When Winthrop hosts Lisbon this afternoon, it will be a rematch of last year’s Class C field hockey state championship game. The overall personnel is quite different on Winthrop’s end, but that has only added to the excitement.

“I think there’s a lot of emotion going into this game, between what happened last fall, and them wanting to show that they’re as good as last year,” Winthrop coach Jess Merrill said. “So I’m trying to rein that in. I think we’re in a good place. We’ve been doing a lot of stuff to prepare for this game.”

The Ramblers are 6-1-0, losing only to Spruce Mountain, while Lisbon is 6-0-1 with a tie against Spruce Mountain. The Greyhounds defeated Winthrop, 2-1, in last season’s state final. The teams also tied during the regular season, and Winthrop defeated Lisbon in the Mountain Valley Conference championship game.

Merrill said her team’s statistics are showing Winthrop in the neighborhood of 30 shots per game. The Ramblers defeated Boothbay 6-0 and St. Dominic 4-0, but otherwise have played exclusively close games.

“One of these games, they’re just going to break out,” Merrill said.

Winthrop has done a commendable job of replacing the graduated talent. Senior Micaela Hadjuk has moved from midfield to back, which in turn has helped sophomore Olivia Audet, a first-year varsity player who also plays in the backfield. Merrill also has glowing reports on senior Cat Ouellette, who has moved to center midfielder.

“She really defines what a center mid is,” Merrill said.

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While both were expected to be in rebuilding mode this year, Skowhegan and Messalonskee are still the top two field hockey teams in the Eastern A Heal points.

In Messalonskee’s case, the Eagles have continued to score after graduating six starters, including potent offensive players like Kristy Bernatchez, Lynnae Luettich, and Emily York. Messalonskee is 7-1-0, and has scored 51 goals in eight games.

“I think we had a lot of figuring out and getting used to each other to begin the season,” Messalonskee coach Katie McLaughlin said. “Now that we’ve hit the halfway point, the comfortability has increased, and the confidence is much, much stronger.”

The seniors have played an important role in keeping Messalonskee among Eastern A’s elite. Center back Mikayla Turner and new center midfielder Kylee Knight have worked well together, and on defense, McLaughlin said midfielder Sydney Gagne, back Kristen Kern, and sweeper Kate Levesque have all improved their 1-on-1 skills.

The immediate focus for Messalonskee this week is staying focused. The Eagles beat Brunswick 12-0 on Tuesday, and the fact that Messalonskee had 12 different players score those 12 goals shows that it could have been much worse. Today, the Eagles face Edward Little, a team Brunswick beat earlier this season.

McLaughlin said her approach has been to give each player an individual goal, like executing a certain play perfectly five different times. Or Messalonskee might choose to take a game and work on its lateral passing.

“We really, really focus and zone in on the little things,” McLaughlin said. “It’s definitely those small goals that kind of keep them motivated and going.”

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Brittany Stilphen coached Oak Hill the last two years. She figured she was done with coaching, but then ended up stepping in for her father, Erskine coach Skip Chadbourne.

“I had resigned from Oak Hill, because I just had a baby, so I was going to stay home,” Stilphen said. “My father actually ended up severing the tendon in the front of his leg. So he’s out for another, probably, 12 weeks. So I stepped in to help him out, and here I am.”

Stilphen said she’ll coach the Eagles for the rest of the season. Erskine is 1-6-1, but has not been blown out in any of its games and is still in line for a playoff spot in Eastern B.

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243
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