TAUNTON, Mass. – Franklin opened the scoring early in the second half but Newton North was able to quickly respond and scoring the game winner with under 10 minutes to play as the Tigers ended the Panther’s season, 2-1.
“That’s the best team we faced this year, easily,” Franklin head coach Tom Geysen said.
Sophomore Alexis Stowell opened the scoring in the 50th minute, taking a pass from her sister Victoria and beating Newton North keeper Maddie Bledsoe far post. Freshman Meg Adams did an admirable job holding the ball near the top of the box before laying it back to Victoria, who sent a ball over the top of the defense. Alexis ran onto it and hit a one time shot that went to the far post back corner, leaving Bledsoe no chance to make a save.
The goal, however, proved to be a wake up call for the Tigers, taking complete control of the game and just three minutes later nearly found the equalizer. Shannon Fitzgerald collected a cross and looked to have an open net but her mid failed to find the target and the rebound effort was sent wide. But just a minute later, Newton North leveled the score. A cross along the end line forced Franklin goalie Dani Lonati to make a save, but the tipped save bounced right in front of the goal and Angela Ward pounced on the ball to even the score.
“They sat back a little bit and tried to hit us on the counter but we couldn’t break them down,” Newton North head coach James Hamblin said. “I thought we were a little bit too narrow. When they scored that goal, it lit something underneath our, you know. It was great to see the character to see the team because a lot of teams would have got their heads down and given up.”
The Tigers continued to pile on the pressure for the next 15 minutes and nearly took the lead in the 70th minute as captain Christina Callahan’s shot look destined for the back of the net, but Lonati made a big diving stop. Two minutes later though, a through ball to Fitzgerald – who made a nice run inside the defender – was put into the back of the net for the senior’s 29th goal of the season (7th of the tournament) and the game winner.
“She has been doing that all year,” Hamblin said of Fitzgerald. “That was her seventh in tournament. I thought she had a great game. She takes her chances, she didn’t, you know, to do much in the first half or the second half, you just need to give her that one opportunity and she gets the game winner time and time again. She’s been huge for us this season.”
Geysen was forced into some line up changes because of injuries but was quick to point out that it was not one single player’s fault for the loss.
“Meghan Dieterle, I had to throw her in as an outside defender tonight,” Geysen said. “I know right now Meghan is feeling terrible right now because she feels its her fault and it’s not. That breakdown happened for several reasons. To [Newton North’s] credit, they kept pushing and pushing and with that kind of pressure, eventually you’ll make a mistake and they capitalized.”
The Panthers will graduate four seniors, including captains Julia Bireley and Gabbie Klane as well as Sarah Goodman and Alexa Frongillo. The good news for Franklin – and bad for other Hockomock teams and teams around the state – is that the likes of Taylor Cogliano, the Stowell sisters, Lonato, defender Nicole Ellin – who played a very strong game against Newton North – and a lot of other key pieces will be back for the Panthers.
“We certainly weren’t the most talented team by any stretched of the imagination but we won because they wanted for it each other,” Geysen said of the season.
Ryan Lanigan can be contacted at RyanLanigan@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @R_Lanigan.
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