Winthrop coach Jess Merrill knew her team had potential to be strong this season, but she figured it might take a few weeks. And she was concerned that the team might not score many goals. No worries.

The Ramblers are off to a 5-0 start this season and have outscored opponents 30-2. A coupe of those victories were against less experienced teams, but Winthrop also knocked off defending Class C state champion Oak Hill and shut out powerful Boothbay.

“I’m surprised at how well they’ve come together,” Merrill said. “We knew we had a lot of potential with Kinli (DiBiase), Katie (Perkins) and Mo (Hajduk) coming back. But to see some of the other pieces come together so fast, it’s almost like the girls flipped the switch.”

In their 2-0 win at Boothbay, Perkins marked University of Maine bound Sydney Meader and held her scoreless.

“She worked her the entire game,” Merrill said.

DiBiase scored the first goal and presented problems with her speed and stick-handling ability.

“They didn’t have a counter for Kinli,” Merrill said. “Nobody in our conference can stay with her.”

After playing a supporting role the past couple of years, the senior forward has emerged as a dangerous scorer, who already has 10 goals in five games. She’s helped by the fact her teammates send her away with aerial passes that quickly open up the field. Overall team speed is up from a year ago and everyone is buying into the example the older playing are setting.

“The girls are just playing so much more together,” Merrill said.

• • •

Gardiner opened the season at 3-0 and had yet to be challenged going into Tuesday’s home game against Oceanside. The Tigers shut out those opponents 25-0, but coach Sharon Gallant finds it difficult to get a handle on her team until they face a quality opponent.

“We’ve still got a lot of work to do,” she said. “I think we’ll be in the mix.”

Because the Maine Principals’ Association “regionalized” schedules this season, Gardiner will miss two of the traditional powerhouse team in Class B this year, Winslow and Belfast, who met in the regional final last fall.

Gallant has juggled her lineup in order to shore up her defense. She’s moved Jillian Bisson, one of last year’s top scorers, to the sweeper position,

“She’s a kid you can put anywhere and she’ll work her heart out,” Gallant said.

Junior Amanda Cameron has helped shore up the left side, a preseason concern, while top scorer Hailee Lovely has moved from the front line to midfield where she plays opposite junior Madelin Walker.

The front line — junior Sarah Faust and sophomores Haley Brann and Maggie Bell — is revamped and playing well, Gallant said.

The Tigers do play Class A rival Cony in a crossover game this year and Lawrence and Maine Central Institute down the road, but Gallant would prefer a tough opponent every game.

“It’s tough to stay sharp,” she said.

• • •

Mt. Blue got over being intimidated by traditional powers Skowhegan and Messalonskee when it beat both teams last fall. Now the Cougars are wondering what it takes to stay with those teams. They opened the season with a 3-1 loss to Messalonskee then were shutout 2-0 at Skowhegan. The team sustained some key graduation losses but have the talent to contend by the end of the season. They followed up those two losses with a 15-0 win over Bangor.

“We’re getting there,” Mt. Blue coach Jody Harmon said. “There are so many field hockey 101 things we didn’t do (against Messalonskee and Skowhegan).”

The Cougars were without some key players due to injury in the first two games but welcomed back junior Adelle Foss, sophomore Maddy Bard and freshman Rylee Keaton against Bangor.

Harmon has also made a few adjustments in her formation, often going to a 4-3-3 that includes an offensive and defensive center midfielder. And has moved a few players to new positions.

The schedule remains difficult but not impossible to overcome. The Cougars play Cony once and see Messalonskee and Skowhegan again.

“They just know we have a lot more to work on and physically they need to get stronger,” Harmon said.

• • •

Maine Central Institute has a challenging schedule this fall that includes Winslow, Belfast, Gardiner, Foxcroft, Lawrence and a crossover game against Class A power Messalonskee.

A tough schedule has worked to its advantage in the past since MCI played Class B opponents while competing in Class C, where they won the state title two years ago and finished second last fall. This year, the team has moved up to Class B where there’s more parity.

After winning their opener, the Huskies lost 3-2 to Winslow in overtime.

“That was a great game,” MCI coach Nancy Hughes said. “It could have gone either way.”

Hughes isn’t terribly concerned about her team’s schedule. With nearly every player back from a year ago, she’s confident.

“We know we have a lot of talent and our team chemistry is good,” she said.

Among those back is senior all-state forward Addi Williams, who scored 29 goals. If she receives too much defensive attention, the team is loaded with scoring threats, including April McAlpine, Victoria Friend, Ryleigh Bickford and Sarah Welch and Hughes moves them around when needed.

“One of our strengths is our girls can play so many positions,” she said.

Hughes added defensive back Eva Bickford is one of the team’s most improved players.

“She’s kind of an unsung hero,” Hughes said.