WRENTHAM, Mass. – It was nearly the perfect start for King Philip in its heavyweight battle against division rival Franklin.
Behind goals in the first and third quarters, Franklin field hockey secured a 2-1 win over the Warriors in the first of two meetings between the teams this week in a rain-filled contest on the slick turf of Macktaz Field.
“We didn’t show enough energy,” said King Philip head coach Lisa Cropper. “We didn’t believe that we could win the game…they didn’t say that but I could see it in their body language. We had chances right off the bat and I think if we popped one in, it would have been a different story. But we didn’t, they did and they relaxed played their game, and we had to struggle the whole way.”
There was a burst of energy at the opening whistle as the Warriors marched down the field into the attacking zone less than a minute into the 7-on-7 style contest, one of the modifications due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Senior Grace Crocker unleashed a low, hard shot from the right side that was denied by Hess with a kick save. After a brief scrum in front, KP once again put a shot on frame that got by Hess but only to be deflected wide by Carney, who was alertly covering the goal line for the Panthers.
The rest of the opening quarter belonged to the visitors, who continued to put pressure on KP goalie Makenzie Manning (14 saves). Just under 10 minutes into the game, the Panthers broke through.
Junior Kailyn Carney carried possession into some space but whacking a low shot on goal. Senior Amanda Lewandowski was positioned perfect right in front of the keeper and deflected the shot perfectly into the back of the net for a 1-0 lead.
“There’s a lot of nerves in a big game like this between these two teams so getting that goal [in the first quarter] kind of broke the ice, kind of helped us to settle in a little bit,” said Franklin head coach Michelle Hess. “To KP’s credit, they did more subbing than I did and I think that made a difference towards the end. It was a pretty competitive game, back-and-forth.
“Their goalie is really aggressive and since we’re not used to seeing that, it almost makes them think a little more. For us, just shoot the ball. We had a bunch of shots but we also had trouble putting shots on net.”
It was a scoreless second quarter but both teams came close to putting the ball in the back of the net. First, KP senior Isabelle Crocker forced another big save from Hess just before the midway point of the quarter. And with just under four minutes to go, Sara Carney dropped a pass to the far post that was just out of the reach of the sticks of both Lewandowski and sophomore Shaw Downing.
“My two backs, Kate [O’Rourke] and Kendall [Jones], they are so strong and they see the field so well,” Hess said. “Once they get the stop, we’ve drilled it into them to get it out to the side and clear it up and find the open man. And then Sara Carney playing in the center, she has the endurance to get forward and get back and play defense.
“A lot of teams are packing it in…King Philip had all six defenders in the circle so that’s hard to play against offensively. And with an aggressive goalie like they have, it makes it even more difficult. So we knew it’d be a low scoring game. We’re trying to work on our triangles, see the space, cut into space, and find the ball.”
Manning made a stellar save, diving out to deny a chance from Stephanie Bell just two minutes into the second half, but Bell added a big goal for the Panthers just five minutes later.
The Panthers broke out of the back, taking advantage of open space on the right wing. Lewandowski carried toward goal before rifling a pass to the far post where Bell one-timed it into the back of the net.
“[Franklin] passes really well, they move off the ball extremely well and they find each other,” Cropper said. “And they have a couple of very good shooters. Amanda scored one and created the second one, we had someone on her most of the game so we held her to one and an assist. They had [23 goals] in the first two games.
“We had some chances early on but didn’t score and didn’t follow up We kind of sat back in a shell and they took it to us. You can’t play that way. But with this format, no lead is safe, we knew we could come back. We started to some in the third and then the fourth quarter we really came alive.”
Fresh legs allowed the Warriors to get some momentum in the final quarter. KP forced a turnover in the defensive third which led to a counterattack the other way. Isabelle Crocker used her speed to split a pair of defenders and then slid the ball past the charging keeper, the ball rolling in just inside the post to make it 2-1 with seven minutes.
KP continued to garner more offensive pressure than it had throughout the previous quarters but couldn’t register a serious chance on goal to find the equalizer.
Franklin field hockey (3-0 Kelley-Rex, 3-0 overall) will host King Philip (2-1, 2-1) in a rematch on Thursday at 3:45 at Beaver Street Field.