The addition of Class C to the Maine high school lacrosse landscape means some changes for central Maine teams as the sport continues to grow across the state. Classes B and C will now have a statewide playoff tournament, rather than regionals leading up to the state championship. Messalonskee moves from Class A to Class B, joining Cony, Gardiner, Lawrence and Mt. Blue. Central Maine teams in the new Class C include Erskine, MCI/Nokomis, Maranacook/Winthrop, Oak Hill and Winslow.

Last season, Gardiner went undefeated until running into Yarmouth in the regional final. While the Tigers graduated a lot up front, a talented midfield led by Sloan Berthiaume and an experienced defensive unit led by senior goalie Noah Keene, will keep Gardiner in the playoff discussion.

“We have to come out ready to play,” coach KC Johnson said.

Messalonskee reached the Class A North semifinals last season, and return one of the most potent offenses in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference. Austin Pelletier, Alden Balboni and Collin Kinney lead a strong group of snipers. Nick Poulliot is the veteran leader of the Eagles’ defensive unit.

“The team has been working very hard this preseason and we are excited about our chances competing in Class B this spring for the first time,” Messalonskee coach Tom Sheridan said.

Like Gardiner, Cony graduated a lot of offensive punch, but the Rams return a talented defensive group. Goalie Cam Gallant and defender Logan Leadbetter each were all-KVAC selections last season. Dalton Bowie, Nick Robinson and Zach Whitney will see their offensive roles expand as the Rams look to fill the graduation void.

“We have some players who got some experience last year and their roles will also grow,” coach Chad Foye said.

With 26 players, the young Lawrence program continues to grow. The Bulldogs missed the playoffs last year, but coach Bill McKenzie says the team’s speed could help Lawrence back to the postseason. The Bulldogs have a group of athletic upperclassmen who are new to the sport and will learn on the job.

“I have five seniors who never played before,” McKenzie said. “I wish they started earlier.”

Juniors Logan Fortin and Jackson Dudley will be key faceoff men for Lawrence.

With eight of 10 starters back, Mt. Blue will look to improve on last season’s 2-10 record.

“We should be able to play fast, as we are very athletic at areas of the field this year,” coach Kevin Averill said.

Five seniors: Reed Wells on attack, Aidan Salisbury, Will Salisbury and Brody Looney at midfield, as well as Matt Hyde on defense, will be key to the Cougars improvement.

Oak Hill peaked at the right time last season, and made a run to the Class B North semifinals. Now in Class C, the Raiders hope to continue their strong play into the new season. The loss of midfielder Steve Gilbert leaves a hole, but coach Joe Hinkley feels Xavier Michaud, a junior, can step up.

“Our strength is going to be on the defensive end,” Hinkley said.

Seniors Bailey Drouin and Bryce Harlow lead the defense, along with junior Noah Morong. Darryn Bailey and Gabe Bergeron return to Oak Hill’s midfield.

Erskine continues to grow, and the Eagles hope to build on last season’s eight wins with a veteran team. Erskine returns its entire starting attack, led by all-KVAC selection Caleb Tyler.

“We are hopeful that the experience they garnered last year in some successful outings will carry over to the start of this year,” coach Jason Wade said.

Hunter Rushing and Ethan Furlong round out the group. At midfield, Chance Reed leads an experienced group. Cody Daigneault and Kyle Kirkpatrick are veterans on Erskine’s defense.

Former assistant coach Dakota Gendreau takes over as head coach at Winslow. The Black Raiders are strong on defense, with seniors Andrew Beckwith and Garrett Pooler returning to the back. Bryce Hillier will look to be an offensive leader for Winslow as the Black Raiders move from Class B to Class C.

Maranacook/Winthrop reached the Class B North semifinals last season, but return a team that needs to gain varsity playing time.

“All of these guys have played lacrosse for multiple years, but very few varsity,” coach Zach Stewart said.

Junior Will Hayes will be in goal, while juniors Skyler Boucher and Collin Adair will lead the attack. Newcomer Timothy Worster could be a key on faceoffs, Stewart said.

MCI/Nokomis is in just its second season of varsity play, but will have a lot of newcomers on the roster. Logan Rowell is a key returning senior at midfield.