FRANKLIN, Mass. – It only took three and a half minutes for #14 Franklin to get its first goal on Friday night at Pisini Field, and the Panthers never looked back en route to a 4-2 win over #19 Brockton in the first round of the MIAA Tournament.
Following a miscue by the Brockton goalie, the ball ended up at the feet of Miranda Smith and she capitalized, putting it in the back of the net to give Franklin a 1-0 lad. Ten minutes later, Anna Balkus scored off a feed from Molly Duncan to give the Panthers a 2-0 advantage.
“The first half when the first group was in there, they moved the ball really well, and they had the defense moving and they made their own breaks,” Franklin head coach Tom Geysen said about Franklin’s quick start.
In the 28th minute, Brockton saw their first scoring chance of the game, but their shot off a free kick was saved by Cat Robbins, who had seven saves on the night for the Panthers.
In the 33rd minute, Emily Mastaj found Sydney St. Marie cutting to the net, and St. Marie buried her shot to put Franklin up 3-0. One of the keys for the Panthers was their crisp passing all night, which set up numerous scoring chances and helped them hold the possession advantage.
“[Moving the ball] was specifically what we were trying to do, to move the ball, to get the kids to move when they gave up the ball, and the constant movement with and without the ball is tough to cover if you’re doing it right, and in the first half I thought we did it really well,” Geysen added about his team’s ball movement.
In the second half, both teams saw scoring chances early, as Franklin’s attempt to extend their lead was denied on a save by Brockton goalkeeper Tory Viola-Laughery in the 43rd minute. Five minutes later Robbins was equal to the task, fully extending on a dive to make a save to keep the Boxers off the board. In the 52nd minute, Smith looked like she had her second goal of the night, but another beautiful save by Viola-Laughery kept the Brockton deficit at three goals.
Franklin finally broke through for their fourth goal in the 64th minute, as Duncan found Jess Kroushl streaking downfield, and Kroushl scored to put the Panthers up 4-0.
Just two minutes, Brockton got on the scoreboard when Madison Hendrigan capitalized on a penalty kick to cut Franklin’s lead to three goals. With the game winding down, senior Kyla Cullors scored for Brockton to make the score 4-2, and that’s where it stayed until the final whistle.
With the win, Franklin (10-7-2) moves on to play Hingham (16-1-1). The Harborwomen have won three straight D2 State titles, and are looking to go on a run in their first year as a D1 team. They come in on a 15-game point streak (14-0-1) in which they’re outscoring opponents 60-8.
“We’re going to have to play very, very well to have any opportunity to beat them, but we’ll show up and we’ll do what we need to do,” Geysen added about the Panther’s upcoming opponent.
Franklin and Hingham will play Sunday night at 6:00 PM in Hingham.