WRENTHAM, Mass. – In a shortened season, jumping out to an early lead in the division standings could be critical and Wednesday afternoon’s meeting of Franklin and King Philip at Macktaz Field was the chance for one to grab the lead in the Kelley-Rex after both went undefeated in the first week of play.
Behind goals from senior Erin Quaile and freshman Anya Zub and a typically strong defensive performance, Franklin beat KP 2-0 and took a one-game edge in the standings with the second game of a home-and-home coming up on Friday.
Over the past year, Franklin has become synonymous with defense. The Panthers recorded clean sheets in 11 of their final 12 games of the 2019 regular season, then held Oliver Ames scoreless through regulation of the playoff game before the Tigers scored the winner in extra time. This season, Franklin has tossed shutouts in all three games, remaining stout and hard to break down even with the modified rules that discourage physicality.
“We lack experience with a lot of these kids,” said Franklin coach Tom Geysen. “If you don’t have that kind of experience right now then you want to speed up the other team’s play faster than they want to get rid of the ball. So, if we can pressure them and make them make earlier decision than they want to, you’ve got a better chance to win the ball. It kind of worked.”
It was clear from the opening whistle that Franklin was the aggressor on Wednesday. A long ball over the top to Ava Tormey gave the Warriors an early chance but pressure from Izzy Arnold gave goalie Julia Bertone time to slide out and grab the loose ball. It would be the last chance of note for KP in the first half.
Franklin’s best chance of the opening quarter came in the final two minutes with Riley Fitzpatrick playing a nicely weighted pass into the right channel for Zub to run onto. The freshman hit a shot from a tough angle and saw it go right through the box and just wide of the far post.
The visitors carried momentum into the second quarter and had two golden chances in the span of two minutes, only to be denied both times on goal line clearances by Taylor Thompson. The first chance came when Jamie Tanner got behind the defense and managed to bundle the ball by KP keeper Emma Glaser, but Thompson intervened at the last second. Two minutes later Quaile crossed it from the left to Tanner and again the ball was redirected towards the line but Thompson got there in time to clear.
With three minutes remaining in the half, Franklin’s pressure finally turned into a goal and from an unlikely source. Quaile collected the ball in midfield and found space for a 20-yard strike that sailed over Glaser’s hand and just under the bar for what turned out to be the game-winner.
Geysen said, “Erin I thought played really well on both sides of the ball today. She just does a lot of good things.”
“At halftime, I was telling them you had three days out of four off and you come back and you look like you’ve been working out for 10 days straight,” said KP coach Gary Pichel. “I told them, the team I put out on Friday will be very different than today because you didn’t work for it and you didn’t earn it.”
Ella Pisani had three goals in the first two games but the Franklin defense was able to keep her largely in check on Wednesday. She did manage to get a shot early in the third quarter but it sailed wide, as the Warriors reacted to Pichel’s halftime team talk with a spark of energy.
It didn’t take Franklin long to reassert control. Arnold’s long ball out of defense picked out Zub on the run, but Glaser was able to slide and make the stop. Almost immediately after, Bridgette Ginley had a chance from the right side and her shot was narrowly wide of the post.
Kiera Lindmark gave Franklin freshman keeper Rachel Welch a scare with a free kick late in the third, but it curled wide from 25 yards out. Lindmark nearly found the right pass to Jenny Montville at the start of the fourth but Montville couldn’t get a solid touch and Welch was able make the comfortable stop.
Eight minutes into the final quarter, Franklin doubled its lead and secured the two points. Zub and Fitzpatrick played a nice one-two on the edge of the box, springing Zub beyond the back line. She managed to hold off the defender on her back and fire a shot past Glaser to make it 2-0.
“Anya is a special player,” said Geysen. “She’s so freaking smart. She puts herself where she knows they’re going to play the ball and a lot of times I don’t have to tell her.”
The Panthers nearly added a third in the final minute with another piece of solid ball movement. Tanner started the play with a pass to Zub on the wing. Her low cross was just behind Tanner in the middle of the box and found Tory Carmignani at the back post, but her shot skimmed the bar on its way out of play.
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