AUGUSTA — After a slow start this season, the Cony field hockey team has come on strong.

The Rams fell to Mt. Blue and Skowhegan to open the season but have since re-inserted themselves into the Class A North race. Thursday they won their third straight, knocking off Messalonskee, 2-1, with second-half goals from sophomore Julia Reny and freshman Madison Veilleux.

Cony is 3-2, Messalonskee is 4-2.

“It’s huge,” said Holly Daigle of her first win against the Eagles in her nine years as Cony’s head coach. “Every game is a big game but when you see a team like this on the schedule you really get pumped up for it.”

The Rams controlled most of the action in a scoreless first half, but the Eagles came out strong in the second half and dominated the first 10 minutes of play.

The message at halftime from Messalonskee coach Katie McLaughlin was, “We have to play with some heart. We’ve got to play harder than them.”

Despite the turnaround in play, it was the Rams and Reny who scored first. Coming off a five-goal game against Hampden on Tuesday, the sophomore forward dribbled through three defenders and flicked a shot past goalie Rylie Genest (four saves) with 16:28 left to play.

“The first (four) games I wasn’t offensively in it,” Reny said. “I was playing defensive-minded. That first goal the other day got me out of my funk, I guess. I guess it pushed over into today.”

Cony’s Anna Stolt, right, knocks the stick away from Messalonskee’s Megan Quirion during a field hockey game Thursday in Augusta.

The Eagles continued to press and would have scored if not for a fine save from Cony goalie Emily Douglas (eight saves), who knocked away a deflected shot with her left arm.

“She’s very level-headed,” Daigle said. “She really sees where there’s gaps to try to clear the ball and she played a really solid game today.”

She made another strong save off a blast by Autumn Littlefield with 14 minutes left, but Eagle senior Kaitlyn Smith knocked in the rebound to tie the game at 1-1.

Daigle used her second timeout of the half after the Smith goal, and the Rams regrouped. Veilleux scored the game-winner at the 4:32 mark with the assist going to Kami Lambert.

“I was behind the goalie and I just swept it in,” Veilleux said.

Lambert, a four-year starter and one of four seniors on the team, has seen improvement since the season started.

Cony’s Alexis Couverette, left, and Messalonskee’s Annie Corbett collide during a field hockey game Thursday in Augusta

“Just taking those (losses) and working on what we did wrong in those games in practice,” she explained. “This one is huge for us. Messalonskee is a very tough team as everybody knows.”

The game was far from over with Veilleux’s goal. The Eagles reapplied pressure in the final two minutes and got four penalty corners, including two after time expired, but weren’t able to register a shot on goal.

“We’ve got to learn to capitalize on them,” McLaughlin said.

The Rams finally cleared the ball and celebrated their biggest regular-season win in some time.

“They had the fire today,” McLaughlin said.

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