But Longmeadow had the perfect game plan in the D1 State Semifinal: keep the ball away from the Panthers.
The Lancers dominated draws and used lengthy offensive possessions, taking up to three or four minutes at times, especially in the second half. That formula resulted in a 12-6 win for Longmeadow and a trip to the D1 State Final.
“You can’t win the game without the ball,” said Franklin head coach Kristin Igoe Guarino said. “I don’t think there is any secret that we didn’t win draws and we didn’t have the ball. When we did have the ball, we could score. But I think we won two draws in the entire second half and our offense was very short. No ball, no win.”
The Lancers’ gameplay was evident on the first series of the game as goalie Hannah Valencia made a save and held onto the ball for nearly a minute as Longmeadow attempted to set up its transition
Longmeadow used a seven minute span to create an early lead. Claire Fitzpatrick put the Lancers up 2-0 with just over five minutes gone in the game and Alison Tetreault and Iliana Koffman (8 meter attempt) tallied goals in the minutes after.
The Lancers’ 4-0 lead just under nine minutes into the game forced a timeout from Franklin.
The timeout helped the momentum shift to the Panthers as they got on the board shortly after. Junior Jordan Jette found a cutting Caroline Lounsbury with a perfect pass in front and the senior buried it to make it 4-1.
“We knew they had good athletes and dodgers and we tried to double them,” Igoe Guarino said. “But they don’t turn it over very much and they take quality shots. Again, not letting us have the ball made it very hard.”
Longmeadow extended its lead to 5-1 just a minute later, but Franklin’s offense finally got in gear over the final 10 minutes of the half.
First, freshman Kelsey MacCallum scored on an 8 meter try and three minutes later, Lounsbury faked the defense on an 8 meter try but passing to Jette, who used a double move in front to make it 5-3.
Then it was time for Franklin freshman Erin Walsh to shine. With just over a minute left, with her back to goal, Walsh fired what Igoe described as a “twister” shot, fooling Valencia to make it 5-4.
Franklin’s Grace McDermott made a terrific defensive play on a Longmeadow 8-meter try in the final minute, giving the Panthers a final possession. The Lancers were whistled for a foul with 15.8 left, giving Franklin a man-up opportunity for two minutes.
Walsh capitalized just seconds before the halftime buzzer, once again scoring with her back to goal, shoveling a shot into the back of the net without giving Valencia a chance at a save.
“We had momentum, and I think we actually had the ball and we were a man up,” Igoe Guarino said. “We just couldn’t capitalize to get the lead, their goalie played excellent too. I just don’t think we were as patient as we could have been on offense.”
But as the first half ended, so did Franklin’s momentum.
The Panthers only won three of 10 draws in the second half and Longmeadow started the second similar to how it did the first, rattling off a 4-0 run.
Just over 10 minutes into the half, Fitzpatrick grabbed her first of the second half, capping off a two minute offensive spell to make it 9-5.
“Their offense is big, they take their time and they have excellent stick work,” Igoe Guarino said.
“They were very disciplined and work their way to a good shot. When you play three minutes of defense over and over and over, it wears you down. Our goalie Gianna [Cameron] did all she could. When you play defense the whole game, it’s hard.”
Lounsbury cut the deficit to three with a great individual effort with just over 13 minutes to play but the Lancers responded with a draw win and a goal just over a minute later.
It looked like Erin Walsh had another goal as she beat the defense and the goalie with a wicked shot, but instead an infraction was whistled after the ball had gone in and Franklin’s 8 meter try went high.
Longmeadow then milked the rest of the game, as neither side scored during a 10 minute span. With Franklin scrambling to force a turnover, the Lancers tacked on two more goals in the final 61 seconds.
“None of our four seniors started freshman year, and they’ve done a great job building this program,” Igoe Guarino said. “They’ve got three sectional titles in four years. We’re still young and hoping to get back here and win a state semifinal game eventually, but there’s a lot to look forward to.”