When trying to peer into the crystal ball and see how the Class B South season will play out, first-year Poland co-coach Katrina Seeley has some sage advice.
“I think that people shouldn’t look at last year,” Seeley said.
That seems like a good starting point when trying to break down the region.
Yes, the elite teams often come from the Western Maine Conference, but many of those perennial contenders have question marks. Local teams — hailing from three different conferences, including the WMC — can all say the same thing.
Poland enters the season with plenty of questions to answer, but that’s just fine, according to the Knights.
“I think the best thing about us right now is that we’re still figuring our team out,” first-year co-coach Kayla Vannah said, “so therefor to look at other peoples’ teams, we can’t.”
The Knights expect to be looked at as one of the region’s rebuilding teams, but Vannah said her squad could maybe surprise some teams, including themselves.
Oak Hill, the region’s lone team from the Mountain Valley Conference and a regional semifinalist as the No. 4 seed last year, could also be looked at as a rebuilding team. The Raiders graduated a handful of players off last year’s team that had one of the program’s most successful seasons, and as an MVC team playing in the WMC-heavy Class B South, there’s always some mystery as to how they’ll fare when playing in the postseason.
“Class B south is always an extremely competitive group of teams,” Oak Hill coach Allyson Collins said. “Cape (Elizabeth), Greely, York, Wells and Gray-New Gloucester are always tough teams to beat and I expect no less this season.
“We unfortunately have to win a minimum of 10 games typically to make it into the Class B playoffs because we play almost a completely C schedule. I hope to be in the top of the mix by season’s end, but I have a very young team. Hopefully they learn quickly.”
Mountain Valley is in a similar boat, playing in the MVC, but the Falcons return more than the Raiders, including the senior battery of pitcher Emily Laubauskas and catcher Abby Mazza. The Falcons will look to take the next step this year after losing in the first round in their return to the playoffs last season.
York was the top seed and the regional champion last year, with the previous year’s regional champ, Yarmouth, and perennial contender Greely slotting in ahead of Oak Hill. Roster turnover and numbers fluctuation could mean a reshuffling at the top of the standings this year.
Gray-New Gloucester, the No. 8 seed after an 11-5 regular season last year, hopes to move up the charts.
“(We) look forward to the competition with Wells, Yarmouth, Cape and Fryeburg, as there are some sore spots from games in past seasons,” Gray-NG coach Amanda Harmon said. “To rank us is hard, but I feel that if we play to our full potential and with our goal in mind, we could sit on the upper side of the top five through this season.
“I think that this season will be full of good competition. Teams across lost good players and are trying to fill those spots with younger athletes. I think that every game is its own game and that one team can not go into the game thinking the win is in the bag.”
The Patriots are one team that should at least know what to expect from itself this season, after graduating just one player. Harmon’s program usually produces solid teams, and the Patriots were in the regional final not too long ago.
One of the local non-WMC teams knows less about itself, and that’s Spruce Mountain.
“Teams change so much from year to year due to graduation and defections to other spring sports that it is virtually impossible to know what to expect from one year to the next,” Phoenix coach Clint Brooks said.
Brooks has a sure thing in senior all-conference pitcher Alex Bessey, but there is more unknown beyond that playing KVAC opponents during the regular season, then mostly WMC teams if the Phoenix make the postseason, which they were one spot in the standings from doing last season.
Spruce Mountain will be moving to the MVC next season, but Brooks hopes his team can round into form by the time the calendar turns to June and make some noise in its last season competing in the KVAC.
A KVAC rival of the Phoenix, Leavitt, will be staying in the conference after this season, but the Hornets will also spend the season figuring themselves out after graduating seven seniors. Leavitt finished in the middle of the pack of playoff teams last year and beat KVAC rival Lincoln Academy in the first round before running into Yarmouth.
Who runs into who, and who makes a run, will be a race worth watching in Class B South this season.