Credit: Stock photo | Pixabay

It doesn’t have a nickname yet, but it doesn’t matter.

What does matter is the Nokomis/Maine Central Institute co-operative girls lacrosse team will make its varsity debut on Saturday after two years as a club sport.

MCI/Nokomis plays the Maranacook/Winthrop/Spruce Mountain co-op team at 2 p.m. on the Ted Alfond and John Huard artificial turf field at Kents Hill School.

“We have 28 kids on the roster which will give us the opportunity to have JV games and develop critical sustainability,” said MCI athletic director Jim Leonard, who pointed out that participation is increasing.

“It’s a real good sport. There is a lot of interest,” Leonard said.

Mary Alice Gould coached the club teams and will now guide the fortunes of the varsity team.

“She has a lot of energy and enthusiasm, and the girls respond to it,” Nokomis athletic director Mark Babin said.

“She has energy to burn,” Leonard said.

Gould has been involved in the Mid-Maine Lacrosse Club, which has proven to be the feeder system for the Nokomis/MCI boys and girls teams.

The Nokomis/MCI boys are in their third varsity season after two years as a club program.

The Mid-Maine Lacrosse Club is for kids from third to eighth grade.

“The Mid-Maine Lacrosse Club has done an incredible job. We couldn’t have done this without them,” Leonard said.

In addition to players who have learned how to play the sport with Mid-Maine Lacrosse, Leonard said there are a lot of kids who come out and try it for the first time and like it.

The schools share the expenses with one covering all the cost of the girls program and the other paying for the boys program.

Pittsfield-based MCI and Nokomis High of Newport are only 10.2 miles apart, and both teams will use the MCI gym for practice until the snow clears. Once the snow melts, they will practice on the two soccer fields at MCI with the girls using the smaller field.

The home games will be played at MCI.

“Lacrosse has been a very nice addition,” Babin said. “Any time you can get a student involved in an athletic activity, you also get them more involved in school.

“It has been a good fit,” he said.

Both teams have benefited from a lacrosse wall built by former Nokomis/MCI boys team member Logan Rowell, who constructed it as part of an Eagle Scout project. Players can practice shooting and do receiving drills by flinging the ball against the wall.

Leonard said lacrosse has advantages over other sports, including spring counterparts baseball and softball.

“In lacrosse, you’re always substituting players so you’ll have around 21 kids rotating in and out. And a game only takes an hour and fifteen minutes to an hour and a half,” he said.

In baseball and softball, coaches usually use only nine or 10 players, and the games often take at least two hours.

Co-operative teams have proven valuable in establishing friendships between players from schools who are rivals in other sports.

MCI and Nokomis play each other in a number of sports.

The Nokomis/MCI girls will compete in Class C North this season, but Leonard said they will move to Class A next year based on reclassification.

They will be playing a 12-game schedule that includes two games against Maranacook/Winthrop, and one each against Lincoln Academy of Newcastle, Erskine Academy of South China, Camden Hills of Rockport, Winslow, Cony of Augusta, Lawrence of Fairfield, Wells, Oceanside of Rockland/Thomaston, Boothbay Region and Gardiner/Hall-Dale.

Nokomis/MCI is the 47th varsity girls lacrosse team in the state. Class C and Class B are statewide divisions, while Class A has North and South Divisions.

Bangor has begun its second varsity season after going 0-12 in their inaugural campaign.

Former Husson University of Bangor field hockey and lacrosse goalie Kaitlin Dolloff is back at the helm. The Rams were scheduled to open at 4 p.m. Friday at Erskine Academy, weather and field conditions permitting.

The Rams have a 25-player roster, two more than a year ago.

The defending state champions in girls lacrosse are Falmouth in Class A, Cape Elizabeth in Class B and Lake Region of Naples in Class C.

“It’s going to take us 10-15 years to come close to catching up to those teams in southern Maine. They’ve had lacrosse for two to three decades,” Leonard said.

But the addition of a varsity team should have a trickle-down effect as participation in the youth programs should increase because they have a varsity program in their local high school.