Teams of the Decade #2: 2012 Franklin Girls Soccer

Franklin girls soccer

Team: Franklin Girls Soccer
Year: 2012
Record: 22-0-1
2012 Kelley-Rex Division Champions
2012 Division 1 State Champions


With the benefit of hindsight, it is obvious just how talented the 2012 Franklin girls soccer team was, but heading into that season there were question marks about a roster featuring 15 freshmen and sophomores. Only two years removed from a trip to the state semifinal, could the Panthers incorporate so much youth and still compete with the top teams in the league, let alone the state?

They could and they did. The Panthers outscored opponents 98-15 over the course of an unbeaten season, winning the Kelley-Rex division title for the third straight year, just missing out on perfection with a tie in the regular season finale, and claiming the program’s first-ever state championship.

It was a remarkable finish, but one that was hardly guaranteed at the start.

“I had some kind of idea of how they would be,” Franklin coach Tom Geysen said of the incoming freshmen, “but especially in our league, because our league is very competitive, if you’re not a very physically aggressive person then you can be taken out of your game almost immediately.”

One of the players that needed to step into a critical role was freshman Dani Lonati, who became the team’s starting goalkeeper. Along with her fellow rookies, like midfielders Alexis and Victoria Stowell, Lonati needed to be ready to go right from the opening whistle and she credited the captains, Kristi Kirshe, Grace Conley, and Stephanie Pisani, for providing a welcoming environment for the younger players.

“It was probably one of the most welcoming teams that I’ve been on,” she said. “The upperclassmen knew entering that season that they were about to have a younger team. As soon as we entered the team and were on the roster, we were best friends. I think that was probably one of the most essential parts of our success was that we had some amazing team chemistry.”

 

It also didn’t hurt to have one of the state’s most prolific offenses giving the team a cushion almost every game. Spearheaded by Kirshe and sophomore Taylor Cogliano, the Panthers never scored fewer than two goals in a game.

“Because we were spending so much time at practice and on the field together that we got to a point where we knew how to anticipate each other, we knew how each other played,” said Kirshe. “We just started to become a dynamic duo, which was a lot of fun.”

In a roster loaded with talent, Kirshe was the star. She would score 36 goals that season, earning All-American honors and being named Gatorade Player of the Year. It was about more than just the number of times she found the back of the net, but also when she scored. She tallied the winner in both the state semifinal and final.

“She’s a rock,” Lonati said of Kirshe. “She’s probably one of the most athletic people I’ve ever met. She’s always there and she’s like that as a person too, you can rely on her no matter what. She’s competitive, she’s tenacious, and she’s the player you want because you know she’s going to get it done.”

Geysen said simply, “In all my years that I’ve been here at Franklin, she’s the best all-around female athlete we’ve ever had and we’ve had some good ones.”

He added, “The most unassuming, laid back, nice kid. Everything about her was what you wanted. She was aggressive as hell, she was physical as hell, and she was skilled.”

A dynamic partnership up top is nothing if the defense is leaking goals, but the Panthers proved to be just as solid at the back as they were up front. In front of Lonati, Pisani, junior Julia Bireley, and sophomores Nicole Ellin and Lexi Martin all played key roles making it tough for the opposition attack.

“The key to the back became Dani,” Geysen explained. “I don’t think I’ve ever had a goaltender over four years who had the stats that she had and that game against Nashoba [in the state final] she was lights out.”

Franklin cruised through the first half and talk started to grow about an undefeated season. Only Mansfield managed to stay within a goal of the Panthers over the first 13 games. Mansfield coach Kevin Smith noted, “They were so tough because they were loaded with talent in every position. They had multiple scoring threats, which made it near impossible to stop the team. You could stop one, maybe two, but not four-plus. Their midfield group was super athletic and super talented as well. There was not a weak link anywhere.”

It was the second meeting with North Attleboro, in the 14th game of the season, that Geysen highlighted as the moment when he realized his team had the extra mental fortitude it would take to go the distance. After jumping out to an early 3-0 lead, Franklin made changes to the lineup and North got one back, but the Panthers answered to make it 4-1. North got two in quick succession to make it 4-3 and Geysen thought the game was going to slip away.

“It was coaching changes that took the momentum away from them, but they came back and regained the composure and slowed the game down and kept it under control’” he said. “Even when the games were close, there was no panic on their part. If there was any panic, it was me. From that point on, I said, these kids understand.”

Kirshe said, “Coach Geysen was very, very clear about making sure we focused as a group on game at a time. There were moments when we felt like we were doing something special and we had a lot of potential but Geysen did a really good job of keeping us grounded so we weren’t thinking about the possibilities.”

The need to remain focused became clear in the final game of the regular season. On a dreary Sunday night, the Panthers fell behind against a Walpole team that barely qualified for the tournament and only salvaged a draw thanks to a late Kirshe goal. The perfect season was over, but dropping a point just before the tournament may have been a blessing in disguise.

“I think it lit the fire for us again and reminded us that this wasn’t something we were going to be able to walk through,” Kirshe said. “We had some easy games through the season, but we were getting into tournament now and tournament is a special part of the season where anything can happen. I’m incredibly grateful for that tie, to this day. Without that tie, I don’t think we win that state championship.”

Franklin rolled into the South final, but the 2-0 win against Marshfield in the semis proved to be costly. Pisani was injured in the game and would miss the remainder of the season. That left a big hole to fill in the defense with no obvious solution. Grace Conley, who had played sparingly that season after surgery related to stomach cancer, told Geysen that she was ready to step in and, after some debate, he agreed.

Conley was one of the team’s leaders from the sideline and she proved to be an inspiration on the field as well over the last three games.

Lonati said, “She truly cared about every person on that field. To be able to go into those last three games and to play such an important role and to earn that title after everything she went through was amazing.” Kirshe added, “Grace is one of the best people I know. It was incredibly special for me as a friend and a fellow captain to see her get that moment. She was the spirit of our team, so just getting her on the field was something that lifted all of us and made us want to play that much better.”

The Panthers faced league rival Oliver Ames, in a battle of the two previous South champs, and prevailed 3-2 to get back to the state semifinal for the second time in three seasons. Against Beverly at Manning Field, Kirshe made personal history when she scored on an early free kick, which was a rarity for her, to notch the 100th goal of her career. Thanks to a strong defensive performance, particularly Bireley’s man-marking, that shut down Beverly’s 50-goal scorer Caitlin Harty, Franklin advanced with a 2-0 win.

“We got to play every single possible game in our senior year, which is something that so few people get the opportunity to do,” said Kirshe. “You know it’s your last time to play high school soccer, it’s your last time with this group of people, and personally I find a lot of happiness in that.”

Kirshe found the back of the net twice to put the Panthers ahead in the title game but Nashoba battled back to cut the lead to one and ramped up the pressure looking for an equalizer while the Franklin defense held on, thanks to 10 saves from Lonati.

“I had the ball in my hands, actually, and I made eye contact with the ref and I knew there wasn’t much time left and he signaled for me to distribute it,” Lonati recalled. “So, I punted it and as soon as it left my foot that whistle blew and I was, oh my god, in utter shock.:

“I cried,” Kirshe admitted. “To be quite honest with you, I cried today when I was looking back trying to think about it. That’s a dream come true for any high school soccer player. Especially as a senior, just to cap off a career that way? It was just such an unforgettable moment and just a testament to years of hard work. I’m still shaking my head in disbelief.

When asked what it took to go unbeaten and win his first state title as a coach, Geysen said, “You have to have things go your way. We’ve had other years where we’ve been every bit as good overall but not with the kind of depth as this crew.

“The best part of that whole thing for me was after we beat Nashoba, when everything was going crazy on the field, I stood off to the side and just watched them. Nothing will ever take that picture away from me. To work that hard for that long, some of them for four years, and to accomplish that and to appreciate it the way they did was the most gratifying thing for me.”






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Franklin girls soccer
Franklin girls soccer

Opponent
Result
SharonW, 4-0
StoughtonW, 10-0
CantonW, 5-2
AttleboroW, 2-0
TauntonW, 7-0
North AttleboroW, 4-0
MansfieldW, 2-1
FoxboroW, 6-0
Oliver AmesW, 6-1 (Recap)
MilfordW, 3-1
AttleboroW, 7-0
King PhilipW, 4-1
TauntonW, 5-0
North AttleboroW, 4-3
King PhilipW, 7-0
MansfieldW, 4-0
WalpoleT, 2-2
New BedfordW, 4-0
DartmouthW, 3-1
MarshfieldW, 2-0
Oliver AmesW, 3-2
BeverlyW, 2-0 (Recap)
NashobaW, 2-1 (Recap)






Franklin girls soccer
Franklin girls soccer

Franklin girls soccer
Franklin girls soccer

Franklin girls soccer

Franklin girls soccer


2019 Hockomock League Girls Soccer All Stars

Below are the official 2019 Hockomock League Girls Soccer All Stars, selected by the coaches in the league.

Hockomock League MVP

Chloe Layne, King Philip

Hockomock League All Stars

Briley Harnois, Attleboro
Jessica Gates, Attleboro
Elisa Diletizia, Canton
Olivia Rodman, Canton
Jordyn Collins, Foxboro
Kailee McCabe, Foxboro
Yara Fawaz, Foxboro
Elizabeth Davis, Foxboro
Breanna Atwood, Franklin
Sabrina Addi, Franklin
Anna Balkus, Franklin
Chloe Layne, King Philip
Avery Snead, King Philip
Makayla Griffin, King Philip
Ally Stanton, King Philip
Taylor Butler, King Philip
Maria Sevastos, Mansfield
Katie Miller, Mansfield
Ashleigh Starks, Milford
Maddie Boyle, Milford
Lydia Hershey, North Attleboro
Erin Holmberg, Oliver Ames
Abby Hodges, Oliver Ames
Leah Johnson, Oliver Ames
Bella Berger, Sharon
Mackenzie Manning, Stoughton

Unbeaten Season Comes to an End for KP in South Final

King Philip girls soccer
Freshman Grace Lawler was given the task of man-marking Feehan star striker Francesca Yanchuk during the D1 South final and largely contained the forward. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

Josh PerryFollowJoshPerry


HINGHAM, Mass. – The game seemed to be going the same way as most of the 21 that preceded it. King Philip was hoarding the ball, putting consistent pressure on the opposing defense, creating scoring chances, and looking comfortable at the back after a switch to a 4-5-1 formation at halftime.

Suddenly, with little warning, everything changed in Saturday’s Div. 1 South final at Hingham High. A penalty given, a tying goal scored, and all the momentum (as well as the wind) suddenly at Bishop Feehan’s back.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

In a battle of unbeaten top seeds, Feehan rallied with two second half goals in the span of four minutes to secure a contentious 2-1 victory and claim its first sectional title. The Warriors (21-1) lost for the first time this season and fell just short of a second South title in three seasons.

KP coach Gary Pichel was left fuming and frustrated at the final whistle, believing calls that went against his team in the second half, particularly the penalty, changed a game that his team was otherwise controlling.

“We were in control,” he said, “except for the momentum-breaking calls out on the field that sent the ball the other way. We completely owned the field. The effort was there, the motivation was there.”

Frustration aside, he also praised Feehan for its fight back in the second half. “They worked just as hard as we did and the breaks went their way, so they’re the champs. I give all the credit to them for hanging in there and working as hard as they did.”

 

The Warriors came out with the wind at their backs in search of an opening goal. Chloe Layne, the league MVP who was recently selected as an All-American, had the first chance on a short goal kick. She got onto her left foot and sent a cross into the middle, but Ashley Kelly just got across to clear.

Feehan’s best chances in the opening half all came off set pieces. An Annie Pearl free kick was headed at the back post but Olivia Berry blocked it on the line and cleared for KP. In the 25th minute a free kick from Hailey Goodman was redirected on target but comfortably saved by KP keeper Taylor Butler.

KP dominated the majority of the half, taking advantage of the wind. Avery Snead cut across the edge of the box and sent in a left-footed shot that had to be saved at full stretch by Madison Breckner. Makayla Griffin sent Snead into space a few minutes later but her shot on the run was saved by the keeper.

In the 35th minute, the pressure finally paid off. Griffin whipped in a corner from the far sideline and Snead was there to nod it home from just a few yards out, putting KP deservedly ahead 1-0.

Jenny Montville had a chance to double the lead just before the break, but her shot from 20 yards sailed over the bar.

At the start of the second half, KP had several chances to add to its lead. Snead fed Layne, who in turn played Montville into the right channel but her chip over the onrushing keeper went just past the bar. In the 53rd minute, Snead slipped Kiera Lindmark down the left side and she hit a perfect cross into Layne unmarked in the center, but her volley was too high.

“I thought that was going in for sure,” said Pichel. “That was a perfect ball and [Chloe’s] usually adept at volleying it into the net. If that went in, then it would have been lights out I think.”

Despite the misses, KP looked largely untroubled. The defense, which had allowed only three goals during the regular season was keeping Feehan at arm’s length. Butler had to make a save at the near post when Goodman cut in on her left, but the combination of Griffin, Berry, Paige Varvarigos, and freshman Grace Lawler limited Feehan’s chances.

Lawler in particular stood out because she was matched up against Feehan junior striker Francesca Yanchuk, who has already amassed more than 100 goals in her career. Lawler met the physical battle and gave Yanchuk no good looks at goal for 60-plus minutes.

In the 63rd minute, a penalty was given when a Feehan player went down in the box. The KP defense and bench argued that there was no contact from the defender, who was shepherding the attacker away from goal. The official pointed to the spot and Yanchuk put enough power to give Butler no chance.

After tying the game, Feehan took control of the match and went in search of a winner. Moments after a collision between Yanchuk and Butler forced the trainer to take a look at the KP keeper, Sydney Kofton lofted a pass behind the KP defense for Yanchuk to chase and the forward beat Butler to the spot before deftly slipping the ball past the keeper and inside the post.

KP would create a couple of chances to equalize in the closing minutes. Jenna Hitchen set up Montville for a shot that was saved and then Layne hit a shot off the bounce with two minutes to play, but her shot went straight at the keeper.

It was not the ending that this KP senior class was looking for after a record-setting career. Layne and Snead both broke the existing program scoring record, with Layne finishing as the new top scorer. The Warriors won a pair of Kelley-Rex division championships and went to two South finals, winning the title in 2017. The 21 wins that the Warriors amassed this season was a program best.

“Im very proud of the kids. I’m super proud of them,” Pichel said. “They’re champs in my eyes, in the eyes of their fans, and their families and friends. I’m going to be sad to see these kids go. Had them for four years, the senior class is like, the best I ever had. You hate to see them go.”

“There’s been a ton of accomplishments. Final touches were going to be to win this and give it a great shot at states, but …”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

KP Gets Off to Strong Start, Books Place in Final

King Philip Girls Soccer
King Philip players celebrate one of the three first half goals by the Warriors in a 4-1 victory over Needham. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

Josh PerryFollowJoshPerry


HANSON, Mass. – In the playoff opener against Hingham, King Philip took time to get going and watched as the Harborwomen put them under pressure from the opening whistle. It was a learning experience for the Warriors that they need to be ready to go from kick-off and take control of matches.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

It was a lesson that the Warriors put into practice on Wednesday afternoon at Whitman-Hanson’s O’Neil Field against No. 12 seed Needham. KP scored three times in the opening half hour and rolled to a 4-1 win that books its place in the Div. 1 South final for the second time in the last three seasons.

“We talked about it just before we came out that we really wanted to press them hard and put them back on their heels and make them think about defense more than their offense,” said KP coach Gary Pichel.

KP has had a target on its back essentially from the start of preseason practice, as the Warriors came in as one of the favorites in D1, and the players have managed to keep rising to the challenge.

“It has been tough to play with that target on our back,” said KP senior Makayla Griffin, “but we just take it one game at a time and focus on the game that’s coming up rather than looking in the long run.”

While KP would have the bulk of the early possession, Needham had the game’s first good look in the third minute when Samantha Scully teed up Madeline Ledbury for a shot from the edge of the box, but it sailed over the bar.

 

In the 13th minute, the Warriors started to convert their pressure into scoring chances. Jenna Hitchen slipped a pass into Chloe Layne, who then set up Avery Snead for a shot from 25 yards that forced a save. A minute later, Snead settled a throw-in from Paige Varvarigos, stepped inside her marker onto her right foot, and fired a shot that needed to be tipped over.

The opening goal nearly happed in the 19th minute when Snead headed down a Griffin corner and then knocked the rebound through the box, but Needham defender Maylin Carr cleared off the line just in front of Hitchen.

A minute later, it was 1-0. A ball out of defense from Varvarigos found the feet of Snead, who deftly flicked it into the path of Layne behind the Needham defense. The Rockets nearly got back into position but could only get a piece of the shot that slipped inside the post.

Once in front, the Warriors stepped on the gas with a pair of goals only a minute apart. Layne played provider for the first, finding a way through a double team to get off a cross from the left that found Snead for unmarked flicked header in the six-yard-box. The second came off a Griffin corner, as Snead met it at the back post with an unstoppable header that made it 3-0.

“We just came in on fire,” Snead explained. “Getting the early goals just allows everyone to relax because everyone is so stressed out in the beginning. Getting the early goals just calms us.”

She added, “[Chloe and I] just found a lot of space in the middle and we just kept trying to check to the ball and play through balls to each other. Once we got the first one, then we just got on a roll.”

Needham didn’t go quietly. In the 32nd minute, Ledbury had a free kick from 30 yards come back off the bar and it was Scully who reacted first to force the rebound over the line. That spurred the underdogs into their best spell of the match, closing the half as the team on the front foot.

“I told them that we weren’t making many changes, I just wanted the pressure to remain the same,” Pichel said about his halftime message. “High pressure, quick on the ball, force them to make mistakes, and then capitalize on those mistakes, and you pretty much saw that. They were all over them.”

The Warriors set out in the second half to grab the momentum back. Makenzie Shandley played Layne down the left channel, but her chip over the onrushing keeper was tipped wide of the post. Six minutes later, Snead was able to slip in Shandley but pressure from the Needham defender forced the shot wide.

KP kept piling up the chances to extend the lead. Olivia Berry stepped forward from defense and delivered a pass out to the left to Hitchen, who then crossed into the middle for Layne but the last defender was able to clear. Another Griffin set piece almost picked out Snead only for the keeper to come out, challenge, and knock it away.

The defensive unit for KP, which included Griffin and Berry in the middle, Varvarigos on the left, and freshman Grace Lawler starting on the right but man-marking Needham’s Caroline Hood, stood out again. Griffin explained, “I think we’re really good at communication and knowing where everyone is going to be at all times and just talking to each other.”

In the 59th minute, Layne had a shot on the turn that had the keeper stranded but slid over the bar. Just a minute later, Needham had its best chance of the half when Ledbury got on the end of a looped cross but her shot off the bounce went wide, with KP goalie Taylor Butler scrambling across the net.

The game stayed 3-1 until the closing seconds. Under pressure, the Needham keeper spilled a cross from the left and Kiera Lindmark was able to push the rebound across the line on the third try.

Pichel said, “That’s been our trademark all season is that hustle and the hard work they put into it. Having the skill level that they have and the hard work ethic that they have is a great combo.”

King Philip (21-0) will try to secure its second South title in three years when it takes on No. 2 seed Bishop Feehan on Saturday at noon at Hingham High.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.