AUGUSTA — Though heading into an anticipated meeting with its cross-river rivals, the Gardiner girls soccer team admitted to not viewing Cony as a serious threat on Tuesday.

“We kind of went into the game a little cocky, to be honest,” said Gardiner captain Ella Shaw. “We’ve been having a decent season, and we took a look at Cony’s record. It was definitely something where we went into it a little bit too lightly, and we came out for the second half and we were like, ‘All right, we need to get ready,’ and we did.”

Gardiner recovered emphatically, and convincingly, scoring four times after halftime en route to a 5-1 win over Cony in a Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B girls soccer contest. Sophomore striker Lainey Cooley scored a pair of goals for the Tigers (2-3-0) while Shaw and Taylor Takatsu each found the back of the net once.

Entering the break with a slim 1-nil lead, Gardiner coach Jess Prince said it was a matter of energy over execution.

“I felt like Cony came out strong in the first half, and we came out a little bit on our heels,” Prince said. “We talked about just going harder, running through the ball and working. Our biggest takeaway was just working harder, and in the second half I thought we came out more intense and ready to go.”

Each team had first-half opportunities, though not many in either direction, with the Tigers taking the lead through Takatsu in the 27th minute.

Less than a minute earlier, Takatsu’s half-volley had been turned away with a nifty save from Cony’s Kylee Huard. When midfielder Jasmine Mace played her straight through to goal a second time, Takatsu didn’t miss.

In the second half, Gardiner scored twice in a nine-minute span prior to the hour mark. Cooley netted her first in the 51st minute and Shaw struck from distance to open a 3-0 lead and provide some breathing room.

Cony’s Brianna Rousseau, left, and Gardiner’s Lilly Diversi fight for position during a girls soccer game Tuesday in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“After our first goal in the second half, we came together as a team and started playing how we play,” said Cooley, who has four goals this season. “It’s super important to be able to come back as a team and keep going.”

“Both Lainey and Taylor Takatsu are sophomores, and both are our leading goal-scorers,” Prince said of her sophomore tandem up top. “They absolutely generate a lot of our offense, and they do well with finishing.”

The breathing room proved important.

Cony (0-5-0) pulled one back via senior Andrea Richardson in the 72nd minute, and she nearly made for some extremely nervy moments down the stretch less than a minute later. Richardson got a touch in transition to push the ball behind the Tiger back line, requiring keeper Lorelei Mason to spring off her line and go to the ground for an aggressive stop at the top of the 18-yard box.

Any thoughts of a wild Ram comeback late on were snuffed out by a pair of goals inside the final five minutes of play.

First Gardiner’s Maddie Barden’s corner kick deflected off a defender for a Cony own-goal in the 76th minute. Cooley then converted an easy finish in tight in the 77th minute for her second of the afternoon and a 5-1 Gardiner runaway.

“When I see girls starting to get down, I consider it my duty to do what I can to get the energy up and get the morale up,” Shaw said. “We were getting down on each other a lot in the first half. The energy was pretty low. In the second half we came together.

“A big part of what we do is ‘unity.’ Right before the second half we did a big cheer and I think that helped us to connect and brought our spirits up.”

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