Beckett Mehlhorn of South Portland looks to pass as Alex van Huystee of Cape Elizabeth defends during their season opener on Friday. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

1. Cape Elizabeth: Despite losing a number of talented players to graduation, including three all-Americans, the Capers return a team loaded with more than enough talent to make a run at a third consecutive Class A state championship. Offensively, Cape Elizabeth is led by junior Keegan Lathrop, who had 45 goals and 20 assists last season. Other scoring threats include Connor Goss, Sam Cochran, Nick Laughlin and Alex van Huystee. Sebastian Moon is a solid faceoff specialist with a knack for winning faceoffs at the timeliest moments. Defensively, long stick midfielder Nate Patterson leads the way, coming off a season in which he snagged 120 ground balls and forced 35 turnovers. Michael Foley returns in net after taking last season off. Coach Ben Raymond calls Foley’s athleticism and footwork his strengths, along with his ability to work outside the crease and help clear the ball and transition to offense.

2. Falmouth: The Class A runner-up in each of the last four seasons, the Navigators will be a contender for the championship once again. Falmouth returns three all-SMAA players: Senior goalie Drew Noyes, junior midfielder Caden Barnard and sophomore defender Indi Backman. Joey Guerrette and Cyrus Boothby return to the attack, with Gio Guerrette and Cole Allan back in the midfield. Miles Thaxter and Luke Crowder provide experience on defense in front. Coach Dave Barton expects newcomer Hayden Davis, a freshman, to be an immediate impact player on offense.  Falmouth will be tested early, with games at perennial contender Thornton Academy (Saturday), Class A champ Cape Elizabeth (April 29) and Class B champ Brunswick (May 8) among the first six games on the schedule.

3. Thornton Academy: The Class A South runners-up to Cape Elizabeth last season, the Trojans return a team with the talent to build off last season’s 13-win effort and contend again in Class A. If starts with all-SMAA defender Hayden Whitney, who had 84 ground balls and 25 takeaways last season. Goaltender Jake Parenteau is a three-year starter for the Trojans, along with midfielders Lucas Hubbard and Cam Raymond. Offensively, Thornton is led by a trio of players: senior Ethan LeBlanc (23 goals, 16 assists last season) and juniors Jake Marcotte (34 goals, 24 assists) and Noah Veroneau (20 goals, 14 assists). Those three combined to score 77 goals last season, and will be counted on to be offensive sparks for the Trojans. LeBlanc moved from midfield, where he earned all-SMAA honors last season, to attack.

4. South Portland: The Red Riots were the most improved team in the SMAA last season, jumping from two wins in 2021 to 11 last spring. With an experienced roster, South Portland has the potential to build on that improvement and contend in Class A. The Red Riots return Varsity Maine All-state goalie Ben Kieu, who saved 68% of the shots he faced last season, making 146 stops. Seniors Brady Angell and Finn O’Donnell lead a defense in front of Kieu that allowed less than six goals per game last season. Midfielder Luc Mehlhorn (20 goals, eight assists last season), attacker Jack Dreifus (38 goals, 23 assists) and attacker Beckett Mehlhorn (39 goals, 22 assists) lead South Portland’s offense.

5. Yarmouth: The Clippers have played in eight of the last nine Class B state championship games, finishing runners-up to Brunswick last season. This season, Yarmouth should be among the top teams in Class B again. The attack is led by senior Killian Marsh, who scored 40 goals and had eight assists last season, and Colter Olson, who had 35 goals and 30 assists in just eight games in 2022. Senior Jaxson Dauphinee is a defensive workhorse in the midfield for the Clippers. Sophomore Ward Jenkins will be a key defender, along with senior Owen Redfield, who will miss the first part of the season recovering from a shoulder injury. Coach Jon Miller will have a freshman, Will Redfield, in net, but Miller said the newcomer’s athleticism and quickness allows him to play beyond his age. The Clippers have a rematch with state champion Brunswick scheduled for April 29 at home.

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