GARDINER — You know the cliches concerning rivalry games.

“Throw the records out!” “It’s always a close game!”

Well, Friday’s Cony-Gardiner field hockey game was no exception, and the visiting Rams held off a determined Gardiner bunch 3-2 in the 15th annual Drive Out Cancer Challenge at Hoch Field to remain undefeated. Freshman Helen Dineen scored twice, including the game-winner 31 seconds into the fourth quarter.

“We always know to expect a really, really tough, competitive game when we see them, and today, obviously was no different,” said Cony coach Holly Daigle, whose team improved to 5-0 and gained possession of the boot that has been awarded to the winner of the season series since 1972. (Friday’s game marked their only regular-season meeting.)

“There was a lot of back-and-forth, which was exciting for the fans but a little nerve-wracking on the sideline,” she added with a smile. “But I’m super proud of how hard my girls played. … They came here with one goal in mind, and that was to win, and they did.”

The Rams, who had outscored their foes 30-1 entering Friday, had to earn this one. Despite Cony’s advantages in shots (18-5) and penalty corners (15-4), Gardiner (5-3) refused to fold thanks to a stout defense and the outstanding goaltending of Natasha Marshall, whose 15 saves included several kick-stops and dives.


“We really have’t been challenged a whole lot defensively,” said first-year Gardiner coach Jessica Merrill, a former Tiger who experienced her share of battles with Cony. “And when we have, we’ve kind of broken down, so we’ve had those lapses. But today they didn’t, and I think this is a huge opportunity for us to grow, and it’s a good thing looking forward.”

Down 2-1 in the third quarter, the Tigers chipped away and hit paydirt when sophomore Brynnlea Chiasson — whose right upper leg was bandaged after she suffered an injury in the second period — scored her second goal of the game with 3:42 left in the third period to knot the score.

The winner of the annual Drive Out Cancer Challenge field hockey game between rivals Cony and Gardiner gets to take home the boot trophy. On Friday, the Rams prevailed 3-2 to capture the boot. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Cony got a chance to regroup thanks to a timeout and a break between periods. When the fourth quarter began, the Rams didn’t mess around. Dineen recovered the ball from a scrum in front of the cage and scooped up a rainbow that evaded Marshall.

“Helen Dineen is a great player, she’s one of our strongest freshmen,” said Cony midfielder Maci Freeman, who was named co-player of the game with Gardiner’s Brianna Smith. “She works hard every single day at practice and it shows in the game.”

Cony opened the scoring with 9:09 left in the first when Dineen took a feed from Abby Morrill and punched the ball into the left side of the cage. Gardiner knotted the score just 27 seconds later when Chaisson put a pass from Anna Tweedy past Cony goalie Avery Maxim (three saves). Cony reclaimed the lead with 5:56 left in the second when Freeman pushed the ball out of a scrum and into the goal.

Friday’s game, of course, was about more than field hockey. The annual Drive Out Cancer Challenge raised money for the Harold Alfond Center for Cancer Care in Augusta via 50-50 raffles and donations. Each team had an honorary captain Friday. Cony was represented by Terisa Olson, 74, a Wisconsin resident battling breast cancer and grandmother of Cony player Ashley Olson. Unable to attend Friday’s game because of cancer treatment, she participated in the coin toss from the Midwest via FaceTime.

Gardiner was represented by Linwood Lessner, 76, a West Gardiner resident who underwent five months of radiation and 2 1/2 years of hormone therapy to treat prostate cancer. He is the grandfather of the Tigers’ Lily Berard.

“It means a lot, obviously, to all the families out here and the Gardiner and Augusta community,” Freeman said. “It means a lot, and I think that’s why it’s such a competitive game, because it is for a great cause and that’s what makes us want to fight for those who are fighting for us.”

Comments are no longer available on this story