Winthrop’s Kate Perkins moves the ball down the field as St. Dominic’s Callie Sampson defends during the Class C state championship game last season in Falmouth. Perkins returns to run the midfield for the Ramblers this season. Sun Journal file photo by Andree Kehn

Winthrop is off to an excellent start, having outscored its opponents 24-1 through four games.

“Our passing has been pretty spot on,” coach Jess Merrill said. “It looks better than it has for a long time. It’s beautiful.”

The Ramblers return all but two players from a team that last year lost in double overtime in the Class C state championship game. They’ve seen noted improvement from sophomore forward Kerrigan Anuszewski and gotten a big scoring boost from freshman Maddie Perkins, who Merrill expected to be strong from the get-go. So far Perkins has scored 10 of the team’s 24 goals.

“She’s a special player,” Merrill said. “She got kind of the next set of skills.”

Senior midfielder Moriah Hajduk and Katie Perkins have been the bedrock of the team as they begin their fourth season as starting players.

“Those two are still everything I’ve thought they were going to be,” Merrill said. “They’re the glue that holds us together.”

Layne Audet and Hanna Caprara are key defenders on the team but so far neither they nor senior goalie Aiva Agri have been tested. They expect that to change this week when the Ramblers face unbeaten teams in Mountain Valley and Spruce Mountain.

“It will be fun to see where we’re at,” said Merrill, who has played about 20 players a game. “It’s just going to make us that much stronger when it matters.”

• • •

Cony, which got off to a rough start with losses to Mt. Blue and Skowhegan, got a much needed 2-1 overtime win at Oxford Hills last week.

“That was huge for us,” coach Holly Daigle said. “Oxford Hills always gives us a really tough game.”

Cony junior Sophie Whitney scored the game-winner in double overtime while goalie Emily Douglas made some key saves despite not playing or practicing for over a week due to illness.

The Rams return just a handful of players and are working to integrate new faces into the lineup.

“Some girls are playing positions they haven’t played before,” Daigle said. “Our communication and ability to read each other on the field has improved since Day 1.”

Daigle has been working to improve the team’s depth and took some blame for the team’s 3-1 loss to Mt. Blue for not substituting more. Freshman Sierra Prebit has been in the starting lineup all three games while Madison Veilleux, another freshman, has given the team good minutes off the bench.

The schedule gets no easier for Cony, which hosts Messalonskee on Thursday.

“We know it’s always going to be a fast-paced game,” Daigle said. “We like seeing good teams but it’s going to be tough.”

• • •

A year ago Lawrence struggled to a 4-9-1 record despite high expectations in preseason. The Bulldogs lost several games in overtime and never got on track, missing the playoffs after posting 10 victories the previous season.

“We had some tough luck last year,” Lawrence coach Shawna Robinson said. “We all knew that we were capable.”

Last year seems a distant memory since the team is off to a 4-0-0 start, including wins over Belfast and Nokomis, two of the better teams in Class B North. The Belfast win, 2-1 to open the season, was particularly satisfying.

“We came out strong,” Robinson said. “We scored early and hung. My goalie — senior Marian Zawistowski — played exceptional.”

The Bulldogs are young on defense but have received good play from freshman Haylei Niles and junior Savannah Weston. They’re pretty experienced everywhere else.

Seniors Nora Buck and Macie Larouche return to the front line and have been productive while junior Lexi Lewis is a rock in the middle of the field.

“The kids are very unselfish,” Robinson said. “They’d rather pass than shoot. I’m trying to get them to be a little more selfish.”

Robinson added the chemistry on the team is strong this year, but that was also the case a year ago.

“I don’t know if last season was a wakeup call for us,” she said.

The Bulldogs face a tough stretch of games beginning at home Thursday against Maine Central Institute. They travel to Winslow on Saturday, then play at Gardiner on Thursday before meeting Winslow again on Sept. 23.

“I hope to find out what we’re made of,” Robinson said. “We don’t feel we’ve played our best field hockey yet.”

• • •

Messalonskee and Skowhegan have developed into fierce rivals over the past few seasons and both come into Tuesday’s game unbeaten. Game time is 4:15 p.m. at Thomas College, weather permitting.

“Our games against each other are the most exciting of the season,” Messalonskee coach Katie McLaughlin said. “For both teams it’s a great indicator of where we stand.”

The Eagles have yet to defeat Skowhegan in the playoffs, at least in the eight years McLaughlin has coached them, but they’ve knocked them off several times in the regular season. This year they return a veteran group of nine seniors, led by captains Megan Quirion and Autumn Littlefield.

“They’re huge communicators for us,” McLaughlin said. “They’re both very strong and they can get up and down the field very quickly.”

Both play in midfield along with junior Chloe Tilley and form the backbone of the Eagles’ team. Kaitlyn Smith is back on the front line and one of the better scorers in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference while sophomore Rylie Genest has taken over in goal and has three shutouts in the team’s first four games.

The turf surface at Thomas College is something both teams are used to and prefer to play on.

“Both Skowhegan and Messalonskee have players who play year round,” McLaughlin said. “I think that really helps both teams.”

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