1. Scarborough: Last year’s loss in the Western Class A semifinals has the Red Storm determined to bounce back. “We needed something to shake us up and come back even stronger,” said Coach Kerry Mariello. It helps to have one of the state’s best players in junior back Stephanie Felt, a defensive stalwart and clutch scorer on penalty corners. Tri-captains Kelsey Howard, Shauni Cowan and Lindsay Dobecki provide excellent leadership.

2. Cheverus: The defending Western Class A champs lost a lot of firepower but are still very talented. Senior Sarah LaQuerre is one of the top players in the state, and she’ll get plenty of help from the likes of Ali Saxton, Emily Rodrigue and Brooke Flaherty, who had some huge goals last year. “There’s always a little extra pressure, but we’re trying not to think about it,” said Coach Amy McMullin.

3. Thornton Academy: If the Trojans are going to make a move in Western Class A, this might be the year. The Trojans lost only three starters from last year’s regional semifinalists and look ready to push forward. They have several skilled players, like Kaitlin Hilton, Morgan Ouellette-Foss, Morgan Dube, Mary Brown and Nichole Moore. If they can stay healthy — injuries have been an issue — they could challenge.

4. York: Nothing ever changes in York. The Wildcats graduate a bunch of talented players, but Coach Barb Marois finds a bunch of talented replacements. So it is this year as well. The Wildcats have won five of the last six Western Class B championships and should contend for another. They have some exceptional talent in forwards Cari Posternak and Shelby Spencer, midfielders Meghan Boria-Meyer and Liz Fiorentino, backs Kelsey Elsemore and Haley Spencer, and goalie Amanda Kasbohm. And they have up-and-coming players like Taylor Simpson and Tori Stocks. Another title run is probable.

5. Greely: The Rangers lost to York in the regional final a year ago and are using that to fuel their expectations. “That drive, that hunger to get there again, is very prominent,” said Coach Kristina Lane-Prescott. Greely has some talent, led by forwards CeCi Hodgkins, Eliza Porter and Julia Maine, midfielder Emily Curato and backs Maggie Norton and Meghan Labbe. If senior Emma Seymour — who has never played field hockey — gives them strong play in goal, the Rangers will be very dangerous.

6. Falmouth: Look for Falmouth to make Western Class B a three-team race. The Yachtsmen lost only three players from last year’s squad and received a great gift when midfielder Megan Fortier transferred from NYA. She had 25 goals and eight assists for the Class C state champs. Junior Sarah Sparks and senior Catherine Hebson join her to form a very strong midfield. Sophomore Hillary Nash will be the goalie.

7. Sacopee Valley: The Hawks have only one goal this year. “We want the states,” said Coach Terri Barnes. “The soccer girls got it last year, we want it this year.” And they could do it. Sacopee Valley has a strong experienced crew back, led by senior midfielder Danielle Pierce, senior goalie Ashley Pingree, senior fullbacks Lexie Locke and Christina Metcalf, senior forward Chelsea Burnell and junior midfielder Liz Moulton.

8. Portland: The Bulldogs were going to be a respectable team this year — and then they received a couple transfers who should push them among the best in the SMAA. Senior Kylie Dalbec (nine goals, eight assists) joins the Bulldogs from NYA, and junior Gabby Cardona came over from Cheverus. They join returning senior Raechel Allen, who had eight goals last year (including two overtime winners) to give the Bulldogs plenty of talent up front. The defense should be strong. And Portland should be among the contenders.

9. Massabesic: Only two players graduated from a team that got to the quarterfinals a year ago, so the Mustangs look to contend again. Sophomore midfielder Alex Staples should be one of the top scorers, and junior back Kaelyn Kuni has the ability to play any position on the field. Nikki Kent, Sam Emmons and Taylor Bergeron should also be among the Mustangs’ top players.

10. Westbrook: The Blazes are never the flashiest team, but always among the best in the SMAA. That shouldn’t change this year for Beth Murphy’s group. The Blazes play defense and pass as well as anyone, and that should keep them in contention. Senior left wing Ally Lemay could surpass her 11 goals from last year. Senior goalie Maryssa Arsenault is aggressive and challenges shooters, and is aided by senior sweep Courtney Brown.

– Mike Lowe, staff writer