FRANKLIN, Mass. – Franklin found itself down 4-2 after one quarter in Friday afternoon’s Div. 1 East final at Pisini Stadium against Concord-Carlisle. It was the first time this season that the Panthers had trailed after a quarter, but it didn’t take them long to get back into a more familiar position.
With six of the next seven goals, Franklin turned the game around in the second quarter, grabbing a lead it wouldn’t relinquish. The Panthers limited Concord-Carlisle to just two goals in the second half and held on for a 12-9 victory, avenging semifinal losses to the Patriots in each of the last two seasons and winning the program’s first East title since 2017 (also against Concord-Carlisle).
“Just cause we were down didn’t mean we want to force,” said Franklin coach Kristin Igoe Guarino. “We knew we’d get our looks and I think their patience, their going for the right things, anyone can step up, that’s the whole thing, if anyone can score then you don’t need to force anything because there are always going to be options.”
Franklin senior defender Sydney Hawkins added, “We know every single girl on this team is capable of making that game-winning play and that’s what is going to take us all the way.”
It was the Patriots who seemed to have the edge early in the game. Concord-Carlisle won four of the first five draws and was able to get into the heart of the Franklin defense, drawing free position opportunities. Audrey Mirak opened the scoring from eight meters just a minute into the game.
Franklin answered back 45 seconds later when Kate O’Rourke dodged from the top of the crease, side-stepping her defender to get a good shooting angle. The Patriots came right back with two goals, one from Mirak from eight meters and the second from a Becca Dibble shot to the corner.
O’Rourke saw a free position chance get saved and Brigid Earley (five saves) was able to deny Sarah Creamer on the other end. With 5:29 left in the first, Katie Jones made a nice pass to the cutting Jackie O’Neil to cut the lead to one.
Concord-Carlisle came storming back. Earley made two huge saves, blocking Lily Hudner’s free position and then getting a piece of Dibble’s shot. The Patriots regained a two-goal lead with 2:21 left in the first, as Dibble squeezed a shot inside the post from a tight angle.
After struggling on the draw early, Igoe Guarino made a change, putting Stella Regan on the spot with O’Neil, Katie Peterson, Kenzie Baker, Jamie Tanner, and others charging after the ball on the wings. It seemed to work, as Franklin took control of the draws in the second quarter and grabbed momentum as well.
Igoe Guarino said, “We made a big adjustment on the draws, which I think was a big turning point. I said to them, whoever wins the draws is going to win the game. They’re just such gritty players and if you tell them they need to win this draw, then they’ll win it.”
O’Neil got her second goal of the game with a bouncing shot from a free position 90 seconds into the second quarter. Following a yellow card to the Patriots, Franklin took advantage of the extra player, as Kaitlyn Carney bullied her way to the cage to tie the game.
Dibble continued her strong game, scoring again to put the visitors on top, but Franklin got two goals in a minute to go ahead for the first time. Peterson got the first with a lefty shot on the run, bouncing it past the goalie. Tanner then put the Panthers in front, going with a high finish from eight meters.
Carney was a playmaker from behind the cage, as she picked out Peterson cutting down the middle for a 7-5 lead. After seeing her initial shot saved, Carney scooped the rebound and then hit Peterson again cutting through the heart of the Concord-Carlisle defense. Audrey Marik scored back-to-back goals to get back within one, but Carney got a crucial free position goal seconds before the break to make it 9-7 at halftime.
Things got much tighter in the second half. The Franklin defense, led by Ali Socci, Anna Grasso, and Hawkins, was able to contain the Patriots much better, limiting their chances to get the ball on goal.
“We were sending to the top dodge every time and that seemed to work really well and it was also just communication and all being on the same page,” Hawkins, an MIT-commit, explained. “That’s the great thing about defense is we all get to talk together out there and to really move as a unit.”
Franklin was creating fewer chances as well, as the Panthers started to focus on patience and possession. Carney had a chance early in the third only to be called for being in the crease and having a goal taken away. The Panthers pushed the lead to three with a pretty give-and-go goal. Regan passed to O’Neil on the edge of the crease and she gave it right back to Regan cutting down the middle for the finish.
The visitors were not going to go quietly. Mirak added another free position goal with 3:04 left in the quarter and Concord-Carlisle had another chance from eight meters right at the end of the third but the clock ran out before the teams could get lined up, which proved to be a critical missed opportunity.
O’Rourke had a good look a minute into the fourth, but it was saved. A minute later, Creamer scored from eight meters to make it a 10-9 game. O’Neil, who had little impact in the semifinal, picked the bottom corner from a free position for her third goal of the game, putting Franklin up two.
“Whoever is out there, it could be anybody’s night and they all have each other’s backs, which is awesome,” said Igoe Guarino. “It could be every single person on any given day, which is so powerful to have. You can’t face guard, you can’t do a game plan because everyone’s a threat.”
Off the ensuing draw, the Patriots had a break but Earley came up with a huge stop. The Franklin defense was making plays, collapsing quickly, and coming up with all the ground balls. With 4:52 to go, O’Rourke had another chance, this time finding the corner for her second goal, which put Franklin in control up by three goals.
With the lead and with an extra player after a yellow card, Igoe Guarino urged her team to ignore the goal and just hold the ball to run out the clock as the excitement built on the home sidelines.
“I feel like this has been a long time coming and the fact that it was C-C just makes it that many times greater,” said Hawkins. “They’ve got us the last two times, but I have a really good feeling about this team. I’m super excited.”
Franklin (17-0) will face the winner of the North sectional (No. 1 Masconomet or No. 2 Chelmsford) in the state semifinal on Tuesday.
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