The already demanding Class B North division grew even stronger this season with the addition of Lawrence and Winslow to its ranks.

Lawrence drops to B after a highly successful season in Class A a year ago while Winslow moves up to Class B after winning the Class C state championship last fall. Additionally, Spruce Mountain, already a strong Class B team, has joined the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference and will be on the schedule of many central Maine teams.

The talent doesn’t end there. Gardiner, the defending regional champion, returns another contending squad while Leavitt, Oceanside and Belfast are perennially strong.

“I think top to bottom Class B is tougher than Class A,” Lawrence coach Shawna Robinson said.

Led by All-KVAC goalie Emily Tozier and leading scorer Lauren Watson, the Bulldogs return seven starters from a team that finished 14-3 in Class A a year ago and knocked off highly touted Messalonskee in the playoffs.

“I have a lot of girls that play a lot,” Robinson said. “That group of seniors has been playing varsity field hockey for four years.”

Gardiner graduated three key starters but returns leading scorer Nickyia Lovely, who is closing in on the school scoring record.

The Tigers finished 15-2-1 a year ago, losing to York in the state final.

“I think we’re definitely going to put in some goals,” coach Sharon Gallant said. “We’re going to be very competitive again.”

Winslow graduated five starters from last year’s unbeaten team, but returns some talent led by Ciera Poulin and goalie Delaney Wood.

“We definitely have some holes to fill and some work to do,” coach Mary Beth Bourgoin said.

Nokomis, under first-year coach Sabrina Vaillancourt, hopes to regain the form that led the Warriors to the 2013 state championship.

Led by senior Libby Dunivan, the team has many talented underclassman.

“They’re very tenacious,” Vaillancourt said.

Erskine returns five seniors from a team that squeaked into the playoffs last year and its fortunes will rest heavily on the play of midfielder Michelle Lemelin.

Waterville went winless a year ago but looks much stronger this year and could be back in playoff contention after a year off.

CLASS C

Oak Hill turned in its best-ever season last fall, going unbeaten during the regular season before falling to Lisbon in the regional final.

The Raiders have some work to do this year after graduating eight starters, however. The team with the most returning talent is Winthrop, which rates as the favorite of many coaches in the Mountain Valley Conference.

“I’m bringing basically everybody back,” Winthrop coach Jess Merrill said.”You’ll notice our passing and our knowledge of the game.”

Juniors Kat Hadjuk, Corinna Coulton and Emily Molino are among the leading returnees.

“I think we’ll be one of the better teams,” Merrill said.

Mount View and Maine Central Institute should also be strong. Both play Class B schedules while competing for Class C playoff spots. Mount View returns several players from a team that finished 9-5-2 last fall and reached the Eastern C semifinals.

Depth could be a problem for the Mustangs, who have no backup goalie.

“They work really hard,” coach Gloria Hewett said of her Mustangs. “They have to because we don’t have all the skill we need.”

MCI coach Nancy Hughes welcomes the tough schedule against teams from a higher class.

“Being a Class C team playing in Class B actually works to our advantage,” she said.

The Huskies have holes to fill but have some talent as well, led by goalie Mikayla Carr and back Taylor Hall.

“We have kids who can play a lot of different positions,” Hughes said. “We need to improve going out and setting the tone.

Oak Hill returns some talent despite its graduation losses. Kyle Veilleux, Mercedes Pease, Lexi Fuller, Brooke Surette and Erika Hannigan all saw plenty of action last season.

Hall-Dale won just one game last year, but figures to improve on that despite its youth.

“We’re going to take our lumps and bruises,” coach Christen Lachapelle said. “But I don’t think it’s going to be for lack of effort.”

Maranacook plays a tough Class B schedule which could damage its playoff hopes given its lack of experience.

Lianna Pushard and Grace Bachelder are among the top players for the Black Bears.

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