If the Maranacook girls soccer team snuck up on opponents en route to the program’s first regional championship last season, it won’t have the same luxury this season.

The Black Bears should be right back in the mix in Class C South again, thanks to a strong returning group and an attack that’s as threatening as any in the region.

“We still have to take things one game at a time,” fifth-year coach Travis Magnusson said. “That’s what we focused on last year, and it worked. It’s going to be the same thing for us again.”

Juniors Evelyn St. Germain and Anna Drillen are back, as is sophomore Grace Dwyer. They will play in front of senior keeper Skyeler Webb. The Black Bears prefer to build from the back out to prepare  for the low-scoring games of the postseason.

Sophomore striker Emily Harper returns to lead the offense — she scored 23 goals last season.  

Harper’s challenge this season mirrors that of the team’s — nobody will take her or the Black Bears lightly this fall, not after the collective season they had a year ago.

“We’ll definitely have a target on us,” Magnusson said. “Maybe we haven’t seen that before, but it will be an exciting new challenge for us.”

Competition for the top spot in Class C South comes from the Mountain Valley Conference, where Monmouth has reloaded after an abrupt end to its postseason last fall and Oak Hill has dropped down from Class B.

Senior Audrey Fletcher needs just four goals this season to set the career scoring mark at Monmouth. Her sister, Haley Fletcher, finished the 2016 season with 83 career goals.

“I expect more from my older kids,” Monmouth coach Gary Trafton said. “Look, they’re seniors now, they’ve been through this — for some of them four years — they know when there’s stuff going on that should not be happening. They’re older and supposed to be smarter. I’m a little harder on them.”

Seniors Natalie Grandahl and Libby Clement anchor the back line for Monmouth, while Jordyn Gowell emerged as a good midfielder a year ago.

Hall-Dale graduated several key players from one of coach Guy Cousins’ better squads in recent memories, but the Bulldogs have good numbers and plenty of multi-sport athletes.

That should once again have them in the mix with some of the MVC’s powerhouses.

“Our numbers are a little smaller than usual, but we make up for it with a nice mix of experience and youth,” Cousins said. “We’ll continue focusing on our possession-oriented, counter-attacking style of play while solidifying our defense.”

Carrabec and Madison were hoping to form a co-op for this season, but that fell through prior to the start of the preseason, Madison athletic director Chris LeBlanc said. That means both programs are trying to build back up with low numbers.

Mount View could also shake up Class C. The Mustangs were a regional quarterfinalist last season in Class B North.

“At the beginning of the summer the girls sat down and developed some goals and expectations for this season, and at the top of everyone’s list was ‘states,’” Mount View coach Dave Page said. “This is a pretty driven, experienced group and I learned last year to never doubt them.”

CLASS D

Richmond will try and rebound from an uncharacteristically down year in Class D South —the Bobcats only went as far as the regional final — without four-year central midfielder Caitlyn Kendrick.

But there are plenty of returning pieces for the Bobcats, including upperclassmen Bryanne Lancaster, Bryannah Shea and Marybeth Sloat, who were key contributors since their freshmen seasons.

Eight starters return for Richmond, but most of those are on the back line and through the midfield. What the Bobcats will need this season are goals, and they’ll require some new faces to provide them.

Temple Academy enters its second season of varsity play, and two would-be seniors are no longer in the fold. Julianna Hubbard went to Erskine for her senior year, while Deleyni Carr headed off to Lawrence. Still, a second straight playoff appearance is reasonable.

Rangeley will also be in the postseason hunt for veteran coach Chip Smith, while Valley hopes to be in that same conversation as well.

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