It would be an understatement to say that the Messalonskee field hockey team hasn’t been challenged since its loss to Skowhegan. In the Eagles’ last five games, they’ve won four by scores of 10-0 and the other 7-0.

Messalonskee will likely be tested at least twice more — the Eagles are at Lawrence on Tuesday and at Skowhegan Oct. 8. — but for now, coach Katie McLaughlin’s job is to convince her players that there’s still room for improvement after those 10-0 victories.

“I think in that sense, it is a challenge,” McLaughlin said. “But we have to be picky at all times. One of the most important things is to keep a competitive edge in practice. You just really have to work at perfecting the game.”

Messalonskee is averaging 7.2 goals per game, led by Kristy Bernatchez, who has 25 goals this fall. The forwards have accounted for much of the other 40 goals scored by the Eagles.

“Our front line is very strong,” McLaughlin said. “Lynnae Luettich, Emily York, Kylee Knight — all of them have improved tremendously over the last few weeks.”

Bernatchez had 10 goals in three games last week, and her 25 goals in nine games comes after scoring 13 all of last season.

“She’s really found herself,” McLaughlin said. “She’s doing a great job seeing the goal. She was laughing about it, because this year, she has more (goals) than she has combined for her career.”

With Bri Garland playing like she’s fully recovered from an early-season injury, Messalonskee is solid in the backfield. Mikayla Turner, Nikki Collier, and Natalie Hunt are also playing well on defense.

“I think as a team, and a whole unit, we’re working better together than we ever have,” McLaughlin said.

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Maranacook plays in Class C West, but in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference, so all of the Black Bears’ opponents except Maine Central Institute are Class B schools. After going winless last year and losing their first six this fall, the Bears have shown noticeable improvement in winning two of their last three games.

“They started to have confidence in their teammates being in the right position, so to speak,” Maranacook coach Tanya Evans said. “And they’re tired of losing, so to speak.

“They’ve tasted what victory feels like, and they like the feeling, so they realize what they’ve got to do to get there.”

Maranacook is especially strong defensively in the center of the field, with Miriah Vining at center midfielder, Elise Linton at center back and Amber Ridlon in goal.

“Knowing the defense is stronger allows the offense to concentrate on what they need to do,” Evans said.

Eight of the 11 teams in Western C qualify for the playoffs, so Maranacook is still alive for a playoff spot. The Black Bears have increased their offensive pressure — they had double-digit shots against a strong Waterville team — and need to continue that.

“They have to realize when numbers are up in the circle, and take advantage of the opportunity by everybody being ready in the circle,” Evans said. “If the opportunity doesn’t present, they’ve got to either get a corner, or make the defense commit a foul where we get another opportunity.”

Maranacook has 15 players on the team this year, and there is no team at the middle school. Evans said she knows of five players from eighth grade who wish to play field hockey next fall.

“You take it as it comes, and go from there,” she said.

• • •

Nokomis is 6-2-1 and in sixth place in the Eastern B Heal points, but the Warriors have absolutely played well enough to be undefeated. Their losses were by 1-0 scores to Belfast and Leavitt. In those games, as well as a 1-1 tie with Oceanside, Nokomis had a significant advantage in shots and scoring opportunities.

“After the Leavitt game, we switched around our lineup a little, trying to create a little space in the circle, maybe get some more aggressiveness in different places,” Nokomis coach Katie Thompson said.

Since the change, Nokomis has defeated Maine Central Institute (2-0), Lincoln (13-0), and Erskine (3-0). The true test will come in the upcoming games, especially the ones against Waterville and Gardiner.

“I think shaking it up has definitely made some people pick up the intensity,” Thompson said. “It’s made some people try to prove that they can play the position that they want. It’s going to be really important these last couple weeks that we’re finishing.”

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243

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