You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more wide open boys soccer region in the state of Maine than Class B North.

A year removed from a regional championship in 2017, Winslow struggled last season with an extremely young lineup that took its lumps along the way. Rival Waterville was also in the middle of a multi-year rebuild a year ago. Maine Central Institute made the postseason with its typically smart, gritty style of play.

Fast-forward to this season and it’s impossible to find a favorite.

The teams in the northern part of the region, Caribou and Presque Isle, are always strong and should be again. The same could be said for Hermon, and John Bapst is expected to be much better than it was a year ago. Winslow and Waterville will each be improved.

How much? Time will tell.

“We will have a little more experience around the pitch and more depth than last season,” Winslow coach Aaron Wolfe said. “We should compete for a playoff spot and see what we can do once we get there.”

Isaac Burbank and Chris Phair are experienced senior midfielders for the Black Raiders, and much of the play will likely channel through them. Classmate and center back Austin Soucy will make sure they have room and space to operate, and with sophomore striker Landen Gillis back after starting as a rookie, Winslow should be talented up the middle.

If there were a soft spot for Waterville last season, it came inside the attacking third of the pitch. From 18-yard box to 18-yard box, the Purple Panthers were as difficult to play against as anyone, but too often their play there didn’t translate into a finished product.

“We are starting to move the ball well,” Waterville coach Kerry Serdjenian said of his team’s preseason. “We are generating some nice scoring opportunities.”

Adding Zach Menoudarakos to the striker spot — he’s played in a number of places for Serdjenian — could alleviate some of those goal-scoring woes. Fellow senior Max McGagney will also get a look up top, as will a trio of juniors in Chris Williams, Declan Murphy and Kaden Works. A deep defensive group will buy some time for Waterville to iron out any wrinkles on the attack.

MCI should be in line for a playoff return. Seniors Ethan Varney and T.J. Stewart are important parts of a young club, but a club that typically makes it very difficult for the opposition.

Lawrence and Nokomis hope for a playoff spots, but they’ll each need to find some chemistry early to build toward a strong second half.

Class B South presents an interesting opportunity for Gardiner and Erskine.

Gardiner, after making the B North quarterfinals a year ago, lost its central leader in Casey Bourque to graduation. Much of the Tigers’ defense is back, and the team will need some of last year’s auxiliary scoring players — Jackson Tweedy and Cam Kochernak — to emerge as reliable threats this season.

“We are a young group who wants to work hard, improve, and make a push towards the playoffs,” Gardiner coach Nick Wallace said. “We still need to find a consistent goal scorer, but we return two anchors to our defense that are the heart of our team.”

Erskine moves over to the South region with question marks centering around so much youth. The Eagles did add Yanic Boulet, a Kents Hill senior transfer, to help.

“We’re only returning seven varsity players from last season, making us a very new team,” Erskine coach Carrie Larrabee said.  “Many players who played on the JV team last season are stepping up into big roles on the varsity squad.”

CLASS A

Mt. Blue danced all the way to the regional semifinals last fall where it ran into the Lewiston buzzsaw, and the Cougars graduated a number of key players from that squad.

Still, Mt. Blue should be solid in another very good Class A North region, where Lewiston and Bangor are among the best teams in the state while Brunswick and Mt. Ararat have closed the gap considerably. The Cougars have Eli Yeaton, a back who can play any position on the field with skill and a talented group of young players. Defensive organization and work ethic has always been Mt. Blue’s calling card.

After winning just two games a year ago with only a couple of role-playing seniors, Messalonskee will be much better this season. They’ve got some needed depth, but the question mark for the Eagles revolves around how quickly they can adapt their game to their new, big turf field.

“We are very deep at every position and the team is hungry to return to the playoffs,” Messalonskee coach Tom Sheridan said. “Most of last season’s roster returns, and the experience from last year has been key to our success this preseason.  Competition for starting positions has only helped improve our team.”

Skowhegan will try and turn the corner and get into playoff contention this fall, much in the way its girls program did last season.

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