Once again this season, Winslow has looked like one of the top teams in Eastern B field hockey. The Black Raiders are 6-2-0, and those two losses were by a goal apiece to Belfast and Nokomis — the two teams that played in last year’s Eastern B final.

Winslow coach Mary Beth Bourgoin said how well the Raiders are playing is a direct result of the improvements they’ve made because of those two setbacks.

“They’re working very hard to get their groove defensively, as well as offensively,” Bourgoin said. “Defensively, specifically since our Nokomis game, their communication is much, much better.”

Winslow has depth, which means Bourgoin can go with something of a rotation on defense, using Bethany Winkin, Jordyn Dorval, Megan Richards, Alyssa Wood, and Brooke Haskell.

Offensively, different people are also making their mark. Alli LeClair, Jenn Poulin, and Sarah Wildes have all had big games and big goals.

“It’s spread out, which is very, very nice,” Bourgoin said. “I’m able to shift people into different positions. I’m able to sub out, and when they come back in, they might not go to their original spot. So it’s working out pretty nicely.”

* * *

Erskine’s next four games are against Leavitt, Mt. Blue, Winslow, and Nokomis. That’s one of many ways you could show that the Eagles play in a challenging league — maybe the best, top to bottom, in the state.

It’s a not a situation conducive to quick improvement, especially in a program which has been near the bottom of the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference’s Class B division in recent years. As a team, Erskine is probably comparable to Oak Hill, which is 4-4-0 this fall in its first season in the Mountain Valley Conference.

A quick look at this year’s scores shows Erskine is much better than last season. The games are closer, but the Eagles didn’t get their first win of the year until Tuesday, when they defeated Maine Central Institute, 2-1, in overtime.

“The kids played very well,” Erskine coach Skip Chadbourne said. “They’re young, but they’re coming along. In a competitive game, they played hard, and they never gave up. It says a lot about their attitude this year.”

Chadbourne believes things are going in the right direction. The Eagles haven’t controlled the ball often enough to score consistently, but they can play defense. Sweeper Amber Church, who started playing field hockey last season, has been a big factor on the back line.

“She’s just really solid back there, and saved us quite a few times,” Chadbourne said. “She’s really done a fantastic job for someone who never had a stick in their hands.”

* * *

Winthrop hadn’t been tested — in fact, the Ramblers hadn’t even allowed a goal — until last Wednesday’s 3-2 overtime loss to Spruce Mountain. It was a great field hockey game, and had the kind of playoff atmosphere that coaches always want their players to get a taste of before the real thing in October.

“It’s been a year since we played that kind of an intense game,” Winthrop coach Sharon Coulton said. “The feeling was they were more pumped than we were. We shouldn’t have been taken by surprise by (their intensity) and maybe we were a little bit.”

Since Winthrop is in Eastern C and Spruce Mountain plays in Western B, the teams won’t meet in the playoffs, But they will play Oct. 5 in Winthrop, which is also the Ramblers’ homecoming and their last game of the season.

“It’s going to be a big one,” Coulton said.

Winthrop rebounded with a 5-1 victory over Boothbay and a 3-0 win over Telstar in the rain. Coulton especially liked that the Ramblers were unleashing quicker shots against Telstar, which is something they have talked about doing.

Other than that, there isn’t much to complain about with Winthrop’s offense. The Ramblers scored 44 goals in 18 games last season, when they won the Eastern C title. So far this fall, they have 36 goals in eight games.

“That kind of validates some of the changes we’ve made offensively,” Coulton said.

Rachel Ingram, Emmah Spahr, Shauna Carlson, and Lauren Kaiser have combined for 32 of those 36 goals. Ingram (12) and Spahr (seven) have already equaled their goal output from last year.

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243

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