The word at the start of the season was there would be very few easy games among Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference teams in Class B North. After about seven or eight games, though, it appeared Lawrence and Gardiner were separating themselves from the pack.

That changed recently when Winslow, the defending Class C state champ, knocked off the two powers, beating Lawrence last week and Gardiner on Monday. A big reason for the recent success can be tied to senior Ciera Poulin’s move from center back to the front line. Poulin scored game-winning goals in the wins over Lawrence and Gardiner.

“She’s one of those universal players,” Winslow coach Mary-Beth Bourgoin said. “I could put her anywhere. She gives us a little more experience (up front).”

Bourgoin moved Jess Greeley from her center midfield position to center back and installed Miranda Gagne at center mid. The defense, anchored by goalie Delaney Wood, hasn’t missed a beat. In fact, it may be even stronger with Greeley in the back line flanked by two vastly improved players in sophomore Natalie Greene and freshman Weslee Littlefield.

“The defense is very, very strong,” Bourgoin said.

The two wins moved the Black Raiders in second place in the Class B North Heal point standings, behind unbeaten Foxcroft Academy, which doesn’t play a KVAC schedule.

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Nokomis is back in the playoff mix at 4-4 after starting the season 1-4. Included in recent wins is one against Spruce Mountain, which first-year coach Sabrina Vaillancourt called “our biggest win.”

The Warriors, an historically strong program, won the Class B state title in 2013 but missed the playoffs last fall. Vaillancourt played field hockey at Nokomis and Husson, where she graduated in 2014. When the varsity job opened up, she jumped at the chance.

“It’s been a great opportunity,” she said. “I didn’t want to leave the field hockey world. I’m supported on and off the field.”

One of the catalysts on the field has been freshman center back Maci Leali, who scored a recent game-winner off a penalty corner against Oceanside.

“She’s been a huge part of our game,” Vaillancourt said. “She’s brought the fire to get our team going.”

Olivia Brown and Alexandra Dunivan have been the team leaders, said Vaillancourt, who is not much older than some of her players. She served as an assistant coach last year and has attended a number of coaching and field hockey clinics in the interim.

“I’ve been kind of doing it in bits and pieces,” she said. “So I have that coaching voice. They’re respecting me, which is very helpful.”

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Maine Central Institute has bounced back nicely from a 4-1 loss to Gardiner with three straight victories, including one on the road against a strong Belfast team.

“We pushed the girls hard in practice and tried to shore up our defense,” MCI coach Nancy Hughes said. “Our girls are pretty remarkable when they decide to play as a team.”

The recent wins have pushed the Huskies (7-3) to the top of the Class C North standings, a fact helped by a schedule that includes mostly Class B schools.

“Anyone can beat anyone on any given night,” Hughes said.

MCI varsity and junior varsity rosters contain several sisters and a few cousins, including Katherine and Sarah Welch and stepsisters Madison Fitts and Madisyn Hartley.

“It does fuel that competition,” Hughes said, “but they’re all supportive of each other. They’re all familiar with each other.”

The family affair doesn’t end there. Hughes’ daughter, Alison, is on the team while her daughter Katie played last year. Hughes’ oldest daughter, Meghan, and husband Greg are also assistant coaches.

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Although Winthrop’s game against St. Dominic scheduled for today figures to be rescheduled due to weather, it remains an important game. After beginning the season at 0-2, the Ramblers have won six of their past seven, the only blemish during that span a 2-1 loss to the Saints in Auburn.

“I think they caught us by surprise with how aggressive they were,” Winthrop coach Jess Merrill said.

Merrill made some adjustments after the slow start and front-loaded her formation by going to a 4-3-3.

“The girls seem to like that better,” she said. “It took them awhile to get adjusted.”

Merrill also moved leading scorer Emily Molino from left wing to inside. The junior has benefited from the play of freshman Katie Perkins, who leads the team in assists. And everyone has been helped by the play of center mid Kat Hadjuk, a junior who made all-state last fall.

“She’s just a force,” Merrill said.

The Ramblers play a key game Friday at Oak Hill, a team that beat them 3-0 early in the season on turf on a very hot day.

“They move the ball fast up the field,” Merrill said. “And we had a hard time adjusting to the heat.”

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