Cony High School senior Delaney Keithley began playing field hockey after her best friend talked her into it in the fifth grade. By that time she had already played a lot of ice hockey and saw similarities between the two sports.

“It’s a lot of the same techniques,” she said. “But with 11 players field hockey is more strategic.”

Keithley quickly got hooked on her new-found sport and, by the time she was 13 years old she was playing in the offseason as well.

“As you get older it becomes a different animal,” she said. “You’re not just playing to be with your friends. My competitiveness grew as I got older.”

Keithley’s competitive spirit and knowledge of the sport manifested itself in games and practice as the Rams turned in a strong season in which they finished third in the talented Class A North division. For her efforts, Keithley is Kennebec Journal Field Hockey Player of the Year.

After scoring 19 goals as a junior, Keithley could have concentrated on her personal statistics as a springboard into the college game. Instead, she was all about team.

“She’s so unselfish,” Cony coach Holly Daigle said. “She has such knowledge. She’s a really mature, driven player. She’s been such a phenomenal leader and role model.”

Keithley was a four-year starter for the Rams and a two-year captain. Her skills improved but not necessarily her stats. This season she scored 11 goals and two assists, but Daigle was happy to let her share the credit for their 10-win season.

“I knew this was going to be a good year,” Keithley said. “Everybody wanted to be there; I wanted to be a positive factor.”

Daigle said she considered Keithley a third coach on the team and often let her speak her mind during practice or timeouts.

“The thing about Delaney is she’s invaluable on the field and she’s just as valuable off the field,” Daigle said. “She relies on her teammates as they rely on her.”

Keithley honed her stick skills in the offseason playing for the Maine Majestix and brought something new to the team each year.

“She has the best aerial (pass) on the team,” Daigle said. “It’s not a skill a lot of players can execute very well.”

Keithley and the Rams were on the losing end of a lot of games to North division superpowers Skowhegan and Messalonskee. This year Mt. Blue also entered that group and went unbeaten. The Rams tied Mt. Blue and Skowhegan during the season, putting some history behind them.

“Don’t let the stigma get to you,” Keithley said. “Don’t go into a game thinking they’re better.”

Keithley scored a key goal in Cony’s 2-2 tie against eventual state champion Skowhegan and sold her teammates that they belonged in that game.

“It was totally the best memory of my high school career,” she said.

Keithley will coach indoor field hockey this winter before rejoining the school’s softball team in the spring where she starts at second base. She noted she’s been playing softball longer than field hockey and might consider both sports in college. Field hockey is her priority, though, and she hopes to play at Colby next fall pending her acceptance.

“I have loved coaching Delaney and seeing her grow as a player,” Daigle said. “I’m really going to miss her a lot. She’s irreplaceable.”