The Messalonskee and Cony boys lacrosse teams established themselves as squads to watch during impressive 2016 campaigns. Now the two teams are eager to make up for the ways those runs ended.

Both the Eagles and Rams were among the area’s most successful teams last season, with Messalonskee going 10-4 and reaching the A North semifinals and Cony going undefeated at 12-0 before falling in the B North preliminary round. Both teams have personnel losses for which to find answers, but both also are sure they have the depth and talent to make up for those question marks and find their ways back into the postseason mix — and potentially the later rounds of their tournaments.

“We’re pretty excited about the kids we have coming up this year,” Messalonskee coach Tom Sheridan said. “I think we’re all pretty disappointed at how last season ran out. … I think a lot of our players felt we should have gone further than we did.”

With talent everywhere, it’s easy to see why confidence is high for the Eagles. Dawson Charles is back in net and Chase Borssen, Yan Gusmanov and Nick Poulliot lead an experienced defense, but it’s a vaunted midfield led by standouts Austin Pelletier and Alden Balboni and an attack led by returning top goal scorer Connor Smith that will be the Messalonskee backbone.

“Obviously, the state championship is our goal,” Sheridan said. “We’re a lot younger, but I think a lot of these kids come in with playing experience.”

Brunswick, Lewiston, Cheverus and Edward Little project to be among the Class A favorites. Another local team, a co-op between Maine Central Institute and Nokomis, is starting play this season and will be in the A mix after two seasons as a club team.

“I don’t have expectations, but I’m confident in knowing how this team is going to respond regardless of what the score is, regardless of the level of competition,” coach Chris Hopkins said. “I know that they will work hard, they will learn and be better at the end of every quarter.”

Cony saw the bulk of its goal-scoring graduate, and reaching last year’s level of offensive production will be a challenge. Still, with senior Derek Erbe and junior Logan Leadbetter leading a formidable defense in front of goalie Cam Gallant and seniors Chad Bickford and Nate Foye bringing talent and experience to the attack and midfield, respectively, Cony has the pieces for another formidable KVAC and Class B run.

“We certainly have the ability to be really successful,” coach Chad Foye said. “A lot of it is going to be how hard we’re willing to work and whether we can stay confident on offense.”

The Rams will have competition. Yarmouth is poised for its customary big season, but one of Cony’s biggest challengers could be the team that ended its season last spring. Gardiner snuck into the playoffs last year but is poised for a big season with a loaded roster, one led by a potent trio of attackmen in Connor Manter, Michael Poirier and Tristan Hebert, a veteran defensive corps and a multi-dimensional midfielder in Sloan Berthiaume.

“Our lacrosse IQ is higher than it has been in the past couple of years,” coach K.C. Johnson said. “Ball movement, we play fast, and we can slow it down if need be. … We’re going to be able to change our pace from game to game.”

There’s also the annual challenge posed by Maranacook/Winthrop, which climbed to the B North final a season ago. Coach Zach Stewart’s bunch lost some top-tier players in Levi Emery, Ty Smith and Kyle Morand, but returns a trio of excellent returners in Drew Davis, Logan Stanley and Dennis Chiappetta and a talented cast of newcomers, one that Stewart feels will allow the Hawks to transition more from a team that enforced its will to one that adapts to the style played by its opponent.

“We’re going to morph to whatever team we play,” Stewart said. “As a varsity coach, you take what you’ve got. I’ve always had a physically dominating team, and this year we’re probably going to be a little bit faster and we’re probably going to be a little more skilled.”

Mt. Blue is faced with rebuilding after a 6-8 season, but coach Kevin Averill is impressed with the young talent that’s coming in to support lone returning starter Reed Wells, a junior at attack.

“This is going to be the most skilled lacrosse team I’ve had,” Averill said. “We should be able to … have another playoff push. The big thing we will need to do is pick up the varsity game speed.”

Winslow is also faced with a rebuild after losing nine seniors. The defense is strong, anchored by three-year starters Ray Spaulding and Andrew Beckwith, but the midfield will be, in coach Bruce Lambrecht’s words, a “do-over.”

“The lineup is going to be soft, we’re going to be moving people around,” he said. “Finding that right chemistry between groups of kids will be key.”

A pair of area teams are looking for quick turnarounds. After going 2-10, Erskine looks for six returning starters, led by midfielders Gavin Blanchard and Grayson Petty, to provide leadership while the defense comes around.

“I’d like for us to be a defensively-focused team,” first-year coach Jason Wade said. “Most of our lacrosse IQ lies in the midfield and attack, so I’m developing that defense right now.”

Oak Hill stumbled to a 1-11 season last year, but has twice the players from last year and some key pieces in place for a stronger season this spring, most notably in top scorer and midfielder Steve Gilbert.

“I think we’re going to surprise a few teams,” coach Joe Hinkley said. “I think if we can sneak into a playoff game it’ll keep building the enthusiasm, and keep building the numbers.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

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Twitter: @dbonifantMTM