FRANKLIN, Mass. – As the clock ran down under six minutes to play, Franklin held a three-goal lead in Tuesday night’s Div. 1 state semifinal at Pisini Stadium and the Panthers held possession. Before they could advance up the field, the officials stopped the game. Lightning in the distance caused a delay that stretched to nearly an hour.
When play resumed, 5:25 was all that stood between Franklin and a spot in its first ever state title game. After the Panthers ran a minute off the clock, Chelmsford forced a turnover and converted it into a goal on the other end. Now it was only a two-goal game. Another chance a minute later went inches wide of the post and Stella Regan chased it down behind the cage to win possession.
Franklin had the ball and 3:33 on the clock. The Panthers showed great patience and vision to keep the ball moving in the attacking half of the field, running down the clock despite Chelmsford pressuring every pass. Franklin held on for the 11-9 win, handing Chelmsford its only loss of the season and ending a long wait to play for a state title.
“It’s awesome,” said Franklin coach Kristin Igoe Guarino. “I think it’s been a long time coming. I think this group has worked extremely hard and they deserve it. They’re all in, so we’re really excited for Thursday.”
This spring, Igoe Guarino’s alma mater Boston College also ended a long wait for its first national title, with Franklin’s Annie and Erin Walsh on the roster, and the former Eagles star is hoping that mojo can carry over to the Panthers as well.
“I kind of feel like Boston College,” she said. “They went to the national title three times and they won it on the fourth, so maybe we can do the same.”
The hosts came roaring out of the gates, winning four of five draws in the opening quarter and quickly jumping out to an early lead with three goals in less than two minutes.
Kenzie Baker won the opening draw of the game, got the ball upfield to Kaitlyn Carney, who then fed Katie Jones in the middle for a goal after just 13 seconds. Exactly a minute later, up a player, Kate O’Rourke was able to score from eight meters to double the lead. Twenty-four seconds after that, Regan picked out Katie Peterson cutting through the middle to make it 3-0.
Chelmsford answered 30 seconds later with a side-arm finish by Sofia D’Agostino, but things settled down after that frenetic start. Franklin almost added one midway through the first, but Jackie O’Neil’s free position shot was saved. Peterson kept possession, but Carney had a goal waved off for being in the crease. The Lions also had a chance from eight meters but Brigid Earley (four saves) made the stop.
The Lions cut the lead to one early in the second and had a good look to tie it but Earley robbed Leah Green from point-blank range. Baker restored a two-goal cushion when her pass to Jones cutting across goal eluded everyone, including the goalie.
After the lead was cut back to one, Franklin went on a run to grab control of the game. Right from the draw, O’Rourke found O’Neil for a goal. Regan then spotted Jamie Tanner, who went with an overhand finish to beat Chelmsford goalie Morgan Wright (seven saves). O’Rourke and Baker each added free position goals to give Franklin its largest lead of the game.
Chelmsford got one back but trailed 8-4 at the break. Maybe it was a momentum boost because in the third quarter the visitors rallied.
The Lions scored three straight goals to get the lead down to just one. With 3:04 left in the third, O’Rourke again drove right at the goalie on an eight-meter try, going low to get a crucial goal. In the closing seconds, Franklin called timeout to set up a play. Peterson swung the ball to Baker, who moved it on to Jones. The pass into the middle was high, but Carney made a great catch and was able to finish in one motion to make it 10-7 with just 2.1 left in the quarter.
“That’s a theme,” Igoe Guarino said about teams coming back in the third quarter against the Panthers in the postseason. “There’s ups and downs of every game and we survive. We have players who can make big plays to help turn it around like Kaitlyn grabbing it and putting it in. I think we’re used to ups and downs and teams go on runs it’s just who can outlast.”
Earley came through with a big stop on Kate Krueger two minutes into the fourth, but multiple efforts to clear went array and the Lions capitalized. Julia Pitts got Krueger the ball on the edge of the crease and this time she didn’t miss.
The score stayed the same until just under seven minutes to play. Regan was able to get the ball to Peterson in space. She drove towards the cage and with the goalie aggressively chasing passes had a lot of space to shoot at. Peterson made no mistake and put the hosts up 11-8.
Even lightning delays couldn’t slow down Franklin (18-0), which will now host South champion Westwood on Thursday night. Not only is this a chance to make history by winning a state title, but also to earn a rare win against a program with a long history of being one of the best teams in the state.
“Beat the best right?” said Igoe Guarino, who also battled the Wolverines in the state semifinals while winning two state titles as a player at Framingham. “Westwood is just a powerhouse, but we’ll be ready. We know they’re fast and like to double and they have some really good players.
“We’re definitely going to have to play better than we did today. I think our team has yet to play a complete game, so maybe they’re saving it for the end.”
- Taunton Wins Rain-Delayed Final, Secures Sixth Title - 07/06/2021
- Franklin Battles Back But Falls to Westwood in Final - 07/02/2021
- Franklin Beats Chelmsford, Heads to First State Final - 06/30/2021