SOUTH CHINA — The Erskine girls lacrosse team had a major hole to fill.

The last time anyone saw them play, the Eagles made the Class C semifinals in 2019, but that was with the Jordan and Joanna Linscott show in town. Two years removed, Erskine is going to need another anchor.

On Monday, Courtney Paine looked ready to play that part. The senior scored four goals, leading Erskine to a 12-4 victory over MCI/Nokomis.

Sarah Praul added three goals for the Eagles (1-1), while Isabella Smith scored two. Piper Hewins led MCI/Nokomis with three goals, while Dawn DeWeese-Moss added the other.

“It’s nice to see them come out aggressive and working hard,” Erskine coach Shara MacDonald said. “We had more passes today, I think we won more of the balls on the ground, which was good. And Courtney definitely stepped up.”

Paine entered the season with the understanding that she might need to.

“I was hoping to be a leader this year, because I was a senior coming in, and my sophomore year I had a lot of good leaders for me,” she said. “(But) it’s not just me stepping up, it’s every player on the field stepping up, and that’s what happened today.”

The Eagle ran best, though, with the ball on her stick. In addition to her ability to cut through the MCI/Nokomis defense, she was effective in the faceoff circle and got her teammates involved on offense. She had the first goal of the game, and then helped Erskine go ahead 3-1 by slinging a pass from the right side in to Reese Sullivan, who was standing in front of the left post and finished off the score.

“She put in some miles today,” MacDonald said. “We didn’t take her out very much. She’s full-field, running and a lot of heart. It’s nice to see that and have a senior take charge out there.”

MacDonald pointed out that Paine’s contributions weren’t limited to the offensive side of the field.

“She’s multi-faceted,” MacDonald said. “And she likes defense. It’s nice to have somebody who’s offensive-minded, but also enjoys working on defense and trying to get the ball.”

Erskine’s Isabella Boudreau, right, and Nokomis-MCI’s Dawn DeWeese-Moss battle for the ball during a game Monday in South China. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

Paine’s first year playing lacrosse came in her sophomore year — she was out of sports between that season and the fall of her freshman year with hip and leg injuries — and she said it was a leap to go from a rookie in the background to a focal point without a year in between.

“This year I actually wasn’t planning on playing, because I didn’t have any camps, no leagues I could play in over the winter to get better, because of COVID,” she said. “I started just working really hard with Joanna, we started passing, the season started looking like it was going to happen and we got really excited.”

Paine led the way Monday, but she had help. Six players altogether scored, with Elizabeth Hardy and Sierra LaCroix also adding goals.

“We have a good group of seniors, and I don’t think it’s going to be any one that leads them,” MacDonald said. “All of them together, they’re competitors, they like to win, and it may be a variety throughout the season. They may just all do it together, because they really missed not having last year.”

The game was the opener of only the second season for MCI/Nokomis as a program.

“With a lot of new folks on the team, we’re excited to just to be on the field, learning the sport,” coach Mary Alice Gould said. “We definitely need to improve on our grounders and maintaining possession of the ball, but they’re fired up, they’re working hard, they’re learning fast and I’m proud of them.”

Gould had praise for Hewins, who had MCI/Nokomis’ first three goals of the second half, the third of which cut the deficit to 8-4.

“She’s fierce, she knows how to see the field, find where there’s an opening and go to the ball,” she said. “She puts a lot of extra work into the game, and it shows.”

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