By Joe Clark, HockomockSports.com Student Reporter
FRANKLIN, Mass. – As the reigning D1 East Sectional Champs, and current top seed, the Franklin girls lacrosse team knows there is a target on their back.
Natick came out firing on Thursday afternoon at Franklin High, but a strong second half effort and nine goals from sophomore Annie Walsh led Franklin to an 18-10 victory over eighth-seeded Natick.
Heading into halftime, Natick led 7-6, completely controlled time of possession and led in draw controls at the break.
Kendall Reardon started off the scoring for Franklin, scoring three minutes into the game, but on the ensuing Natick possession Annika Streeter would answer back to tie the game up at one. Streeter then set up teammate Victoria Norchi open in front of the net, and she scored to put the Redhawks up 2-1. Reardon would then score her second goal of the game to knot the game at two, but Norchi scored on an empty net to give Natick a 3-2 lead.
After Streeter scored again, Franklin got back to back goals from Erin and Annie Walsh to tie it back up at 4-4. Molly Burnes put Natick up 5-4, but Reardon’s third goal of the half tied the game up again. Back to back Natick goals from Streeter and Meghan Rodino would put the Redhawks up 7-5, but Annie Walsh scored her second goal of the game with 1:33 left in the half to cut the Franklin deficit to just one at 7-6.
“Natick wanted it more in the first half,” said Franklin coach Kristin Igoe Guarino about the first half. “They were winning the draws and the ground balls, so I kind of yelled at [my team] a little and said you gotta want it more, or you’re going home.”
The Panthers clearly took that message to heart, as seconds into the half Jordan Jette found Annie Walsh cutting to the net wide open for a goal to tie it at 7-7, and 30 seconds later freshman Kelsey MacCallum found the back of the net to make it 8-7 with 24:09 left to play.
Franklin wouldn’t look back from there with Annie Walsh netting five consecutive goals herself, to go up 13-7 with 10:58 left in the game.
Walsh’s fifth goal, which put Franklin up 10-7, was the 100th of the sophomore’s already incredibly successful career. She would finish with nine goals, including seven in the second half.
“She’s amazing at draws, ground balls, in between the 30s, and on offense, so I think that’s the kind of player to look for when you’re down, and she did it very well,” Igoe Guarino said about Walsh.
After Streeter scored the third of her five goals for Natick, Erin Walsh scored to make it 14-8 with 9:16 left to play, and then Reardon scored the fourth of her five goals to extend the Franklin lead to 15-8 with just over eight minutes to go in the game.
Streeter scored back to back goals to make it 15-10, but goals from Erin and Annie Walsh and Reardon would give Franklin a final advantage of 18-10.
For Franklin, the road to a state championship only gets tougher.
“We have to play 50 minutes. We have a target on our back, we’re the number one seed in the East and reigning East champions. Everyone’s going to want to beat us, and every single team in this tournament is good and capable of winning.” said Igoe Guarino about the rest of the tournament. “We want to win, but we have to play like, and I always challenge them to act like the number one seed, and that’s a lot easier said than done.”
With the win, the Panthers move onto the D1 East Semifinals, where they’ll play the winner of the King Philip-Lexington game, which will take place Saturday at 3:30 in Lexington.
Franklin girls lacrosse (20-1) is familiar with Hockomock League foe King Philip, beating the Warriors 18-6 on May 24th. The date and time of Franklin’s semifinal matchup is currently to be announced at the time of publication.