BURLINGTON, Mass. – Andover had been in the state semifinal in three of the past four seasons and won the 2017 state title. With nine seniors on the roster, the Golden Warriors had plenty of experience to call on, particularly at this late stage of the season. In contrast, Franklin started four freshmen and were making the Panthers were making their first state semifinal appearance.
Experience paid off in Tuesday night’s semifinal at Burlington High, as top-seeded Andover booked a return to the final with a dominating 5-0 win. The Golden Warriors will face No. 2 seed Walpole. It wasn’t the ending that Franklin (20-2-0) had hoped for, but while head coach Michelle Hess was speaking after the game, in the background the Panthers were reminding themselves that this was a historic run, and one to build on for the future.
“They’re very highly skilled,” Hess said of Andover. “We knew coming in that they were going to be skilled and fast, super fast. I think the one thing that I was a little disappointed in was they were able to get us frazzled and we weren’t able to play our game and execute and I think the frustration level got a little high for us.”
While Andover got off to a decent start and were pushing the Panthers back, it was Franklin that had the first chance of note. Kaitlyn Carney made a run down the right wing and fired a pass across the front of goal, narrowly missing the stick of freshman Haley Wernig. Unfortunately, it would be the last chance Franklin would have for a while.
The Golden Warriors took control of the game and had the Panthers on their heels. Franklin was defending well overall, mostly keeping the ball out of the middle. One angled ball into the crease was slowed down by Kendall Jones and kicked aside by goalie Megan Sullivan.
It was one of only two saves that Sullivan had to make in the first, as Jones, Kate O’Rourke, Kaeley Dubriske, and freshmen Ella Mahoney and Emily Carney all made big plays to keep Andover at bay. The top seed nearly opened the scoring in the final minute of the quarter, when Emma Reilly’s blast from a corner found the back of the net but was ruled out for being beyond the circle.
Franklin nearly took a lead against the run of play, earning their only corner of the match as time ran out in the first. Jones played it out to Kaitlyn Carney, who fired a shot towards goal, but just wide of the post and there was no touch out in front.
“There were flashes of greatness,” Hess said. “We got into their circle and got some corners and it was a little back and forth more in the first quarter. I’d say the first quarter was our better quarter. In the second quarter, I think they were able to get into our heads a little bit and change our game plan.”
The disallowed goal was a warning and Andover repeated the trick just two minutes into the second. This time the ball was played out to Rose MacLean and she slid a pass to Reilly, who had shifted position to get an open shooting lane. Her blast made it 1-0.
It was nearly two goals seven minutes later when MacLean teed up Ella Brockelman for a shot, but Sullivan was equal to it. Franklin tried to break but it actually opened up space for a quick Andover transition. The ball was played across the crease to the back post and Haley Carver raced forward to get a touch in front of Sullivan’s dive and squeeze the ball in from a tight angle.
Reilly added her second and Andover’s third just a minute later to build a three-goal cushion before halftime.
The Panthers used the break to regroup and did get a shot on goal early in the third. Freshman Raena Crandall cut in from the left wing and her shot to the back post forced a sliding block by Andover goalie Adelaide Weeden.
Any momentum that Franklin might have felt was short-lived. Reilly had another good look off a corner and it was tipped home by Hailey Doherty. Before the Panthers could settle, Andover added a fifth, as Reilly completed her hat trick.
“At halftime, we tried to settle them down and say don’t let them take you out of your game, but once again I think the experience of them and the inexperience of my team played out,” Hess admitted.
To their credit, the Panthers continued to battle right to the end of the game. Kaitlyn and Emily Carney both had shots on goal and forward Shaw Downing continued to press the Andover back line up to the final whistle, but the Golden Warriors proved why they came into the tournament as the top seed and the team to beat.
“We’re excited,” Hess said about the potential for the team going into next year. “We had a great season. I couldn’t be anymore proud, they accomplished all our goals.
She added, “I definitely think this set the precedent for us moving forward and I’m looking forward to hopefully being back next year.”
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