With five starters and the top two bench players returning from a team that went undefeated in the regular season and reached the Class B North final, the Waterville girls have nothing to worry about, right?

Well, that’s not how coach Rob Rodrigue sees it. Yes, the Purple Panthers are good. But when you’re that good, he said, each team each night wants to be the one to knock you off.

“Everybody’s going to give us their best game,” he said. “Every night we have a possibility of putting someone in the tournament.”

Waterville’s Sadie Garling (24) looks to pass the ball as Mt. Desert Island defender Hannah Chamberlain closes in during the second half of the Class B North championship game last season at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

That wasn’t the case last year, when the Panthers were very good but also under the radar for much of the season. This year, Waterville will have the target on its back from the first game on.

“We have to make sure we’re giving attention to every opponent we have,” Rodrigue said. “Sometimes it’s tougher to kind of be the top team and stay there.”

Waterville has the team to handle that pressure, however. Maddie Martin and Sadie Garling were the top players last year, but Jayda Murray, Paige St. Pierre and Lindsay Given also started, and Kali Thompson and Abigail Saucier were the first names off the bench.

“Both Maddie and Sadie are going to be very tough to cover,” Rodrigue said. “Sadie shoots it as well as anybody, and Maddie’s just a great all-around player.”

So where will the challenge come from?

Winslow, which won the state title two years ago and was a regional semifinalist last year, could have something to say about it. The Black Raiders lost a lot of starting minutes and senior experience, but guards Silver Clukey and Bodhi Littlefield, a senior and junior, respectively, played big minutes last year and are winning athletes who just guided the field hockey team to the state championship.

Several other players from that team are on this roster. If an ability to win carries over from one sport to another, Winslow could be set up for a big year. That being said, coach Brenda Beckwith knows her team won’t be able to afford as many mistakes as some of its opponents.

“We’ll compete in every game,” Beckwith said, “but we cannot be turning the ball over, (and we) need to play smart on defense.”

MCI slid back after a strong 2018-19 season, but still made the Class B North playoffs. Coach Jordan Larlee has some pieces with which to work, as Leah Bussell is back to anchor the post game and guards Sara Linkletter and Maria Reed are back as the leading scorers.

“I believe our strength is our offense this year. We move the ball around well and have capable shooters from the outside as well as post presence in the middle with Bussell and (Natalie) Sites,” Larlee said. “We can go under the radar because we do not have that one star player, but we have six players that can score double digits on any given night.”

Mount View missed the playoffs last year, but the Mustangs have their anchor in what they hope will be a season of growth. That’s Hannah Coolen, a sophomore guard, who burst onto the scene and averaged 14 points per game as a freshman, and who will be looking for bigger things for herself and her team this season.

“We will be an inexperienced team,” coach Mark Cooper said. “We need to make good decisions with the ball, improve our physical and mental toughness, and understand that this is a lengthy process and it will take time.”

In the South region, Oak Hill enjoyed a tremendous 16-2 regular season last year before falling in the B South quarterfinals. The Raiders will find pulling off the same record without players like Abby Nadeau, Sadie Waterman and Sara Moring to be difficult, but returning senior starters like guard Desirae Dumais and a strong group of freshmen and sophomore could keep them near the top of the MVC again.

“We should be pretty deep and competitive this coming season,” coach Mike Labonte said. “Major challenges will be in defining roles and (seeing) who will be replacing the leadership and toughness that graduated.”

Maranacook, which improved by six wins last season, will look to continue that upwards momentum with a roster heavy with juniors and sophomores. Amanda Goucher, Anna Drillen and Gabby Green could all be top scorers on the team by the middle of the season, and the Black Bears will play a tight on-ball style of defense on the other end of the floor.

“(We) are ready for a strong season and are looking to compete harder,” coach Karen Magnusson said. “(We) plan to play a strong, defensive-minded game that looks to push the tempo and play as a unit. The Black Bears will be a team to watch this year.”

 

RUNDOWN

2018-19 STATE CHAMP

Class B — Gray-New Gloucester

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Sadie Garling, Waterville: Senior guard averaged 17 points per game and is a deadly long-range shooter. Teams that don’t play her tight off the ball could be in trouble.

Maddie Martin, Waterville: Senior forward and co-captain is the team’s most versatile player and perhaps its best rebounder. She and Garling are the leaders.

Hannah Coolen, Mount View: Guard averaged 14 points per game as a freshman and could be a breakout player this year. If the Mustangs make the playoffs, she’ll be why.

GAMES TO WATCH

Dec. 23: Winslow at Waterville

Jan. 14: MCI at Maranacook

Jan. 16: Waterville at Winslow

Feb. 4: Lincoln Academy at Waterville

Feb. 4: Mount View at MCI

PREDICTED CHAMP

Class B — Waterville

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