If the Madison-Monmouth rivalry was as good last year as it’s ever been, expect it to get even better.

The Bulldogs graduated just one player from a tea that went 13-1-0 last season, while the Mustangs — who finished the regular season as the top seed in Class C South with an identical record — have more depth this season.

Each team lost at home to the other, and this year’s battle for regional supremacy will likely run right through the two programs again.

“Last year, we thought we were there,” Madison co-coach Mike Walsh said. “We think we’re there again. We lost just one senior — but that senior scored 25 goals for us. This year, we’re looking to see who is going to fill in those gaps.”

The Bulldogs have 10 returning starters from a regional final team, which should provide the starting point for filling in for the graduated Madeline Wood. Ashley Emery and Jillian Holden each scored 11 goals a year ago, with Emery tying for the team lead in assists (11) from her central midfield role. Along with Holden and Whitney Bess, the Bulldogs will once again make controlling the midfield the priority.

Monmouth, not unlike its nemesis, also lost its top goal scorer from a year ago in the dynamic Haley Fletcher, who scored 75 goals in her career. Now, though, Gary Trafton’s team will try and play less of a top-heavy game centered around the work of exceptional central midfielder Emily Grandahl, a senior who will play at Merrimack College in Andover, Massachusetts next fall.

Defensive structure has been the priority throughout the preseason — Monmouth surrendered just 13 goals in 2016, but 10 of those came in the final five matches of the year, including a 2-1 overtime loss to Waynflete in the regional semifinals.

“We’re trying to get better defensively,” Trafton said. “We’re pretty much where we were last year, but how can you replace 75 goals in a career? Our sophomores and juniors have stepped up and they’re playing smarter and stronger.”

Although the Bulldogs and Mustangs are in the hunt for a regional title, newcomer Maranacook could also be in that mix.

Maranacook returns to Class C for the first time since 2014, at a time when the Black Bears might be the best they’ve been in the last five years.

The Black Bears will not play Madison or Monmouth in the regular season, however.

Senior Lauren Clough emerged as a true threat at striker last season with 12 goals, and she’s surrounded by seven other seniors on the roster.

“If we can get into the playoffs, I think we’re as good as anybody,” head coach Travis Magnusson said. “The regular season will be a challenge for us, as a Class C school, we’re playing Class A and B teams. But our goal is to make the playoffs.”

Hall-Dale, like Maranacook, could easily play a spoiler’s role. Guy Cousins’ Bulldogs were young all across the pitch last year, but the added year of varsity experience — and a playoff appearance — only helped the team grow.

Striker Sabrina Freeman and midfielder Sierra Millay lead an athletic group.

“Our numbers are back up and we have a great mixture of experience and youth,” Cousins said.

Winthrop returns leading scorer Jillian Schmelzer as it eyes making a playoff push this year, while Carrabec also faces a challenge as it tries to get itself back in the playoff structure.

The Cobras have a small team, but it’s a hungry group led by returning goalkeeper Kelsey Creamer and Bailey Dunphy, both seniors. Defending won’t be a problem for Carrabec, but finding reliable scoring would boost playoff chances.

CLASS D

It’s been eight years since Richmond didn’t appear in the Class D state championship game, but a return trip won’t come easy this fall. Graduation took a heavy toll on the roster — stripping it of goals and the multi-year starters right down the middle of the pitch.

While the group is younger than it’s been, a tougher regular season schedule awaits and should help speed the development process.

“This could be a transition year for us,” veteran coach Troy Kendrick said. “We definitely lost some goals (to graduation), so where our goals are going to come from is one of the questions we have.”

One thing Richmond still has, though, is experience on the back line, with Emma Carbone and Bryanne Lancaster. Senior goalkeeper Sydney Tilton is back, and Emily Snowden and Destiny Anair will be asked to provide some scoring.

“We’ve got some players who are going to wear different hats this year,” Kendrick said.

While Richmond is “transitioning,” Rangeley is gearing up to take its crack at the throne.

“This is the best girls group I’ve had in a long time, and it’s the best team I’ve had depth-wise in the five years I’ve been here,” Lakers head coach Chip Smith said.

In senior Natasha Haley and junior Brooke Egan, Smith has versatile players ready to lead the charge toward a deep run in the D South tournament.

“We finally have a team that can play with the Richmonds of the league,” Smith said.