FOXBORO, Mass. – For nearly a decade, two teams have dominated Hockomock League girls lacrosse. Foxboro and Franklin have each won eight straight division titles, including the league crowns that both have already clinched this spring. The last time a team other than those two finished on top in the league was 2012, when King Philip shared the Kelley-Rex title with the Panthers.
On Wednesday evening, the league’s top two teams squared off at Sam Berns Community Field. Behind a quick start that saw it jump ahead 5-0 and seven goals from senior midfielder Annie Walsh, Franklin pulled out a 14-10 victory to extend its remarkable league winning streak to 80 straight games dating back to April 2012.
“I thought we did really well on the draws early, we were really feisty in the circle, and just took good shots in the first half,” Franklin coach Kristin Igoe Guarino said of the good start. “I think their goalie played awesome and really stepped up her game as it went on but we got on her early.”
The Panthers got off to the perfect start, scoring the game’s first five goals, all but one from free position chances. Freshmen Jackie O’Neil and Stella Regan got the visitors going, the second goal created after freshman Kate O’Rourke scooped a ground ball to keep the possession alive.
After Annie Walsh hit the post, Erin Walsh went over the top of Foxboro goalie Sara Addeche (11 saves) to make it 3-0. The Walsh sisters combined for nine of Franklin’s goals and Erin also chipped in with an assist. O’Rourke bounced in a free position goal for Franklin’s fourth and then O’Neil picked out a cutting Annie Walsh for her first, forcing a Foxboro timeout.
“We’ve struggled all year with playing the entire game,” Foxboro coach Brittany Sherry explained. “When you have to start at a deficit and have to pick away, it’s too much. We can’t let a team like Franklin have that lead. It’s a momentum-changer for us and puts us in a slump and we have to work the rest of the game to get out of it.”
Following a draw control, Foxboro got on the board. Sophomore Lilly Vey cut across the front of goal and managed to bounce a shot inside the post. Two minutes later, Sophia DiCenso set up Abby Hassman in front of goal to make it 5-2.
A free position goal by Kelsey MacCallum restored Franklin’s four-goal lead, but only for a short time. Julia Kelley hit the outside of the cage from a tough angle and then Meghan Curran sliced through the defense to make it 6-3. Addeche stuffed Erin Walsh on one end and the Warriors converted on the other, as DiCenso’s head fake opened a sliver of space down the right channel to make it 6-4.
Just when it looked like Foxboro might be taking control, Annie Walsh stepped up. She went straight down the middle of the Warriors’ defense to score with 2:30 left in the half and then she forced a turnover and scored on the resulting free position just 17 seconds before the break to extend the lead to 8-4.
Igoe Guarino said, “Annie is an excellent dodger and I thought she did a good job of taking good, smart dodges in space and mixing up her shot placement so she could finish.”
Walsh made it a five-goal game early in the second half when she scooped a rebound, after Addeche made another good stop, and flicked it in from close-range.
Foxboro needed a spark and junior Jaime Notarangelo provided one. She used a big pump fake to free herself in the middle of the Franklin defense and scored to make it 9-5. After winning the draw, Notarangelo twice beat the defense and Franklin goalie Gianna Cameron (five saves) only to see the ball come back off the post both times. The second rebound was gathered by Vey, who fired into the open net.
“Jaime came up huge,” Sherry said. “She does it in defense, in midfield, and if she loses the ball in attack she’s right back playing defense and getting the ball back for us.”
Walsh used a head fake and a quick step to beat her marker and then split two other defenders to get the goal back for Franklin, but Carly Stern got the Foxboro bench going when she carried the ball out of defense almost 60 yards before scoring to make it 10-7.
Another Walsh goal got the lead back to four and then Cameron came through with a big stop on Curran. Walsh followed that with her seventh goal to give the Panthers a 12-7 edge. “Gianna always steps up in the most critical time and is always so focused,” said Igoe Guarino. “She knows when we need her the most.”
Vey completed her hat trick, spinning her way into the middle of the defense, but then Erin Walsh got her second on a feed from O’Rourke and Regan added another in transition to make the score 14-8 with less than two minutes remaining.
Sherry said, “The draw wasn’t consistent enough for us. If we don’t win the draw, then we don’t win the game. We had bits and spurts but in those key moments they were beating us.”
The Warriors kept coming. Curran scored off a free position and then Notarangelo added another to make it a four-goal game in the end.
“It totally helps us and that’s the reason that we have those games,” Sherry said of playing the likes of Div. 1 powers Walpole, Wellesley, and Franklin this season. “But, we also have to hold ourselves accountable. At this point in the season, only about a week away from finding out where we are in the playoffs, it can’t just be helping us. We have to use it successfully. It has to be we played hard teams and we got a win from it.”
With 80 straight wins in the Hock and the potential for a seventh straight perfect league campaign, Igoe Guarino was pleased with the way her team responded to the challenge from their rivals.
“We take pride in it and we know that Foxboro is going to be the toughest league game every year,” she said. “[The players] just have a lot of pride and they know Foxboro is out to get us. Foxboro was ready for us but we had to be just as ready back.”
Franklin (14-2, 9-0) can complete another undefeated league season if it beats Canton on Monday. Foxboro (9-7, 7-1) will face Div. 2 East rival Medfield on Friday and look to secure an outright league title when it faces Milford on Tuesday.