Portland resident Kelley Kirwin goes for a catch during Portland Rising’s preseason tryouts in January. Due to concerns around the spread of the coronavirus, the season has been suspended indefinitely. Mark Lessard photo

PORTLAND — The debut of the city’s first professional sports team, the Premier Ultimate League’s Portland Rising, has been delayed indefinitely, but the new owners, while disappointed, say the season’s suspension won’t curtail their momentum.

Portland Rising, co-owned by Maddie Pursell of Brunswick and Chloë Rowse, of Falmouth, is one of the newest teams in the Premier Ultimate League, a professional league set up last year to showcase women’s ultimate Frisbee at the highest level. That debut, which had been set for an April 11 game in Nashville, Tennessee, was scuttled with the league’s suspension of the 2020 season due to concerns of the spread of coronavirus.

Maddie Pursell and Chloe Rowse were awarded one of the new Premiere Ultimate League teams this year, joining teams from Minnesota, Wisconsin and Washington D.C. Tim Cardoso photo

“Regardless of what happens here in Portland and around the world over the next weeks and months, Rising is already so much more than this season’s schedule. The Rising community and Rising energy that has been created over the past three months aren’t going anywhere,” Rowse said.

The extra time, Pursell said, will be used to “set up the organization for future success” by creating more concrete marketing and community partnership plans.

“There is so much more to be done,” Rowse said. “Once it is possible to start playing on the field again, Rising will be back in full force and ready to go.”

Pursell and Rowse, both alumnae of Maine Coast Waldorf School, applied to join the league last summer and found out in November they were awarded a franchise, beating out Toronto, San Diego and other locations.

Most of the 27 women on the roster, many of them with connections to Maine, have competed at a world class, national level and several, like Rowse, have represented the United States in international tournaments, she said.

Rowse, who played ultimate at Colorado College and was part of the U.S. women’s team that won silver in the World Championship in London in 2015, is excited to bring the sport to Portland.

“Maine has never had a high-level team like this before,” she said.

Pursell has coached ultimate at the high school level and served on the board of Maine Ultimate, a group that promotes the sport in the state.

“Ultimate has a really strong following here. It is close to becoming a mainstream sport with all the summer and youth leagues,” she said.

Rowse said she hopes the team might be able to squeeze in some exhibition games.

“As of now we are hopeful if it is safe to play games and the timing is such that other teams are available, we could potentially play some exhibition games this year,” she said.

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