AUBURN — Colleges start new athletic programs every year. Doubtful that you’ll find another one trying to pull it off with nine athletes who had never previously played the game, though.

To describe the inaugural season of Central Maine Community College men’s lacrosse as humble beginnings redefines humility.

When the Mustangs made the 45-minute trip to Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland to play their first-ever “home” game against the University of Maine at Farmington on Tuesday night, it was the first time the newcomers had ever played the game on a surface where the lines weren’t a guide for free throws and 3-point shots.

“They had never seen a lacrosse field,” CMCC coach Tom Fournier said. “So as you’re explaining things like the restraining box and saying ‘you can’t go there,’ we’ve only been in the gym, so you get out there and it’s ‘what the heck am I doing?’ So it took some time, but I think as the game went on they got more comfortable.”

CMCC lost the historic match 15-3 to UMF, an NCAA Division III program that’s in the toddler stage in its own right.

They’re currently in between games of a weekend doubleheader in Franklin, Mass. CM played Country College of Morris from Randolph, N.J., on Friday and will meet host Dean College on Saturday.

“It’ll be tough just because the biggest thing right now is being stuck in this gym,” said captain Erik Tiner of Lewiston. “You can’t really expand your lacrosse knowledge or skills in here, and with a team, you’re really only as strong as your weakest player. So we’re struggling right now, but we’re starting to catch up quickly.”

CM’s first-year schedule features nine games. Weather and field conditions permitting, two will be played on campus — against Bridgton Academy on April 6 and Dean on April 21.

While the initial roster may lack depth and experience, it is rich in local flavor. Fifteen of the 22 players graduated from Lewiston or Edward Little.

“It’s the first time I’ve played anything since high school,” sophomore Ryan Lemelin of Lewiston said. “It’s great just to play a sport again and have fun. That’s what it’s about for me. It’s probably the last time I’m going to play a sport on a team.”

“Until the men’s league,” Tiner chimed in with a laugh.

Tiner, who scored two of the Mustangs’ three goals against Farmington, is the only player with prior collegiate experience.

He was a two-year contributor at Thomas College in Waterville. CMCC is a one-year stop; Tiner plans to conclude his career at Briarcliffe College on Long Island in New York.

“It’s a private school, so the money was starting to catch up with me,” Tiner said. “This kind of gives the kids in Maine who weren’t necessarily going to play a place to play. We have dorms here. I think it’ll definitely help kids who weren’t traditionally going to play lacrosse at a higher level.”

Lemelin helped lead Lewiston to an Eastern Class A championship his senior year. He already was attending classes at CM when he learned that athletic director Dave Gonyea was considering a lacrosse program.

His interest soared when he found out that Fournier, who was in charge of the Blue Devils’ program his freshman year of high school, would be the coach.

“He’s my favorite lacrosse coach I’ve ever had,” Lemelin said.

That strong local identity and the continued growth of the sport at high schools in the region are in CM’s corner.

There is no shortage of obstacles. One is the lack of an all-weather facility. CM does not currently have an arrangement with Bates or any other nearby school with a turf field.

“Not only is this a gym, it’s a small gym. It’s not like Lewiston where you have three courts. We can’t even play 6-on-6 in here,” Fournier said of Kirk Hall. “We have to look into something (next year). We can’t do this for a month. It’s a little too difficult. Not every day but at least once a week if we go somewhere we can do full-field stuff and actually play lacrosse, that will make a big difference.”

CM’s status as primarily a junior college also creates some quirks.

Not many schools of the Mustangs’ size and mission have lacrosse teams. Dean is the only opponent listed as a “conference” game. UMF, Maine Maritime and Johnson State are NCAA programs.

Tiner sees the unique schedule as a potential recruiting tool.

“Bridgton Academy sent six kids to Division I last year,” he said. “You’re definitely going to have some great competition. It’s a good outlet.”

As a two-year program competing against many four-year entities, CM also is in the unusual position of being vulnerable to recruiting.

“I’m getting calls from coaches, ‘So, who you got?’ I’m working hard, we’re trying to get everyone better, and maybe next year they’re playing against me,” Fournier said.

The entire schedule will be played in a five-week window, one which, in Maine, comes with no guarantees of a dry field.

“We could literally play half our schedule before we ever get outside to practice, which is very bizarre,” Fournier said. “I was with Lewiston High School today. They were at Bates and it was great. They were working on clearing. Here I am, ‘V-cut to the water cooler. You head to the exit sign.’ It doesn’t all translate.”

Fournier added that wins, losses and final scores are secondary this season to taking steps that will build the program.

Hard as it is for players to acknowledge that when they might not be around in a year or two to pick the fruit of that labor, Tiner and Lemelin are on the same page.

“A lot of kids know CM because of basketball. Now maybe they come here because they want to play lacrosse,” Lemelin said. “Here they can play for a couple more years, save some money and maybe even get noticed by some other colleges and transfer.”

Or even learn the game for the first time.

“I like a challenge,” Fournier said. “I thought it would be a challenge. There’s certainly been some things I didn’t think about. But I think it could work.”

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