But in its first test of the season, and a tough one at that, the Panthers passed with flying colors, earning a 3-0 shutout over visiting North Attleboro.
Junior Grace Gallo anchored the center of the defense with senior Molly O’Reilly and junior Madison Stewart on the outside. While North was able to register 10 shots, only two were true tests for keeper Cat Robbins.
“It was a good win, we’re young as far as experience goes and I thought we would be a be a little thin in certain areas but some kids stepped up a bit today that I wasn’t really anticipating,” Geysen said.
“Defense was one of my concerns coming in. We graduated two all-league starters we had to replace. We changed our formation a little bit, and I was a little concerned about it during the preseason. But you have to let it ride and get used to it. The back line bent but they didn’t break.”
It didn’t take long for Franklin to try and use its speed to get in behind North Attleboro’s back line. Just five minutes in, after a long ball was spilled by North’s keeper, Miranda Smith jumped on the loose ball in the area but had her bid slide wide at the far post.
North registered its first chance in the 16th minute when a ball put into the area fell to Big Red senior Aine Mendonca, but her low shot was saved comfortably by Robbins at the near post.
The Panthers broke open the scoring less than five minutes later. Senior Molly Duncan gained possession in the midfield, turned forward and played a perfect diagonal through ball to Smith. Smith faked with her right, cutting past a defender, carried to goal alone and tucked her shot in at the near post to make it 1-0.
North Attleboro nearly had an immediate response, forcing Robbins into one of her two big saves in the 21st minute. The Rocketeers quickly moved the ball up field before junior Ashlyn Gaulin unleashed a wicked shot from 25 yards out, but Robbins made a leaping save and tipped the ball over the bar.
“That’s what you expect from Cat,” Geysen said. “She might not be the greatest athlete in the world but nobody is tougher than her, nobody works harder than her and she anticipates really well.
North had one more serious chance just before the halftime break when Mendonca laid a pass off for senior Felicity Monfils but her strike from just outside the area went just over the bar.
The Rocketeers carried that momentum into the second half and looked like they found the equalizer less than a minute in. Mendonca served a ball to the far post and Haley Guertin calmly finished her shot from close range, but the ref disallowed the goal, whistling for a foul off the ball.
“I’ll be the last person to use an excuse, but to have that goal called back changed things,” said North Attleboro head coach Bill Wallace. “I felt like we came out and were playing really well to start the second half. And then they scored five minutes later so it hurt.
“We’re working through some kinks right now. I thought we’d be further along offensively than we are. But Franklin always throws one of those defenses at you where you have to work your butt off to get anything. It’s that one extra pass or one shot instead of a pass. The good news is that we have a great group of seniors and they’ll pick each other up. It proves how tough this league is.”
But seven minutes after North’s goal was waved off, Franklin doubled its lead. The Panthers took advantage of a quick throw with Smith springing Duncan in behind the defense. North’s goalie came charging out but Duncan calmly carried around her and finished into the back of the net to make it 2-0.
“We have some speed,” Geysen said. “We have to work on our touch, and that’s one of the reasons we don’t have the possession yet because our first touch isn’t where it needs to be. But with the speed and the two kids in the middle, [Molly] Duncan and Carly Alston, they can really thread the ball. Carly looked good the last couple of days.”
The Panthers put the finishing touches on the win in the 69th minute. Junior Hailey Toolin laid a perfectly weighted pass in the area to sophomore Anna Balkus and she placed her shot just inside the post to make it 3-0.
North Attleboro had one final chance with just over three minutes remaining when Gaulin turned and ripped a left footed strike from inside the area but Robbins made the diving stop at the near post to preserve the shutout.
ranklin (1-0 Hockomock, 1-0 overall) hosts Algonquin on Saturday in a non-league showdown while North Attleboro (0-1, 0-1) will welcome Taunton (1-0, 2-0) to town on Monday afternoon.
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