GARDINER — For two teams right on the cusp of the postseason cutoff in Class B’s statewide girls lacrosse division, Cony’s 13-9 win over rival Gardiner/Hall-Dale on Friday afternoon illustrated where the two programs are at nearing the midpoint of their respective seasons.

Both teams entered the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference matchup at Hoch Field with .500 records, both teams have been uneven in their results to date and both teams are still trying to find some momentum in May.

The Rams (4-3) sat 11th in the 15-team division — the top 10 qualify for the postseason — but senior Sarah Caron’s big second half against the Tigers (2-3) might have been the spark Cony needed. Caron scored three consecutive goals in a span of 1:15 to help the Rams pull away.

She finished with four goals and two assists on the day.

“I was having some good luck with some open lanes, so I took them and it worked out,” Caron said. “We had a rough start to the week (with a loss at Oxford Hills) so we knew we needed to pull this one out. It was a big game. The rivalry is huge, and it’s always been huge. We knew we wanted it, so we came out strong — and that’s what we’ve got to do for the rest of the season.”

For most of Friday, every time Cony was on the verge of finding some breathing room, Gardiner clawed back into contention. Lauren Coniff’s first-half hat trick helped the Rams to a 6-3 halftime lead, but Anna Chadwick’s two goals both came early in the second half for Gardiner. When Evelyn Hinkley (three goals) scored with 15:40 to play, the Tigers found themselves trailing by just one, 8-7.

Cony coach Gretchen Livingston immediately called timeout to remind her troops of what mattered most.

“If the ball’s on our stick, they can’t score. That’s the simple message that I give them all the time,” Livingston said. “Once they realized that and were able to maintain possession, it made a big difference.”

Caron responded with the second of her three straight — anchoring a run of five straight goals for the Rams. With Chadwick serving a two-minute penalty that left Gardiner shorthanded, Cony got to work with three man-up goals to extend its advantage to 13-7 with 9:11 remaining.

“We really got together and said we had to do this together,” Caron said. “We had to work as a team, we needed to use each other, work off each other and just build off that to shut the door. We’d taken leads and let them back in, but that was when we said, ‘No more.'”

“You have to take advantage of that (man-up) situation, so that’s huge,” Livingston said. “I’m proud of the girls. We don’t always take advantage of those situations. The fact they were able to capitalize on that opportunity was huge for us.”

The bleeding was finally curbed when Gardiner’s Brooke Andre scored to snap Cony’s streak of five straight goals and three point-blank saves from Ram sophomore Sarah Cooke-Wheeler. Hinkley scored in the final minute of play to account for the final score, but it was too late for the Tigers.

“We made a nice little run, but I thought in the second half we wore down,” Gardiner coach Andy Haskell said. “We were missing some key players due to family trips and injuries, but that’s what happens in midseason games. I thought we exceeded my expectations.”

Even with seven games still remaining, Haskell sees the need for urgency.

“The key is you have to win some of those,” Haskell said of the games in hand. “We’re going to have to find some big wins — we’re going to have to find those on the schedule.”

Livingston hopes Friday was just such a win for her Rams.

“We’re over halfway in already, and we’ll see how things play out,” Livingston said. “It’s a very tough class to be in, but we’re definitely a team I feel is worth of getting into those playoffs.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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