WATERVILLE — It’s no secret that central Maine was the epicenter of field hockey in Maine a year ago — but last year was last year.

Although Skowhegan, Lawrence and Winthrop gave the region a sweep of the state field hockey championships in 2022, all three teams have since undergone significant overhauls. This day, then, was a chance for a first glance at the new-look programs as they played for a good cause.

The three reigning state champs were among eight participants in an afternoon of mini-games Friday at Victories over Violence at Thomas College. The event raised money for the Family Violence Project, which provides resources for those affected by domestic abuse in Kennebec and Somerset counties.

“In central Maine, field hockey has always been a really prized sport for girls. It’s something we take a lot of pride in,” said Skowhegan head coach Paula Doughty. “The cause is something that inspires them, and they love coming out here and getting together before the season starts.”

Prior to the pandemic, Victories over Violence, which raised $44,036.07 last year, had been organized as the Battle for Breast Cancer. It’s been an engaging fundraising event for female athletes under both titles, but the current one, Doughty said, has struck a particular chord with players over its three-year run. 

“We did an educational session before the games, and you wouldn’t believe the questions these kids had; they’re into it,” Doughty said. “Everybody experiences this. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor; there isn’t a family out there. It really bonds them.”


Always the favorite in Class A, Doughty’s Skowhegan team is defending both the state title and an inconceivable 21 consecutive regional crowns. The River Hawks, though, have work to do with only a select few of the players who powered the team to an unbeaten campaign last year back for 2023.

It’s a shift from a Skowhegan team that was very seasoned in 2021 and 2022. Still, with reigning Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A Player of the Year Laney LeBlanc and fellow KVAC A first-teamers Layla Conway and Sydalia Savage returning, a different-looking River Hawks team is as talented as ever.

“It’s definitely different,” Doughty said. “The last two years, we really had a ton of very seasoned players. This year, I have 11 players that are fairly seasoned and 14 or 15 that are new players, but I think we’re going to be fine. They’re having fun and working really hard to get better.”

WATERVILLE, MAINE – JULY 28, 2023 Skowhegan Area High School and Mt. Blue High School walk to center field during opening ceremonies of the Victories Over Violence tournament at Thomas College in Waterville on Thursday, July 28, 2023. (Staff Photo by Michael G. Seamans/Staff Photographer) Michael G. Seamans/Morning Senti

One class below, Lawrence finds itself in a position not that different from Skowhegan’s. The Bulldogs went undefeated en route to a state title in Class B last year, but the lineup they’re set to field this fall will contrast significantly from the one that won the program’s first-ever regional and state crowns a year ago.

Although phenom Maddie Niles is back for Lawrence, the Bulldogs must replace nine starters, including Miss Maine Field Hockey Hope Bouchard. Like Skowhegan, Lawrence is plenty talented, but head coach Shawna Robinson wasn’t shy to admit there were some growing pains in the tournament opener against Messalonskee.

“(We had challenges with) scoring, defense, passing, goalie, the collective effort trying to solve some issues — pretty much everything,” Robinson said. “The summer’s been a great experience for the younger kids, for sure, but there’s definitely been a learning curve for us.”


Practicing, Robinson said, has been a challenge with the weather canceling a number of summer sessions and the team’s practice facility currently unavailable. Thus far, most practices have consisted primarily of games — not ideal for a team looking to replace numerous pieces.

Then, there’s Winthrop. The Ramblers have some retooling of their own to do this year with eight seniors departed from last year’s Class C state title-winning team. Yet Winthrop is also working in a new head coach as Melissa Perkins takes over for Sharon Coulton, a staple on the sidelines since the 1980s.

Skowhegan field hockey players, dressed in purple, run toward the sidelines after the opening ceremonies of the Victories Over Violence tournament Friday at Thomas College in Waterville. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

“Sharon was amazing; I don’t think it’s possible for somebody to truly fill her shoes, but I’m going to give it my best effort,” said Perkins, previously an assistant under Coulton. “We have a great group of girls. We have some spots to fill for sure, but our girls are so committed, and they’re up to that challenge.”

Winthrop will have an elite offensive threat at its disposal this year in Maine Field Hockey Association All-State selection Madeline Wagner, who scored 39 goals and registered 16 assists in 2022. She’ll be a leader for the senior-less Ramblers along with fellow juniors Caroline Corgan, Izzy Folsom, Lauren Miller and Liz Roman.

Although the schedule Friday was challenging for Winthrop, the Ramblers embraced the difficult slate of opponents. Taking on larger schools such as Skowhegan, Lawrence, Messalonskee and Mt. Blue gave Winthrop a chance to test itself against new foes, ones that will toughen them up for Class C play.

“I know a lot of these girls from club, so it’s great seeing them, and it gives our girls experience against other teams that are bigger than us,” Wagner said. “That’s great competition that we might not face in the regular season, and it’s exciting to play against the different styles of play so you can learn from it.”

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