READFIELD — The game was over, and both teams settled in for team photos on both ends of the field.

It was only the season opener for both the Maranacook/Winthrop and MCI/Nokomis girls lacrosse teams. But given its status as the varsity debut for both programs, Saturday afternoon at Kents Hill School took on a little more meaning.

“It’s huge,” Maranacook/Winthrop coach Shawn Drillen said. “All that hard work over the years, now it’s paying off.”

Maranacook/Winthrop’s Emma Plante, left, and MCI/Nokomis’ Mallory Whitley chase a ball behind the net during a game Saturday at Kents Hill School in Kents Hill. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan

“I developed the high school team five years ago, and we finally get to go varsity,” MCI/Nokomis coach Mary Alice Gould said. “It’s a win, no matter how you look at the scoreboard.”

Maranacook/Winthrop got the win in that first game, getting five goals from Cadence Malcolm, three from Anna Erb and two apiece from Anna Drillen and Natalie Whitten en route to a 15-3 victory.

Saturday was important for all of the Hawks, but especially so for seniors like goalie Sam Cloutier, who along with sister Sarah had been with the program since its first days.

“We’ve really seen it grow. My sophomore year we played man down every game, and now we have a full bench for varsity,” Sam said. “We can do what the (boys team) can do. It’s just really big for us.”

The Hawks took command early. MCI/Nokomis struck first only 30 seconds in on a goal by Meagan Whitten, but Maranacook surged in front, showcasing a coordinated passing attack that belied its varsity inexperience. Ella Schmidt scored 46 seconds later, Drillen darted up to the net and scored with 22:39 left, and Jayden Perkins scored off a free position with 21:07 to go. The roll continued when Malcolm scored her first goal with 18:27 left and Drillen slung in a shot off a feed, making it 5-1 and prompting Gould to call timeout with 14:21 remaining.

“It’s definitely a really good feeling. You come out and you don’t know how it’s going to turn out, you (haven’t seen) those players play before,” Malcolm said. “We ended up getting our offense together, and we really stuck with it. I think that helped us.”

The timeout didn’t slow the Hawks. Erb had three goals and Malcolm had two before halftime, lifting Maranacook/Winthrop to a 10-1 lead at the break. The Hawks raced out to the lead by keeping the action almost exclusively in the MCI/Nokomis end, passing effectively both in front of and behind the net to find good looks.

Coach Drillen attributed the success to team chemistry forged even in the program’s JV and club days.

“To me, that’s what I’m expecting,” he said. “I expect to see those passes, and I guess I’m not surprised because I know the girls, I know what to expect.”

Nokomis/MCI defender Jordan Boyd, center, clears the ball out while being defended by Maranacook/Winthrop’s Candace Malcolm, left, and Emma Plante during a game Saturday at Kents Hill School in Kents Hill. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan

Malcolm said she was happy to see that teamwork translate to the field.

“It’s cool to see what we can do on the field. Our passes are stronger than they were at the beginning of the season,” she said. “It’s just us knowing each other as a team. … You can depend on your teammates. That’s really good for our varsity program.”

Malcolm and Natalie Whitten scored twice more for the Hawks, while Lillian Voye added a goal. Meagan Whitten and Lillian Hopkins had goals for MCI/Nokomis, which Gould said is still trying to learn the game after losing most of the players from the club and JV-level days.

“With over half the team never playing lacrosse before and (this being) the first day that our team has actually taken a field, I’m very happy with the progress that we made,” she said. “Half of my team has never picked up a lacrosse stick. … Even though it’s 15-3, from what I saw, I’m not worried about our second game.”

Gould said she saw positive signs going forward for her learning group, one being goalies Jordan Boyd, who made eight saves in the first half, and Hannah West, who stopped three in the second.

“I’m excited about what I saw, really,” she said. “We finally are being recognized as a varsity team, and now it’s just time for us to learn the game.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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