A season after winning just four games, New Canaan High School's softball team doubled its win total to qualify for the state playoffs in 2010. This year, the Rams will look to build off of that success and put together a winning campaign.

New Canaan has a new leader as Danielle Simoneau takes over for Larry Tomaselli. She had been coaching in the Connecticut Angels fast-pitch organization and looks forward to seeing how her first high school head coaching experience goes.

"I'm excited. I've been coaching for a long time so this is another chapter in my softball book," she said.

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In 2010, the Rams went 8-12 to qualify for the Class L State Tournament as the No. 26 seed. The Rams nearly pulled off an upset of familiar foe Darien, the No. 7 team, but were edged out of the first round in a 2-1 game.

Right fielder Kristen Hogan and pitcher Emily Ely graduated, but everyone else is back and eager to battle back into the postseason.

"We're excited to compete. It's going to be a good softball season," Simoneau anticipates.

The Rams' captains are infielder/outfielder Tori Rusch and centerfielder Lindsey Schmid. The pitchers are young, with freshman Ali Reilly and sophomore Cydney Ventura taking the ball. The catcher is Jordan Ventura.

The defending Class LL champions, Westhill of Stamford, and Class M champs, St. Joseph of Trumbull, are among the tough teams in the FCIAC, but Simoneau believes the conference will have a lot of parity.

"I think, overall, in the FCIAC the teams are going to be extremely compatible and you're going to see a lot of good softball games this year," the coach said.

"Our goal is to get to the FCIACs and to make it deeper in the states this year," Simoneau added

New Canaan didn't qualify for the FCIAC tournament a year ago, but the coach -- and her players -- believe that's in the cards as a good possibility this spring.

"They're a hard-working team. They've put in their time," Simoneau said. So what will it take to reach that goal? Just consistency, being aggressive at the plate, and working together to get the job done," she added.

"I'm really looking forward to this year because we have such a great group of girls and we've all been playing together for a long time," Schmid said.

Rusch noted that the team was made up mainly of freshmen last spring. There were eight first-year high schoolers on the varsity team.

"The fact that we could even make states with eight freshmen on the team is remarkable," Rusch said.

The fact the Rams got into the playoffs with such a young team and that most everyone is back with more varsity experience under their belts bodes well for success in 2011.

"I think we're definitely going to be one of the teams that's going to make it to the top of both FCIACs and states," Rusch said.

New Canaan got off to a good start, especially offensively speaking, pouring it on with double digit runs in a 14-5 thumping of Danbury in the season opener on April 6.