GARDINER — Gardiner wasn’t getting many shots past Cony goalkeeper Lizzy Dennison during Friday’s Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference lacrosse rivalry game at Hoch Field, so Hailee Lovely decided to switch things up a little bit and turned the tide in the Tigers’ favor.

With the Tigers a player up, Lovely, a sophomore, made a nifty spin move then went to the backhand to beat the senior goalie low and put Gardiner ahead to stay with 12:37 to go in what ended up as a 6-5 win.

Lovely’s sister, Nickyia, won the ensuing draw to Hailee, who carried it in for a big insurance goal moments later.

“(Dennison) was stopping nearly everything we put on her high, so I tried the spin move and noticed an opening low,” Hailee Lovely said. “(The go-ahead and insurance goal) were big because we needed to keep the momentum going. It’s always great to beat Cony.”

The Tigers improved to 6-3 with their second win of the season over the Rams (5-4), having doubled them up, 10-5, in the season-opener in Augusta. Making this victory even more satisfying for them and coach Chad Kirk was they were limited to just two players off the bench, with four contributors missing for various reasons ranging from suspensions and a red card to school-related functions.

“I think we’ve dealt with enough drama for every team this year, and it’s finally coming to an end,” Kirk said. “Hopefully, we can build on that. I think the (Class B) North is open. We can play with Freeport. We can play with Morse. I mean, Yarmouth is still Yarmouth. But this was a good game.”

While Dennison (14 saves) stood out in net for Cony, her Gardiner counterpart, senior Kaylin Mansir (10 saves), stood just as tall at her end, particularly in the second half.

Trailing 2-0, Cony finished the first half with four unanswered goals in the final 9:35. Lauren Coniff sparked the rally by being the first to beat Mansir. Sarah Caron followed with two goals and Alexis Roy one. The Tigers could have been staring at a bigger halftime deficit if Mansir hadn’t denied Coniff a second goal and the far post hadn’t rejected Roy’s potential second marker.

Cony double-teamed Gardiner senior attack Maddy Beaulieu for much of the game, which may have caused the Tigers to rush trying to find the open teammate and rush into openings that collapsed quickly.

“We’ve got to learn to relax. When you don’t need to go forward, why go into traffic?” Kirk said. “Our fundamentals have just got to get better. We pressure hard.”

“Coach was telling us to be patient,” Lovely said. “We just had to settle in and not get ahead of ourselves.”

The Tigers showed they had received the message with goals from Evelyn Hinkley and Nickyia Lovely to tie it up at 4-4 with 17:51 to go.

Cony had a chance to grab momentum back after a Gardiner penalty with 15:42 remaining. But a penalty by the Rams 1:31 into their power play curtailed that. Hailee Lovely struck for the go-ahead goal 1:05 into the Tigers’ turn with the man advantage, then added the insurance with another power play goal 12 seconds later.

“They took advantage of those situations and we, unfortunately, did not capitalize on our numbers-up situations,” Cony coach Gretchen Livingston said. “We had too many turnovers in the second half.”

Cate Silva pulled the Rams back within one with 11:19 remaining, but that was all they could muster.

Minus top defender Bryce Smith — who was attending Girls’ All-State Festival — Gardiner killed off another penalty with 10 minutes left, thanks in part to Mansir’s save on a Samantha Akers bid and a friendly crossbar that blocked Anna Brannigan’s shot.

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33


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