WATERVILLE — The last time there was a championship trophy to play for in Class B, the Winslow field hockey team was the one that ended the season holding it.

If their season opener is any indication, the Black Raiders look like a team that could wind up in that position again this year.

Noella Pepin scored three goals, Sage Clukey and Leah Knight had two apiece, and Winslow took down Waterville 10-0 in the opener for both teams Wednesday.

It was just the first game, but Winslow, which beat York for the 2019 title, looked like a team in sync with wave after wave of attacking pressure. The Black Raiders totaled 17 corners, and scored off five of them.

“It was a really fun game, and I think it set the mood for all of us about how our season’s going to go,” Pepin said. “Starting out (this year), we were all over the place. But I think this game really showed how much teamwork we’ve got and how well we work together. At the beginning we weren’t like that, but I think we’ve really grown over the last couple of weeks.”

“We’re really good at working together,” Knight said. “We always emphasize using our passes instead of dribbling, because they just get the ball up the field way faster. It worked well for us today.”

Winslow coach Mary Beth Bourgoin said the summer has been a successful one in terms of molding her players into a team that can again make noise in the always-competitive Class B field.

“There were issues as far as injuries go, and that was our goal. Just trying to get the team unity down, and communication. And it’s coming along,” she said. “They’ve worked hard for the last two and a half weeks. They’ve given me everything they have.”

Waterville goalie Yuliya Paquette makes a save against Winslow forward Sage Clukey during a field hockey game Wednesday in Waterville. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

As for that Class B picture, Bourgoin said there are too many contenders for her to feel like her team has a target on its back.

“I think that that’s always a focus, but I also know that with KVAC B and Northern B being as tough as it is, I think we’re always looking at ‘There’s Lawrence and there’s Gardiner, and now we have Cony, and then there’s Belfast,'” she said. “It’s always who’s around the corner, who do we have to be ready for. We won two years ago, but it’s been two years, there’s been COVID, and things change.”

The players, though, welcome the championship talk. They’re doing some themselves.

“A lot of our motivation for practices is going back to states and winning it,” Pepin said. “It’s the goal of our season.”

One of Winslow’s top advantages in that pursuit is a strong senior base. The Black Raiders started six seniors in Clukey, Knight, Kassidy Bibeau, Joscelyn Denis, Alaina Lambert and Maddie Lower, with Denis and Lower also adding goals Wednesday.

“I’m lucky,” Bourgoin said. “I have six of them, and I’m so happy with the way they’re leading as a group. … They’re all leading in their own way.”

One of the newer assets for the team was on display in Pepin, who was a basketball player as a freshman, spent the season getting acclimated to the game as a sophomore, and now appears poised to be a factor in the Winslow offense.

Winslow’s Sage Clukey, right, drives past Waterville defender Raylee Gilbert during a game Wednesday in Waterville. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

“She’s this gift, is the way I look at it,” said Bourgoin, who also got a goal from Hunter Lee. “You saw her speed (with how) she can get from one end to the other, like ‘Yep, yep, there she goes.’ She plays with confidence, and she’s so coachable.”

Waterville got 15 saves from senior Yuliya Paquette. Coach Caitlyn Poulin said her team, which will be led by seniors Gabby Maines and Raylee Gilbert, has to grow together on the field, but that she expects it to become a competitive unit as the season progresses.

“(We have) a really strong group of girls that, I think once they jive a little bit more … they’re going to do so well,” Poulin said. “I have six seniors right now. Four of them just started playing two or three years ago, but they’ve really picked it up and have been busting their butts to possess the ball and play together.”

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