Crystal Leavitt couldn’t have walked into a better situation.

The new Messalonskee coach takes over a program that won the Class A state championship last season and a strong core of that group returns.

With ample athleticism across the field, Leavitt can place just about any of her starters at any position at any time.

If anything, the pressure will be on Leavitt — who previously served as an assistant under former coach Ashley Pullen — to put those players in the right positions during games.

“I don’t know how many times I’ve stayed up late at night trying to think about who I’m going to play,” Leavitt said.

The Eagles will boast what is arguably the best offensive attack in the state. They’ll be led by the best offensive weapon in the state in junior Ally Turner, who scored 61 goals last season. Turner recently committed to Division I Wagner, where she will continue her career on a lacrosse scholarship.

Adding to the attack will be Lydia Dexter and Lauren Pickett, who were each key players on a state championship-winning team.

The defense will be led by junior Haley Lowell, who will be the veteran leader of a group that also includes sophomore Autumn Littlefield.

Leavitt said that the team is full of players willing to play wherever they are needed at a moment’s notice.

“I have a lot of girls who want to play a lot of positions,” Leavitt said. “I’ve never as a coach — even as a player — I’ve never seen someone go ‘hey coach, I actually want to play midfield,’ or ‘hey coach, I want to play defense.’ Most of the time it’s ‘hey coach, I want to score.’ I have a lot of girls who want to defend what we have.”

The biggest challenge will be getting the freshmen players acclimated to the speed of the high school game.

“The girls come up from eighth grade, we don’t have a (junior varsity) team,” Leavitt said. “These girls are going from eighth grade right up to varsity. My returners are very good about that. They let me do the coaching, but they’re very encouraging. I would say that we’re more team-oriented this year. We’ve really bonded already so far over the two weeks.”

Gardiner leads the pack of the area Class B teams. The Tigers finished 8-6 last season and made it to the Class B North semifinals before bowing out to Morse. Familiar face Andy Haskell takes the program over once again — he led Gardiner from 2012-2013. There’s plenty of firepower to lead the Tigers back to the playoffs, with Lauren Chadwick and Hailee Lovely leading the offense and Anna Chadwick leading the way on defense.

“The kids have been working real hard and doing a good job (during preseason),” Haskell said. “It’s a very cohesive group. It’s a good blend of newcomers and returning players, so there’s kind of a balance.”

Cony and Erskine also seek improvement. The Rams — who went 1-11 in 2015 — won six games and made an appearance in the Class B North playoffs last season. Cony graduated many seniors from last year’s squad but it will also boast speed as well.

“We’ve got some strong new players coming in, some freshmen who have been playing for a while,” Cony coach Gretchen Livingston said. “Our biggest challenge is going to be to find who our goalkeeper is going to be. We have a few potential candidates, but no one has solidified themselves in that role yet. That’s going to be huge for us to find that and find a replacement to Lizzy Dennison, who was so strong for us.”

Erskine — which went 1-11 in 2015 — also won six games and hosted a B North preliminary game last season, falling just short against Camden Hills. The Eagles return a senior-heavy squad with playoff experience coming into this season, and numbers in the program have grown. Erskine has 36 players between the varsity and junior varsity teams.

“We are excited to see what the season holds and working towards the goal of another playoff spot,” Erskine coach Shara MacDonald said.

Winslow will look to improve this spring after going 2-10 last season. The Raiders finished 7-6 in 2015.

Lawrence seeks its first win as a varsity program after a rough inaugural season. Head coach Gail Bucklin says the Bulldogs will be better equipped this season with more experience.

“We are looking to compete hard, and with improved skills we are hoping to be in some close games,” Bucklin said.

Dave Dyer — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Dave_Dyer

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