Lawrence field hockey coach Shawna Robinson and Maddie Niles embrace during an awards ceremony after the Bulldogs beat Freeport 1-0 to win the Class B championship last season at Messalonskee High School in Oakland. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

While part of the opening chapter of the 2023 central Maine field hockey season remains the same, there is a twist.

Skowhegan, Lawrence and Winthrop — the defending Class A, B and C champions, respectively — are all dealing with change. For the River Hawks and Bulldogs, the change is high roster turnover. For the Ramblers, it’s a change in leadership.

After falling to Cheverus in the 2021 Class A title game, Skowhegan exacted its revenge on the Stags with a 3-2 win in the state final last fall, the 20th Class A title in program history and 17th victory out of the past 21 Class A finals. Skowhegan also finished a perfect 18-0. Though the River Hawks are still the heavy favorite to retain the A North crown and return to the state final, the team has graduated two large senior classes in consecutive seasons, and carry 20 players on its varsity roster this fall, a low number by program standards.

“This team is different,” Skowhegan head coach Paula Doughty said. “The last two years, we lost 10 (seniors) one year and 10 the next year. We’re a young team, really, we have 10 freshmen who are just trying to figure (the game) out.”

Still, plenty of talent returns for Skowhegan, beginning with captains Laney LeBlanc, Layla Conway and Masyn Atwood, all of whom will play pivotal roles for the team this fall. Juniors Elli Quinn and Sydalia Savage have also played roles in the River Hawks’ previous success.

“We’ll do fine, I have no doubt we’re going to do fine,” Doughty said. “But it’s definitely a different team than we’ve had in the past.”


The River Hawks will continue to be challenged in the North by Oxford Hills, which gave Skowhegan a tough battle in the regional final last year. Locally, Messalonskee continues to progress under head coach Katie Brann. The Eagles finished last season with a 12-4 record before falling 3-1 to Oxford Hills in the A North semifinals.

“We’re on the young side,” Brann said. “We’ve only got three juniors and three seniors, but those juniors and seniors are very experienced and are good leaders. Our younger people are picking it up quickly. We’re young, but I don’t think it’s a huge factor with the way we’ll perform.”

Mt. Blue, which finished 4-10 last season, will look to improve under new head coach Julie Lajoie, who is taking over the position after longtime head coach Jody Harmon stepped down from the position after last season.

Lawrence’s Maddie Niles, left, hugs teammate Ashtynn Stewart after the Bulldogs scored during the Class B title game last season at Messalonskee High School in Oakland. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Lawrence managed to edge Freeport 1-0 last year to win the program’s first Class B title. Like Skowhegan, the Bulldogs graduated a large senior class — 11 overall — including Hope Bouchard, the Miss Maine Field Hockey award winner.

“I’ve actually been impressed (with the preseason),” Lawrence head coach Shawna Robinson said. “My kids have all been stepping up the plate and working really, really hard. I have more numbers than I thought I would.”

Lawrence still has strong numbers, as well as its top scorer in Maddie Niles. The junior scored a program-record 38 goals last fall.


“Confidence (will be key),” Robinson said. “Communication. Just playing within yourself. A lot of these kids play a lot of club (field hockey), so they’re ready. It’s their turn, they know it and they’re ready.”

The Bulldogs will receive stiff competition in Class B North, which may become one of the toughest conferences in the state. Aside from perennial contender Belfast, which reached the B North final last year, Nokomis, Cony and Gardiner all battled near the top of the standings. The Warriors (10-5-1) and the Rams (8-7-1) each made the semifinal round last year.

“We can’t wait (to start),” said Nokomis head coach Shaunessy Saucier, who graduated a key player in Brianna Townsend, who is now playing for the University of Maine. “We did play a lot this summer, a Monday night league in Winslow and at Thomas College, so we got to be on the turf this summer. We had a really great amount of girls who would come and play, so we got our preseason early.”

Cony’s players also spent time in summer leagues, coach Holly Daigle said.

“We’ve got a great group of returning players coming back, they’ve been really dedicated this summer,” Daigle said. “A lot of new players who participated in the summer stuff. I feel like the girls have been on the same page early with good team chemistry.”

The Tigers (10-4-1) are in an exciting transition, with Jess Merrill taking over as the new head coach. Merrill has a strong coaching pedigree, leading Winthrop to three consecutive Class C final appearances from 2017-19, including a Class C title in 2018.


“The girls have been super receptive, they’re working really hard,” Merrill said. “We’re changing a bunch, and they’re really on board with those changes. I think they’re going to be really exciting to watch, once we figure it out.”

Winthrop’s Madeline Wagner moves the ball up the field as Telstar’s Autumn Thompson pivots to follow her during a game last season in Lewiston. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Winthrop, which finished 16-2 and edged Maine Central Institute 2-1 for its second consecutive Class C title last fall, has a new head coach. Sharon Coulton — who had a 335-158-37 record as a head coach, was a part of five Class C title teams and served as either head coach or assistant with the program dating back to 1981 — retired from the position after last season. Melissa Perkins, previously an assistant under Coulton, takes over as the new head coach.

“We’re a young team, we graduated eight starters,” Perkins said. “That’s a significant amount of roles to transition into. But they’ve shown up, over and over, all summer long. We do have some returning starters and that will be the core of this team, and I think they’re going to be good.”

Plenty of talent returns for the Ramblers in their effort for a three-peat, including top player Madeline Wagner.

Maine Central Institute (13-4-1) battled its way through the C North playoffs under then-first year head coach Terri-Jean Wilkinson, who is excited to see the progression the team makes on the field this fall.

“They’re looking fierce (in the preseason),” Wilkinson said. “We have a core of starters that are looking very strong. All 11 that are starting all compliment each other and bring a lot to the field.”

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