The heart of the Maine Principals’ Association field hockey playoffs begins Tuesday, and teams in all three classes are eager to get things rolling toward crowning a triumvirate of state champions.

Two conferences — KVAC Class B and the MVC — have an argument toward being the toughest top-to-bottom conferences in Maine on a daily basis. With that in mind, that Dirigo High School emerged to post a 13-win campaign is impressive, and the Cougars are rewarded with the No. 1 seed in Class C South. They also earned a win in the non-countable MVC Championship game to complete a dream regular season.

But the reward is also laden with risk for the Cougars, who draw the No. 8 seed in the quarterfinal round of the Class C South bracket — none other than three-time regional finalist Lisbon.

The Greyhounds struggled out of the gate this season, but have surged in the final two weeks of the campaign, posting three wins in the final four games of the regular season — all shutouts. A young team, Lisbon still has a handful of players who have played in a couple of state title games, or at least who have been there with the team under playoff scrutiny. That experience, and the confidence from their recent run, make the Greyhounds a dangerous out for the Cougars. The teams met once in the regular season, with Dirigo earning a 2-0 win on Sept. 7.

The other big story out of the MVC this season has been the return to prominence of St. Dominic Academy. The Saints, once perennial state title contenders, had fallen into a lull in recent years, but have roared back this season and earned the No. 2 seed in Class C South, despite an 0-2 start. A strong, young nucleus of players will look to gain valuable playoff experience this season, and are hungry enough that even emerging at the region’s representative to the state final isn’t out of the question.

Nor would it be inconceivable that any of the region’s other teams — No. 3 Oak Hill, No. 4 Mountain Valley, No. 5 North Yarmouth, No. 6 Sacopee Valley and No. 7 Traip Academy — would make it through the bracket. Playing in the Western Maine Conference, NYA and Sacopee, in particular, have a history of lurking in the lower seeds with a strong team, which makes the NYA at Mountain Valley matchup in the quarters all that much more intriguing. Playing at home should help the Falcons in that one.

The easiest team to overlook in the playoffs from the MVC is Winthrop, because when the regions are split, the Ramblers become part of the Class C North bracket. Expectations were high this season for Winthrop, and though they didn’t finish with as many wins as some had projected, the Ramblers played in the MVC, and saw plenty of tough competition. With seven wins, the No. 5 Ramblers will travel to No. 4 Piscataquis Community High School for a quarterfinal matchup Tuesday. Perennial power Dexter is the top seed in Class C North, with MCI in at No. 2 and Mt. View at No. 3.

Class B tough as nails

One of the things Spruce Mountain wanted to gain by shifting to the KVAC from the MVC was a more competitive schedule for its athletic teams game in and game out. In field hockey, all the Phoenix did was jump from one boiling pot into another. This season, Spruce Mountain won nine of 14 games, and lost four of the other five by a single goal. The team’s reward? The seventh seed and a playoff preliminary game this past weekend against Greely High School, which the Phoenix won, 1-0.

The team’s reward for that win is a trip to Yarmouth. The No. 2 Clippers are back in Class B this year after a successful foray into Class C after their enrollment dipped. The Clippers went 11-2-1 this season in the Western Maine Conference, including a 3-2 over Greely on Sept. 8.

Perennial contender Leavitt, also playing out of the KVAC B pool, also finished with a 9-5 record, and, despite a loss to Spruce Mountain finished in sixth position in the standings, one place better than the Phoenix.

This edge allowed the Hornets to avoid a prelim game, but means they will travel to Fryeburg for a 6/3 quarterfinal this week. The Raiders went 11-3 this season in the WMC, losing only to No. 1 seed and heavy favorite York, No. 2 Yarmouth and regional rival and No. 5 seed Lake Region.

Perhaps lost in the shuffle of the Class B standings this season to many is the reemergence of Gray-New Gloucester. The Patriots had suffered through several consecutive losing seasons, and had won fewer than five games in the past three years.

That changed this season, with the team rocketing out of the gate to a 4-2 start. The Patriots finished 7-7, and earned a come-from-behind win over Freeport in a preliminary round game. They have the unenviable task of facing York in the quarterfinal round.

In Class B North, Gardiner, Winslow, Foxcroft and Lawrence make up the top four seeds. Winslow was the Class C champion a year ago, and Lawrence is in its first season of Class B competition, having dropped from Class A this year.

Joining the party in Class A

It’s been tough for Messalonskee and its players in recent years. The Eagles have lived in the long shadow of one of the best programs in New England almost every year, watching as Skowhegan rattled off state title after state title, often with players who were good friends and fellow specialty camp attendees.

Messalonskee flipped the script on the Indians this season, cruising to a 14-0 record in Class A North, a run that included two wins over Skowhegan.

The Eagles will be the favorite to earn a state title game bid, but for the first time in a while, the Eagles’ opponent may not be a foregone conclusion.

No. 4 Mt. Blue gave Skowhegan all it could handle in a pair of 2-1 setbacks this season, and the Cougars also played tough against Messalonskee in the teams’ only meeting, also a 2-1 Eagles victory.

Sitting at No. 3 is Cony High School, with which Mt. Blue split in the regular season.

But to even get a third crack at Messalonskee, the Cougars are going to have to handle Edward Little, which, after a 5-0 start, settled in at 9-5, earning the No. 5 seed.

No. 6 Oxford Hills will travel to Cony to face the Rams. The teams played a one-sided game earlier this season that fell in favor of the Rams, but the Vikings have played better of late, and own a tie with Mt. Blue on their resume.

In a departure from the norm in Class A South, no team is unbeaten, and six teams have three or fewer losses. Cheverus, Scarborough, Thornton Academy and Sanford are the top four in the bracket, each with two losses on the season.


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