An experienced Panthers squad, who earned a 3-0 win in the game, will look to fine tune their offense, mainly their shot selection. And the Warriors, with a roster filled with mostly new faces to the varsity level, will be looking to get to the same level as the visitors.
Franklin controlled the play for the majority of the game, peppering the King Philip net from start to finish. However, thanks to a terrific performance from KP junior goalie Makenzie Manning (22 saves), the Panthers only celebrated three goals.
But three goals was all the Panthers needed, as they held the hosts to just one shot on goal with one penalty corner. Meanwhile, Franklin racked up 14 penalty corners and placed 27 shots on goal throughout the contest.
“We are a little green out there, most of them are juniors and sophomores but most of them haven’t played varsity yet,” said first-year KP head coach Lisa Cropper. Cropper previously coached Franklin for nine years (2009-2017). “[Franklin] has a lot of experienced kids. We looked good in some scrimmages when everything is calm, but as soon as it ramped up, we reverted some and played a little scared.
“We weren’t playing our angles correctly, they were exploiting that. And we were ball watching and worried about individual stuff instead of playing as a team. Now we have to transfer what we talk about in practice to the game, that’s the next step.”
The chances came often and early for the visitors, as junior Stephanie Bell sent a deflection just wide off a feed from freshman Kaitlyn Carney just seconds into the game. Manning was forced into a double said just minutes later as Carney set up Amanda Lewandowski for a shot.
The Panthers finally broke through in the 16th minute with a little extra huddle. After a strong clear, Lewandowski hustled to win a foot race and went in alone towards good. Manning came charging off the line and forced Lewandowski to play the ball towards goal. Junior Leila Frankina pounced on the loose ball and buried it from in close.
Franklin continued the pressure early in the second half. Just over five minutes into the second frame, Manning made a nice stop on a shot from Bell and denied a rebound chance from Lewandowski. The Panthers were rewarded a penalty stroke after the second save but Manning came up big again with a blocker stop to keep the deficit at one.
“She’s phenomenal, she played even better than I expected,” Cropper said of Manning. “Our defense did channel things so she had a good look at the shot but we didn’t know what to do after the save. We marked for the initial shot but not after. I told them there’s no losing, just learning…and we did a lot of learning today.”
Robison once again deflected a shot away to keep the Warriors in the game but the pressure paid off for the Panthers, scoring back-to-back goals in a four-minute span.
Carney smacked a hard low shot from 12 yards out that took a slight deflection off a KP stick and into the back of the net to make it 2-0. After a corner, Carney got another look from a similar spot and lofted a bouncing shot through traffic that smacked the back of the cage.
“Their goalie played phenomenal but we have to do a better job picking our corners,” said Franklin head coach Michelle Hess. “That’s part of the early season learning curve. It’s hard because the goalie can become a target, so we have to get them shooting away from the goalie, but it’s a fixable issue. We had some issues at the beginning of last year and got things sorted out.
“We’ve got to mix up our shot selection, with some aerials and some hard shots. One of the hardest shot is the slow push that’s bouncing that can be hard for a goalie to time.”
Since the Panthers had the majority of the possession, King Philip’s best offense spells came on the counter-attack. But chances were limited as the Franklin defense thwarted the Warriors’ bid to counter.
“Having Maeve [Ledwith] back there, she’s a brick wall back there, she’s not letting anyone by,” Hess said. “And my other captain Elizabeth Clark has really stepped up, she’s been playing well too. We’re pretty deep defensively which is good.”