The greetings and pleasantries had barely wrapped up at the first day of practice when the players on the Monmouth girls basketball team went to work.

When you have nearly everyone back from a dream season, there’s little reason to wait around.

“We’re working on specific skills and basketball situations that you would normally be working on two or three years from now,” coach Scott Wing said. “Just being so far ahead of the curve is the interesting part.”

Any team would love to be in the spot in which the Mustangs find themselves. They’re the defending Class C champions, and they bring back all but two players from the team that hoisted the Gold Ball in March. Such a combination of past and present talent is rare, and it allows Wing to — rather than wipe the blackboard clean — continue to build on what’s already there.

“We’re working on very specific things, and that’s been very different,” Wing said. “The kids all know what they’re doing. They’ve been there.”

Monmouth’s ample depth is led by defending C South tournament MVP Tia Day and talented forward Abbey Allen, but Wing said the team’s biggest asset is its feel for big situations.

“You can’t teach that,” he said. “Now that these kids have been there, they understand what this is all about. That’s huge. They’re a very, very calm group of kids.”

Their biggest rival will be the Boothbay, which returns standouts Page Brown and Faith Blethen.

“Boothbay is going to be a challenge,” Wing said. “They’re huge, they have three kids that are close to touching 6-foot. It comes down to that clash of contrasts.”

Madison has been kind of a third wheel in Class C South of late, but it’s a mistake to ever count the Bulldogs out. They finished 13-5 last year and have four seniors led by Sydney LeBlanc and Lauren Hay. Marah Hall and Ashley Emery are also returning seniors who contributed last season.

“Our four seniors are going to have to be our leaders,” coach Al Veneziano said. “We bring back quite a bit of our scoring.”

Like most of the coaches in Class C, Veneziano tabs Monmouth as the team to beat followed by Boothbay, but he’s not selling his team short.

“Our expectations are high,” he said. “We want to run and press and make things happen.”

Richmond, which dominated during an undefeated regular season but was ousted in the C South semifinals, could see things reverse this year. Now in the Mountain Valley Conference after playing in the East/West Conference, the Bobcats could see more losses during the season — but as the result of stiffer competition that coach Mike Ladner hopes will better prepare the team for the postseason’s challenges.

“Our expectations are to be playing in mid-February,” said Ladner, whose team brings back standout forward Sydney Tilton. “Hopefully (being in the MVC) pays off come tournament time.”

Winthrop could also be in the mix for some of C South’s higher seedings. The Ramblers bring back one starter in junior guard Katie Perkins, but junior forward Layne Audet has logged varsity minutes and Kena Souza and Aaliyah Wilson-Falcone — both sophomores — were the team’s highest scorers and are poised for big years.

“We have pretty high expectations for ourselves this year,” coach Joe Burnham said. “We’re hoping to host a prelim game … get to the Civic Center and hopefully make a little noise when we’re there.”

To do that, Winthrop is hoping to combat its lack of size with its depth and adherence to pressure and a fast pace.

“We’re going to have to play all throughout the court,” Burnham said. “We have a strong, deep rotation to play full court the entire game.”

Mt. Abram returns three starters in seniors Lindsay Huff and Meg Sorel and junior Summer Ross. The Roadrunners hope to at least equal last year’s 10-win season.

“We’ve got to play up-tempo” coach Larry Donald said. “We’ve got to run the court and try to press.”

Carrabec returns nine players, led by senior point guard Bailey Dunphy. The Cobras have a number of good athletes, if not a lot of size.

“We had no seniors last year,” coach Skip Rugh said. “It was a good learning experience for them.”

Hall-Dale will look to make a leap forward after a 1-17 season last year. Helping in that objective is a roster with plenty of names and starters from last year, not to mention height — eight girls, led by 6-foot Cat Kincaid and Olivia Bourque as well as 5-10 Amanda Benner, are listed as 5-7 or taller, and will help the Bulldogs in their drive to become a strong defensive team.

“What we want to hang our hat on this year as a team is defense,” coach Jarod Richmond said. “The girls have really bought into tough defense and it’s been a focus so far this preseason. … This group takes pride in rebounding, taking charges and playing for each other.”

Kents Hill, 2-12 last season, can match that height advantage. Four Huskies reach 6 feet, and if the team can find some scoring to complement returning forward Leah Herbin, Kents Hill could take advantage of a Class D-heavy schedule.

“At the start of the season every team is trying to figure out what they have,” coach Luke Wamboldt said. “The biggest challenge we have is trying to teach individual basketball technique while simultaneously focusing on team play and putting in our offensive and defensive systems in a short window of time.”

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