Bolstered by one of the best attacking players in the state, and with a roster deep on soccer talent, Messalonskee could finally find itself in the Class A state championship conversation by season’s end. At the very least, the Eagles will be one of the sides opponents will have to deal with if they have hopes of claiming the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A title.

Fifth-year head coach Penny Stansfield said she finally feels she has a group of soccer-specific athletes.

“This is my first year with the varsity team where I have a true ‘soccer’ team,” Stansfield said. “They’ve dedicated time outside of school to improve their skill.”

Senior McKenna Brodeur scored 15 goals last season to lead the Eagles in scoring. Already, with 45 career goals, she holds the Messalonskee scoring record. With a solid group of returning midfielders behind her in senior Fern Calkins and sophomores Edin Sisson and Caitlin Parks, the Messalonskee attack could be enough to carry the Eagles beyond the Class A North quarterfinals.

“I’m excited about the talent we have,” Stansfield said. “I think we’ll have the most successful season we’ve had and go the furthest in the playoffs that we’ve been.”

The Mt. Blue Cougars believe they have taken steps similar to those taken by Messalonskee. Though Morning Sentinel Player of the Year Eryn Doiron has graduated, the Cougars have a large roster and hope their depth will carry them through the season.

“We have high expectations of making the playoffs,” Mt. Blue coach Fred Conlogue said.

After spending a year trying to fine-tune their play in the defensive third of the pitch, Mt. Blue is solid there but is looking for help when it comes to replacing the goals Doiron scored — two-thirds of the team’s total in 2015. Expect to see junior strikers Sierra Keim and Jocelyn Daggett play that role early on.

At Cony, the Rams have been hit hard by graduation the last three years, but it’s left behind an athletic core of sophomores and juniors that are on the upswing. It will be difficult to replace all-conference goalkeeper Autumn Sudsbury, who graduated in the spring, but the team’s midfield has a veteran presence about it that should allow a young group of backs to grow as the year goes on.

“We’re probably going to struggle early in the first half of the year with our youth,” Cony coach Jeff Hersey said. “But if we can battle through it and get through the frustration that comes with struggling, we can be a surprise team in the second half of the season.”

Joining the youth movement in Class A is Skowhegan, a team that went winless a year ago but has a number of younger players who were forced into action a year ago. That experience, hopes returning head coach Mike Herrick, could pay off. Like Cony, the Indians expect to surprise some people.

Lawrence is also in the mix, trying to return to the playoff structure after winning two games in 2015.

CLASS B

Waterville welcomes “new” coach Mark Serdjenian after Serdjenian spent a season as the interim coach for the Colby College women’s team. Before that, he enjoyed a 38-year stint as the men’s coach at Colby.

The Purple Panthers dropped only one game in the regular season last year, and they welcome returning all-KVAC standout Jordan Jabar, a center back/center midfielder, back into the fold. Jabar will certainly make Waterville difficult to score against, while a solid group of midfielders should be able to hold possession for long stretches of time.

Against teams like Erskine, keeping possession will be key. The Eagles were a playoff team a year ago, and they have two all-KVAC players in Taylor McLaggan and Kaylee Porter back again this season.

“From 18 to 18, we move the ball incredibly well,” Erskine coach Ryan Nored said. “I’ll challenge any team to a game of keep away.”

Winslow, Gardiner, Oak Hill, Nokomis and Mount View all have designs on a return to the playoffs, too, in a crowded postseason picture in Class B North. Maranacook could make a run in Class B South, while MCI continues to grow toward its own B North tournament appearance.

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC