Fantastic Finish for Franklin to Reach D1 Final Four

Franklin Volleyball
Brigid Earley (12) and Delaney Zolnowski (11) go up for a block in the second set of Franklin’s 3-0 victory over Barnstable in the D1 quarterfinal. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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FRANKLIN, Mass. – Even after winning the first two sets, Franklin knew that it didn’t want to allow Barnstable, a perennial state power, to build any momentum in Friday afternoon’s Div. 1 quarterfinal, but the Redhawks led 24-18 in the third set and were poised to stay alive in the match.

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Then Franklin got a kill from Taylor Lacerda, then an ace from Cailyn Mackintosh. A hit went long, the setter was called for a carry, and then a net violation. Suddenly, the Panthers were only down one. Brigid Earley blasted a kill on the outside to end a rally and Franklin had stormed back, saving six set points to tie the third at 24-24.

Twice the Panthers would take the lead but both times Barnstable answered and even had a seventh set point after a swing that went long. Earley stepped up yet again, ripping another kill off the block and tying things at 27 apiece. A shot into the net gave the Panthers a chance to serve out the match and this time they didn’t pass it up.

After that stunning third-set comeback, Franklin advanced to the final four for only the second time in program history with a 3-0 (25-23, 25-22, 29-27) win, avenging a loss to the then Raiders in the 2018 state semifinal.

“They are capable of so much if they just believe in themselves,” said Franklin coach Samantha Redmond. “With every point that started to come back, they started to believe it more and more that they could take and that they could do it and it’s not worth it to give up and go to a fourth when you can win the third, so let’s try to win the third.”

Mackintosh, who had struggled from the service line earlier in the match before stepping up in the third, added, “I think it shows the resilience of our team. We never give up, we’re always in for the fight. We know we can come back from stuff like that.”

Although every coach focuses on the next match and tries not to put extra emphasis on any one opponent, Redmond admitted there is something special about beating a program that has established itself as one of the best in the state year-in, year-out.

She said, “Every game is important and we treat it as such, but Barnstable is Barnstable and after 2018 and just knowing how fantastic of a program they have, today was a big win and of course they’re only going to get bigger and bigger.”

The Panthers got off to a great start to the match, particularly at the net. After an Earley block earlier in the point, Delaney Zolnowski put Franklin in front with a kill. Earley followed with one of her own and Lacerda added an ace. Back-to-back kills by Earley and Cate Roberge made it 11-4.

As expected, Barnstable didn’t go down easy and chipped away at the Franklin lead. Lindsey Tarantola had a nice angled kill that was followed by a service point from Georgia Harvey and a Mackintosh bump that dropped in to keep the Panthers up by six.

The Redhawks started to get hitters Neely Alger and Allison Nystrom going on the outside to stay within striking distance in the first, but Zolnowski stemmed the tide by picking the back corner with a shot. Barnstable put together a big run late in the set, winning seven of nine points to get within one at 22-21. Redmond didn’t call timeout, trusting her team to figure it out and the Panthers closed out the first on a Zolnowski block.

Things were back-and-forth right from the start of the second set. Earley kept up her strong start with a pair of kills and a block, continuing to turn in big performances in big matches.

“For some reason Brigid Earley goes unnoticed, all 6-foot-3 of her, but she pops up at the best times,” said Redmond. “She has a very calm demeanor about her from playing basketball and playing volleyball and lacrosse and being in those really big, important games. She’s fantastic and doesn’t get enough credit.”

Tarantola had two blocks on one series that ended in an error and tied the set 7-7. Libero Meghan Linkkila had an ace but then the Redhawks won three straight points, only stopped by another kill from Earley. After Roberge made it 17-14 with a good swing, the visitors went on another run, winning five of the next six to take a lead. Lacerda answered with consecutive points to make it 20-19 and then a well-placed tip down the line to make 21-21.

A kill from Earley and a service point for Lacerda gave Franklin a set point and a mishit from Barnstable dropped long to put the Panthers on the brink.

The third set started tight, with neither team able to gain a big advantage. A Lacerda ace tied things at 14 apiece, but then Barnstable went on a rally and looked set to pull away. A block by Alger put the Redhawks in front and then Molly Gleason started picking on the back corner with her serve, running off five straight to move ahead 20-14.

A Tarantola kill and an ace from Linkkila got Franklin within four (22-18) but then a long rally ended with a push shot from Laura Cogswell that dropped in and an ace by Emma Corley.

It looked like Franklin was going to be pushed to a fourth set and that the visitors might be grabbing the momentum in the match, but the Panthers dug deep, chipping away until they had booked a place in the final four. There was no one that Redmond would rather have had at the service line at that point than Mackintosh.

Redmond said, “Not only did I feel comfortable with her back there but it showed that she felt comfortable. She went more back into her element and her flow of just get it over the net. That’s all you have to do is get it over the net and the team will do the rest.”

“To come out strong and beat them 3-0 definitely means a lot,” Mackintosh remarked. “It’s a lot of joy for us, especially for the seniors because we were here and in the program for that [loss in 2018]. It’s really just awesome for us.”

Franklin (20-1), the top seed, will face the winner of No. 4 Concord-Carlisle and No. 5 Needham at a date, time, and location to be determined.

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