The Richmond girls soccer team can expect more of the same in 2018. And if that’s the case, the Bobcats will be hoisting more hardware come season’s end.

The roster is almost the same as it was a year ago for the reigning Class D state champion, the program’s 11th state title and fifth in the last eight years. That continuity promises a solid defensive nucleus — with all four starting backs returning — behind an outstanding midfield led by senor captain Caitlin Kendrick. The team closed 2017 by posting five straight shutouts to end the regular season, following that with two more in the playoffs.

What’s missing, at least at the outset, is consistent goal-scoring.

“We’re still going to be in the mix,” longtime Richmond coach Troy Kendrick said. “Goals came hard for us last year, and it’s going to be the same thing again. We’re going to have to scratch for our goals.”

Richmond’s non-conference schedule includes the likes of Old Orchard Beach and St. Dominic again, teams that routinely test the Bobcats’ depth. But this isn’t a team piling up 10 goals a game as it did in years past, and those types of slugfests will go a long way to breaking in a new goalkeeper this season.

“It’s always a dogfight, having to battle against those (Class C) teams,” Troy Kendrick said. “It’s more fun to be in those games. Those 8-0, 9-0 games, those games aren’t fun for either team. These are the games where the kids learn how to play for 80 minutes.”

Richmond’s not the only Class D squad learning how to play for 80 minutes.

For the first time, Temple Academy will field a girls varsity soccer team this season. Phil Hubbard, who also coaches the Temple boys, is excited about his new entry in the East/West Conference.

“Even though we’re new, we’re not that inexperienced,” Hubbard said.

Four players comprise the Bereans’ core — Julianna Hubbard, Olivia Baker, Deleyni Carr and Chloe Riportella — and all were significant contributors on a co-ed Temple team in 2017.

After leading the boys team to an undefeated regular season last year, Hubbard thinks the playoffs are a reasonable goal for his girls squad.

“We purposefully started the middle school girls program last year with an eye on getting this high school girls program going,” Hubbard said.

CLASS C

After bowing out in the regional final a year ago — in double overtime, no less — Monmouth returns perhaps the most complete team in the Mountain Valley Conference this season.

Junior Audrey Fletcher, who has the career scoring record in her sights for the Mustangs, will drop back into the midfield to help link up play between good backs and a talented midfield.

“If all goes the way I’m seeing it, our midfield will be the strongest it’s ever been,” Monmouth coach Gary Trafton said. “We’re young, though, and we’ll have to rely on some freshmen to step up.”

If the Mustangs should falter, a group of teams, which includes Hall-Dale, Maranacook and even new-look Madison, could be in position to make runs in the tournament.

Maranacook plays a tough Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference schedule against Class A and B competition in the regular season, and the key for the Black Bears is to win enough of those games to pick up valuable Heal points and keep them away from the top seeds in the early postseason rounds.

Hall-Dale has a huge freshmen class this season and a good mix up and down the roster, giving Guy Cousins more depth than he’s had in recent seasons. He’s hoping some of the young players can adapt to the varsity game as the season goes along.

“We’re excited about the energy and athleticism we have and are looking forward to what’s possible this season,” Cousins said.

Madison welcomes a new coach in Savanna Lawrence, who graduated from the school in 2014. It will be a tall task for the first-year coach, as much of the talent that won the Class C South championship last fall graduated.

“It is definitely a completely different team,” Lawrence said. “Some of (our) juniors are still thinking a little bit about last year and what happened, so we’re breaking that down and thinking about what we’ve learned in the past and how we’re going to do things differently.”

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