Last season, the Messalonskee High School boys basketball team showed much improvement, reaching the Eastern Class A quarterfinals. This season, expectations are even higher for the Eagles, who were picked third in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A coaches’ preseason poll.

Messalonskee begins its highly anticipated season tonight when it hosts Mt. Ararat of Topsham.

WIth the exception of girls ice hockey, which began play last week, most high school winter sports seasons begin this weekend.

Among Friday’s other season openers is a battle between former assistant coaches on the same staff. New Lawrence boys basketball coach Jason Pellerin and new Skowhegan coach Tom Nadeau worked together under former Lawrence coach Mike McGee. Tonight in Skowhegan, Pellerin’s Bulldogs and Nadeau’s Indians will face each other.

KVAC B contender Waterville has a tough opening night draw, playing at perennial Class B contender Camden Hills.

The Lawrence girls, one of the preseason favorites in Eastern A, open the season at home against rival Skowhegan, also a playoff contender.

The Messalonskee ice hockey team is the two-time defending Eastern B champion. The Eagles open the season tonight at Class A Bangor. The Lawrence/Skowhegan Bandits make their debut as a cooperative team tonight, hosting Presque Isle at Sukee Arena in Winslow.

Gardiner will swim against Erskine in the season-opening meet for both, while Messalonskee’s swimmers take on Winslow. Waterville swims at Edward Little.

The Madison wrestling team will be among the teams opening the season Saturday with a meet at Dirigo High School in Dixfield. Nokomis will wrestle at Erskine, while MCI and Mt. Blue will be at Brewer. Skowhegan will host wrestlers from Winslow, Mt. View and Oxford Hills.

Also on Saturday, a number of local indoor track and field teams will take part in a meet at Colby College. Erskine, Lawrence, MCI, Skowhegan and Waterville are scheduled to take part in the meet.