GARDINER — In the midst of a marathon game against her team’s rival, it took everything it had for Maci Freeman to keep going Thursday afternoon.

The Cony field hockey team’s junior forward was clearly hampered as she walked to the sideline after regulation of the Rams’ 2-1 victory over Gardiner in the Class B North quarterfinals. After 76 minutes of running and two hard fouls, adrenaline was about the only thing keeping Freeman going.

“It was hard, but my team helped me get through it,” Freeman said. “It was a hard game, but they kept lifting me up. They’re the reason I’m the player that I am.”

Sure, Freeman’s teammates picked her up both physically and emotionally when she needed it — and when Cony needed it, Freeman picked her teammates right up back with a pair of crucial plays that helped lift the Rams to the Class B North semifinals.

Freeman scored a goal in the fourth quarter and notched a decisive assist in the third round of penalty corners to give Cony a monumental victory at Hoch Field. The win was the first in three games against the Tigers this year for the Rams, who got the winner from Abigail Morrill to prevail in an exhausting rivalry matchup.

The fifth-seeded Rams (8-6-1) will play at No. 1 Lawrence in a regional semifinal game Saturday. No. 4 Gardiner finished 10-4-1.


Cony and Gardiner enjoyed brief spells in each other’s 25 throughout the first quarter, but neither team took advantage — each managed just a single shot on target. Cony largely controlled play in the second, though the best chance would fall to Gardiner as a close-range shot by Addison Carter forced a sprawling save from the Rams’ Avery Maxim.

Cony’s Maci Freeman scores off a penalty stroke in a Class B North quarterfinal playoff game against Gardiner on Thursday at Hoch Field in Gardiner. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Gardiner dominated the third quarter, registering three shots on goal to Cony’s zero, and playing nearly the entire period in the visitors’ 25. Yet the Rams pushed back early in the fourth, and they were rewarded with 12:45 left when they were awarded a penalty shot that Freeman emphatically buried.

“I kind of just had to put everything aside and think about my team and what I needed to do for them,” said Freeman, who fired a shot to the right of Gardiner goaltender Cassidy Clark after taking a hard foul on the edge of the area. “I was just focused on finishing it, and I did.”

Gardiner, though, got right back on the offensive following the goal and equalized six and a half minutes later when Brianna Smith took control of a loose ball and poked it past Maxim for the tying goal. After an uneventful final six minutes of regulation, two back-and-forth overtime periods were not enough to separate the teams.

The grueling game became even more so during penalty corners with both defenses holding over the first two rounds. Then, in the third, Freeman made an inch-perfect pass to Morrill for the winner before the Cony defense snuffed out Gardiner’s attempt to seal the win.

“Maci had a beautiful carry and ball across, and it was right there for me,” Morrill said. “Our D just played amazing the whole game, and they stepped up right after (my goal) and did the job again. We couldn’t have done it without our backfield behind us.”


Gardiner senior forward Addison Carter has her shot stopped by diving Cony goalie Avery Maxim during a Class B North quarterfinal playoff game Thursday at Hoch Field in Gardiner. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

It was certainly a game that saw great efforts from both defenses, which routinely turned away scoring chances from opposing attackers. The two goaltenders also put forth strong efforts with Maxim making nine saves for Cony and Clark recording eight for Gardiner.

If there was anything left in the tank for either team, it didn’t show after Cony’s defense dribbled the ball toward midfield on the final penalty attempt to seal the win. Gardiner players sunk to the turf in defeat; a few the Rams, though joyous, did the same in celebration after celebrating with a group of Cony students who had rushed the field.

It was a battle the likes of which was not unexpected after two tight contests between Cony and Gardiner this year. The Tigers took the first game 4-3 back on Sept. 6 before the two teams played to a 2-2 draw Oct. 11 — but this one, fortunately for the Rams, finally went their way. 

“These are the games you live to be a part of,” said Cony head coach Holly Daigle. “They battled through the stress and all of the emotion and worked through being gassed because they wanted this. This feeling is what you play for.”

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