1. Gorham: In recent years, the Rams have made the playoffs but lacked enough top players to get over the hump and into the Class A championship game. Last year’s 9-6 squad was no different, losing in the quarterfinals for the third time in four years (the other was a preliminary-round exit). But with all of their players back from last year and nine seniors, the Rams seem ready to be a contender. Hitters Meg Perry, Maiya Carlson and Katie O’Donnell, setter Isabelle Kolb and defensive specialist Talia Catoggio are returning starters for second-year coach Emma Tirrell.

2. Cape Elizabeth: The situation for the Capers couldn’t be sweeter. The defending Class B state champions finished 2017 with a 17-0 record, capped with a 3-0 victory over Falmouth, and will have a senior-laden team. Sarah Boeckel, the Maine Sunday Telegram Coach of the Year, will be able to trot out league all-stars Megan Connelly and Tess Dolan, along with 10 other seniors. Senior Brooke Harvey and sophomore Julia Torre lend even more experience. The target will be on Cape’s back, but it has the talent to persevere.

3. Scarborough: Don’t be surprised if Scarborough finds itself in the Class A state championship game for a fourth straight season. The defending champs went 15-2 last year, ending with a 3-1 victory over South Portland to capture their second title in three years. The Red Storm did lose some core players who graduated or moved away, but first-year coach Kim Stoddard has several players ready to step into more prominent roles, including sophomore outside hitter Shaelyn Thornton, sophomore setter Mayne Gwyer and senior hitter Katie Shaw.

4. Yarmouth: Coach Jim Senecal said last year’s team that finished 14-2 and lost in five sets to Falmouth in the Class B semifinals “probably exceeded expectations.” The Clippers picked up lots of experience with a starting lineup that included four freshmen – Dominique Moran, Kaitlyn Bennett (Maine Sunday Telegram All-State selection), Evelyn Lukis and Maggie Murray. Senior Marie LeBlanc, a two-time captain, also returns.

5. Deering: The program is young, but that doesn’t mean Deering should be overlooked. The Rams enjoyed a magical season in 2017, remaining undefeated until its 13th match of the season and advancing to the Class A semifinals, the best finish in the program’s history. The momentum of a 14-2 season should continue in the school’s fourth year as a varsity program, with senior setter Maddy Broda – a Maine Sunday Telegram All-State selection – returning to set up senior hitters Catherine Balzano and Ava Spach. Victoria Garand is expected to shore up net play and see more time in her senior season.

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