AUGUSTA — There was joy in the voices of the players on the Gardiner boys lacrosse team when they ran on the field to celebrate Tuesday’s 19-8 victory over Cony. And there was a sense of satisfaction and relief in their voices in the moments afterward.

That’s more like it, the mood seemed to say.

“We wanted to start the season on some positive note,” Tigers junior Sean Doyle said. “We definitely showed up to play.”

Doyle had five goals, as did Cam Rizzo, while Connor Bell had four and Chase McLaughlin had three, helping the Tigers (1-1) right the ship after their opener, a 21-9 defeat to Brunswick. Even after that game, Gardiner coach K.C. Johnson didn’t sound any panic alarms. He said that he liked the effort he saw, liked how the team competed early, and stressed that the team had better lacrosse ahead of it.

It didn’t take his team long to prove him right.

“We’re young, and we deal with adversity very well, which is hard to find these days,” he said. “The kids are good. They’re working hard, they get each other, they like each other, which is huge. No finger-pointing at all. It’s fun to watch the maturation. We got our butts kicked by Brunswick, you brush it off and get back to work and get after it again.”


Cony (1-3) was led by two goals apiece from Casey Mills, Brodi Freeman and Isaac Beloff, but the Rams fell into the same problem Gardiner did against Brunswick. They were matching the Tigers stride for stride, moving to within a goal at 7-6 when Beloff scored with 3:21 left in the second quarter, but Gardiner found an extra gear to take command. The Tigers scored the next seven goals to put the game away, getting three goals from Rizzo and two from Bell in that stretch.


Gardiner’s Cam Rizzo winds up to shoot during a game against Cony on Tuesday in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

“Defense is a huge thing we definitely need to work on, communication, but also it just really comes down to numbers,” said Cony coach Kyle Gleason, who also got goals from Jack Morrill and Duncan Hayes. “We’re dead tired out there, we only play 13, 14 kids, and on their sideline they have a lot more. There’s only so much we can do at times, but defensively, we just need to communicate and slide, things like that, and we weren’t doing that today.”

Rizzo, a junior, said he was happy to see his offense hit the gas at a big moment.

“We came out slow, but we picked it up. We started to get one and then we just kept it going,” he said. “We started moving the ball, we started settling down a little bit. Once we got in our zone, we started working it around and started hitting those quick shots. … We kept getting good, clean shots, and we got a lot of them.”

It was an encouraging display from an offense that’s far from a finished product. Of all the starters on the field for the Tigers, only defenseman Max Dearborn started in 2019.


Cony attack Nick Geneseo shoots during a game against Gardiner on Tuesday in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

“All you can do is smile and watch their I.Q. get better, their tenacity get better, and they’re willing to play smart lacrosse,” said Johnson, who also got goals from Gabe Poirier and Quinton Martin and five saves from Connor Cote. “It’s fun to watch.”

And, for the players, it’s confidence-inspiring to see the new mix working and getting results so quickly.

“We had a few players that really did good today, popped off, and overall it was good,” Rizzo said. “I think from here, we’re just going to keep building and keep moving on.”

Cony got a solid effort in goal from Elijah Beland, who made 18 saves, but the Rams had a tough time keeping up after losing Morrill, one of their best face-off players, to a medical issue midway through the game.

“Once they scored a couple of goals on us in transition, that’s when it just took the air out of us, unfortunately,” Gleason said. “(Morrill) wins a lot of face-offs for us, and we had a hard time on face-offs. We couldn’t get it into our end at all.”

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