It’s a common refrain this time of year: Coaches and teams lament the loss of valuable pieces from the previous year to graduation. One place where that’s not the case this year is Monmouth, which graduated only three seniors from a team that played for the Class C South regional title a year ago.

Better yet for the Mustangs, their nucleus in the back is essentially intact, giving them a foundation to build on as they try and advance to the Class C state title game this fall.

Juniors Shane Kenniston and Dylan Goff, both starters a year ago on the back line, join senior Travis Hartford and goalkeeper Bradley Neal to provide a real strength when it comes to defending as a team.

“Expectations are high,” said Monmouth coach Joe Fletcher. “We expect to contend for the (Class) C South title.”

Hunter Richardson returns as the starting senior striker and has torched the Mountain Valley Conference for double digits in goals in each of the last two seasons. His production up top, coupled with the team’s defensive strength, should help the Mustangs be within reach of their goal come October.

It won’t be easy, though, as Hall-Dale — which went unbeaten a year ago in the regular season — still stands in the Mustangs’ way. The Bulldogs may have graduated 11 players from last year’s team, but recent history provides a lesson about the Bulldogs: After one of the best teams in school history captured the Class C South regional championship and graduated 16 players, Hall-Dale came back the next season to go 14-0-0 and advance to the regional final.

“We’re a little bit young but we’ve probably got a more athletic bunch who have played a lot together,” coach Andy Haskell said. “Our goals are the same every year, to compete for the Mountain Valley Conference and be highly competitive in the (C South) region.”

One of the most misleading numbers this offseason came out of Mt. Abram, which graduated nine seniors after clinching the final playoff spot in C South last season. While the Roadrunners lost a lot, they also gained a talented freshman class — one expected to produce dividends immediately and help an attack that mustered just 20 goals in total last season. Three of the team’s four starting backs return to the fold, once again providing a stingy defense that should carry Mt. Abram back into the playoff structure by October.

With fourth-year co-coaches Marc Fortin and Dave Morin still at the helm, Winthrop could be a sleeper in Class C this season. The Ramblers lost only two seniors from last year’s team and are on the verge of making the first playoff appearance for this group of players.

CLASS D

After two consecutive appearances in the state title game, winning it all in 2014, Richmond ran into an unyielding Buckfield team in the Class D South regional final last fall and lost on penalty kicks. But don’t expect the Bobcats to stay down for long.

Even with half its roster comprised of freshmen and sophomores, Richmond’s goals remain unchanged.

“Our goal, as it is every year, is to play in that last game of the season,” Richmond coach Peter Gardner said.

Gardner may be more patient than normal this season as the younger players accommodate to a possession-based game, but he said they can do it. While they’re trying to help junior goalkeeper Zach Small by keeping pressure off him, they’ll rely on senior striker Brady Johnson to score goals and midfielders Brendan Emmons and Cody Tribbet to funnel the attack through the forward group.

Both Valley and Rangeley made the playoffs last year, but neither made it out of the quarterfinal round. Both will be looking to challenge for deeper runs this year.

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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