One year after going unbeaten in the regular season in the Mountain Valley Conference, the Hall-Dale boys soccer team expects to remain in contention for the conference title. It matters little to the Bulldogs what the rest of the league perceives as a “down year” for the Bulldogs.

While it’s true that the team which advanced to the Class C South regional quarterfinals last October graduated 11 seniors, don’t expect Hall-Dale to spend a year in rebuilding mode.

Sixth-year head coach Andy Haskell points to the Bulldogs squad from just three years ago as an example.

“We had our best team in 2012 that went all the way to the (Class C) state game,” Haskell said. “We lost 16 seniors from that team and had only two returning players, but the next year we went 14-0.”

There are seniors on this edition of the Bulldogs that expect to make an impact, particularly in the midfield. Nick Guiou, Malcolm Avore and Cody Goyon should be a key part of the team’s possession game, and they’ll certainly buy time for incoming senior goalkeeper John Whitcomb to prove his mettle between the sticks.

Hall-Dale, which lost in the C South semis in heartbreaking double-overtime fashion to Monmouth last fall, also has a large group of juniors eager to serve valuable minutes.

“We’re a little bit young, but we’re a more athletic bunch,” said Haskell, whose team opens the regular season with a night game at Mt. Abram on Friday. “They’ve played a lot of sports together. Every year, our goals are the same — to compete for the MVC title and be highly competitive in the southern region.”

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Mark Serdjenian tries his best to avoid tired cliches, but his return to Waterville Senior High School is hard to put into words.

“Waterville has such a great soccer tradition with both the boys and the girls,” said Serdjenian, who spent 38 years as the head men’s coach at Colby Collge and was the women’s interim coach last season. “It’s terrific to be part of that program. My main goal is to continue the recent success of the coaches who have come before me.”

The Waterville girls went 11-1-2 and finished third in the Kennbec Valley Athletic Conference’s Class B division last season, losing in the Class B South regional quarterfinals.

Serdjenian likes what he’s seen from the group that’s returning this fall.

“One would hope they’d be working hard for a new coach coming in, and they certainly are,” Serdjenian said of preseason training. “I think we’re pretty well balanced from front to back, and that’s a huge part of it. A lot of the girls have played a lot of soccer (at the club level), and I think we can be a team that can pass and possess the ball.”

Waterville opens its season at Nokomis on Friday.

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In 15 seasons, the Skowhegan boys soccer team has amassed a total of four wins. The good news for the Indians? All four of those wins came last season, when they came within a late-game penalty kick of qualifying for the Class A North playoffs.

“Saying that it was like getting a gorilla off your back doesn’t even begin to hold what that meant,” said first-year head coach Jordan Hale, an assistant coach last season.

The Indians welcome 12 seniors back to the team this year, including Alex Poirier, a midfielder who has defected from the school’s football program. It’s a foundation that Hale hopes the team can continue building from.

“When the kids are walking the hallways with a bunch of football players on a team that’s won a few Eastern Maine titles over the years, you definitely feel it,” Hale said of the toll of so many winless seasons. “What last year did for us is it said, ‘We’re a soccer program now. We’re not just a team of kids that play soccer.'”

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Many will be keeping an eye on Messalonskee striker McKenna Brodeur this season. A senior, she already holds the school record for career goals with 45 after scoring 15 for the Eagles as a junior last season.

“She’s really an exceptional player,” Messalonskee coach Penny Stansfield said.

But Brodeur isn’t alone. The Eagles are blessed with a number of players who are dedicated, soccer-first players.

“This is the first year with the varsity team that I’ve a true soccer team,” Stansfield said. “They’ve dedicated time outside of school to improving their skill and it’s showing.”

Messalonskee finished seventh in the KVAC A last year with a 5-7-2 record and lost in the Class A North quarterfinals. They’ll open this season on Saturday night at perennial KVAC power Hampden.

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC