WATERVILLE — Coaches call them growing pains, and every team at one point or another must experience them before moving on.
It will likely be a season or two or more before the Maine Central Institute/Nokomis co-operative boys lacrosse team gets up to speed with its Class A North division counterparts. That was evident Tuesday at Thomas College when the first-year varsity program took a 20-1 drubbing from Messalonskee, perennially one of the top teams in the division.
MCI/Nokomis was coming off a 4-3 win over Mt. Blue in its season opener while the Eagles absorbed a 13-7 loss to Lewiston, which speaks more to disparity of competition than irony.
“We didn’t play the game we could have played,” Messalonskee senior Connor Smith said of the Lewiston loss. “They pushed us around a little bit and we got tired near the end.”
Smith, who scored 56 goals last season, netted three Tuesday, but the game was less about individual performance than it was getting back on track.
“We wanted to run some things out there and get ready for games down the road,” said Messalonskee coach Tom Sheridan, who played all 27 of his players.
The Eagles could have named their score as they jumped out to a 9-0 first period lead in which juniors Austin Pelletier and Colin Kinney each scored a pair of goals. Seven different players scored in the second quarter as the Eagles took a 17-0 lead into halftime. They outshot MCI/Nokomis 31-5 in the half and passed the ball at will while peppering goalkeeper Kolin Cobb with a variety of hard shots.
“We faced a far more experienced team today,” MCI/Nokomis coach Chris Hopkins said. “We learned a lot from their game. Our goal is to improve every quarter.”
The Eagles finished the regular season 10-4 last year before bowing out in the Class A North semifinals. They graduated 14 players from that team, including several starters, and will need steady improvement to get back to that point.
“We have some key guys back,” Sheridan said, “but we need some juniors and sophomores to step up.”
Sheridan used a variety of combinations in the second half, which was played in running time. Kinney scored his third and fourth goals of the game while Nate Tolman scored on a pass from John Martin in the fourth quarter to help MCI/Nokomis avoid the shutout.
Pelletier finished with five goals and two assists for Messalonskee, while teammate Dana Michaud added a pair of goals and three assists.