Winslow emerged from a solid group of teams in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference to reach the Class B state final last season while Maine Central Institute took advantage of a strong schedule in the same division to win the Class C state championship.

Both teams could repeat this season but as usual it won’t be easy.

The Class B division of the KVAC is typically strong again with not only Winslow in contention but also Belfast, Gardiner, Leavitt, Lawrence and Nokomis. And there are strong Class C teams in the conference in MCI and Mt. View.

“There’s no fluff in KVAC Class B,” Mt. View coach Gloria Hewitt said.

Many of the Class B contenders in the conference sustained key graduation losses while a couple, are a year older and stronger. Winslow lost goalie Delaney Wood but has a strong replacement in senior Hope Winkin. Junior Natalie Greene also returns as one of the team’s top defenders.

“We’re working on finding the right players for the right spots,” Winslow coach Mary Beth Bourgoin said. “I really feel we are a playoff contender.”

Gardiner brings back a strong group led by the strong midfield combination of Sarah Morgan, Skye Lavoie and Mikayla Bourassa.

“If we can get a few of the pieces to fall in early we could be pretty good,” coach Sharon Gallant said.

Lawrence graduated seven starters and also lost leading returning scorer Hailee Parlin to injury for the season. Coach Shawna Robinson likes her young talent and believes her Bulldogs are a playoff team, though. Nokomis turned in a strong season under first-year coach Sabrina Vaillancourt and should be even better this season despite a roster loaded with underclassmen.

“Every player on this team is strong,” said Vaillancourt. “We have a couple of strong bench players, too. The team has potential to go pretty far.”

Waterville continues to rebuild under new coach Chrissy Cunningham, a recent Thomas College graduate. While Erskine will have to replace four key defensive players lost to graduation.

“It’s tough,” Erskine coach Skip Chadbourne said of the schedule. “We just hope to really get in 10th.”

In Class C, MCI brings back a solid corps led by All-State forward Addie Williams. The Huskies returns 11 players in all including goalie Elspeth Taylor, midfielder Alison Hughes and forward Victoria Friend.

“We certainly have some talent returning,” MCI coach Nancy Hughes said. “Part of our strength is the way our program has grown. It’s really become a year-round team. We feel our conditioning will keep us in games.”

Mt. View also benefits from a strong schedule and has a returning all-state player of its own in senior forward Reanna Boulay. The Mustangs are strong up the middle and have added a good player in senior center back Jessie Blanchette, a transfer from Lawrence.

Oak Hill and Winthrop compete in the Mountain Valley Conference and are also two of the better teams in Class C. Oak Hill returns six seniors from last season’s 9-5 team and coach Betsy Gilbert likes their versatility.

“We are very diverse,” she said. “Key players can play all positions.

The Raiders, who are led by senior center back Lexi Fuller, have only 20 players in their program and 13 of those on the varsity team so their versatility should come in handy.

Winthrop returns nine players from a year ago led by midfielder Kat Hajduk and goalie Corinna Coulton. The Ramblers need to be more consistent at the offensive end and they have the talent to do it in Emily Molino, Sarah Spahr and Katelyn Perkins among others.

“We’ve got a pretty experienced team and a pretty talented team,” coach Jess Merrill said. “We had trouble scoring last year but we’ve been working hard on fixing that.”

Hall-Dale went winless last year but should improve with 12 players returning this season and some talented incoming freshmen.

“We’ve got some young kids coming in who are going to challenge the older kids,” coach Christen Lachapelle said.

Maranacook plays a tough Class B scheule in the KVAC while competing for a playoff spot in Class C South. The Black Bears have a mix of eight returning players and several newcomers who are new to field hockey.