Madison had itself, by any measurable standard, a successful campaign in 2015. And this year, the Bulldogs could be even better.

After graduating just three seniors, Madison returns its two-headed midfield monster in Madeline Wood and Ashley Emery and the Bulldogs have their eyes on Class C hardware at season’s end.

“They are such a strong duo in the midfield,” said Madison co-coach Erin Wood of Wood and Emery. “Without each of them there, we’d still be good, just not as good. They really control the pace of the game.”

Madeline Wood scored 18 goals for the Bulldogs last season and assisted on 12 others. She and Emery are joined by Sydney LeBlanc, Aishah Malloy and Whitney Bess, as the entire Madison midfield returns intact. After losing in the C South regional semifinal, Madison is back trying to be even better than the team that went 10-1-3 in the regular season.

Lauren Hay will be the team’s goalkeeper this year, after playing center back all of last season. The Bulldogs will try to control midfield play from 18-yard box to 18-yard box with a short passing game that works from sideline to sideline. If they can do that, Hay should have plenty of time to grow into her new role.

While Madison tries to work in the few new faces it has, the traditional strength of Class C still lurks on the schedule. A Monmouth team that made an appearance in the C South final a year ago graduated plenty of talent, but it returns a talented squad that should be in the mix once again. Haley Fletcher, who was an all-Mountain Valley Conference first team selection last season, returns as does Emily Grandahl and a host of others capable of scoring goals on a team that is as fast as any that Gary Trafton has led in his 10 years with the Mustangs.

“We have good speed this year,” Trafton said. “We’re a little quicker overall than we’ve been in the past.”

Hall-Dale enters the season with a young team, but head coach Guy Cousins has been known to get plenty out of less experienced squads.

The program is on the rise at Winthrop, and for the first time, the Ramblers can set a realistic goal of making a playoff appearance despite going just 1-13-0 a year ago. A total of 30 players showed up for preseason work this summer — nearly double the number that came out for girls soccer a year ago — and the Ramblers have senior goalkeeper Shie Smith to rely on.

“She’s just turned into a phenomenal goalkeeper for us,” Ramblers coach Jaynelle Smith said. “She’s done a lot of training in the offseason with her goalkeeping.”

Mt. Abram will be trying to get back to the postseason after being ousted in the prelims in 2015.

CLASS D

Richmond will be hard-pressed to top last year’s season that culminated with the Class D state championship. But if any team has enough talent to repeat, it just might be the Bobcats.

With their strength lying right down the middle of the field, the Bobcats don’t expect to be a run-and-gun team like they were in the past, but they will be extremely difficult to break down. That will give coach Troy Kendrick time to work new faces into roles.

“This team has a whole different character and identity,” Kendrick said. “I think we’ll still have success, it will just be in a different way. I think we’ll be grinders. We’ll have to work for our goals and be stingy on defense.”

Junior goalkeeper Sydney Tilton anchors that defense as one of the outstanding players on a team that still has plenty of them. And even though some of her supporting cast from a year ago has graduated, Meranda Martin will still pose a threat up top for Richmond.

Rangeley, which finished second in Class D South in the regular season, should be right on the heels of the Bobcats once again. And, for fans eager to get a sense of where the two teams are to begin the year, Rangeley will host Richmond in the first game of the year on Sept. 4.

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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