one of those losses coming to Yorktown, N.Y., and were runners-up in both the FCIAC and Division I state playoffs.

This year, the Rams will host non-conference foe Glastonbury on April 15, take on Loomis Chaffee (at Yale on April 17), and again face Yorktown (a home game on April 24). New Canaan was also to have scrimmaged Shoreham-Wading River, N.Y., in a preseason battle.

"The out-of-conference games are going to be helpful for the states and FCIAC," New Canaan coach Kristin Wood said.

As will those contests with Darien (season opener on the road on April 9), Greenwich (home on April 27) and Wilton (away on May 6). The Rams, along with the aforementioned top-notch FCIAC schools, are expected to be among the better teams in the conference yet again, but the Rams do have some holes left by key graduates to fill, particularly on offense.

They lost five graduates: Jenny Simpson (University of New Hampshire), Veronica Lizzio (Cornell), Meg Bolan (Tufts), Hayley Dray (Southern Methodist University) and Brittany Harshburger. Among those graduates were three key cogs in the offense.

"Defensively, we return a majority of our starters. Offensively, we're definitely going to miss our three graduates," Wood said.

"Obviously, that's a huge dent in our offense," said senior captain Anjalie Christie, an attack player who will look to help pick up the slack on the opponent's side of the field.

Casey Pippitt (midfielder) and Erin Fessler (defender) are also captains on this year's team. Other key players include senior defenders Betsy Hart and Shelby Barada, senior attack player Leah Tabin and senior goaltender Charlotte Spitzfaden. Although expectations are always high, the New Canaan coach's goals are simply for her team to do the best they can and, with that, she believes the team will at least be in position to challenge in the playoffs. Wood wants her team to "just get out there, play with confidence and play together as a team," she said.

"Whether we win or lose we want to play for excellence," Wood added. "If we play up to our ability I think we have every opportunity to get into the states and FCIAC."

And once in the playoffs -- who knows.

"We're very excited. It's going to be a good year. I think if the girls focus and practice hard and put everything together that they've been working for we'll be strong and succeed," Wood added.

Christie believes the Rams will succeed.

"I have full confidence that we can be a top contender again as we were last year," the captain said. "Coming in this year, we only want to improve. We want to capture those FCIAC and state titles."