FRANKLIN, Mass. – On Thursday evening, the Franklin girls’ lacrosse team began a run of five straight games against teams ranked among the top 25 in the state with the visit of Div. 1 Central/East rival Concord-Carlisle, which won the sectional title last spring.
After losing a second half lead against Needham in the season opener and eventually falling in overtime, this was an opportunity for the Panthers to pick up a marquee win early in the season and build momentum for a difficult portion of the schedule.
It did not start well. The Patriots jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the first half, but senior midfielder Kenzie Pleshaw took over with four goals before the break and five in the game to spark a Franklin comeback that turned into a comfortable 13-7 victory.
“I think their speed kind of took us by surprise at the beginning,” said Franklin coach Kristin Igoe. “They were just charging right down, blowing by us. Once we kind of settled in a little bit and saw their strengths, our defense did a great job slowing it down and we figured out how to play against them.”
“From there we just played as a team.”
The Patriots, behind star senior Hannah Dudley, dominated the draw controls at the start of the game. Concord-Carlisle won the first six draws as they built an early lead and goalie Abby Flynn made three of her six first half saves to keep Franklin off the board.
The game changed when the Panthers switched things up in the middle. Sophomore Grace MacCallum was moved in and took the draws against Dudley. From that point on Franklin won five of the last seven draws in the first half and nine of the next 13 overall.
Concord-Carlisle coach Paul Morrison said, “I think their momentum came when they switched up on the draw. She did an excellent job, I think she won four or five in a row, and their possessions were excellent. They barely dropped the ball.”
Julia Jette, who reached the 100-goal plateau on Wednesday, scored to cut the Patriots lead to 4-2 and then 23 seconds later, after the Panthers won the draw control, Pleshaw notched her first goal and just like that Franklin was down by one.
Junior Kendall Reardon tied the game, but the Patriots answered back with 8:19 to play in the first half. Three minutes later, Pleshaw shook off her defender with a spin move and finished over the top of Flynn to tie it again. Two minutes later, she completed her hat trick with a shot on the run. With 1:39 left in the half, she made it 7-5 with a shot cutting across the middle.
Igoe said of Pleshaw, “Kenzie is fearless, she can use both hands, she’s an awesome dodger, but she’s just so competitive and has that drive for goal. Those three goals were really important and gave us a kind of cushion.”
The momentum did not waver after the break. Emily Spath stole a clearance and fed Jette for a goal four minutes after the break and then four minutes later Pleshaw earned a free position and finished it. When the Panthers added another on a quick transition between Reardon, Spath, and finished off by Diana Griffin, the visitors were forced to take a timeout.
In the huddle Igoe reminded the Panthers of the lead that they held against Needham in the season opener and how important it was to keep pushing to extend the advantage.
“We just kept playing hard,” said Igoe. “We got some saves when we needed to, got some ground balls when we needed to, so they were never able to go on a run to get momentum.”
A couple minutes after the timeout, Reardon got her second goal of the game, capping a 7-0 run that gave the Panthers a six-goal lead.
After the patriots ended the run, Spath added her second goal on a free position. Griffin would also get her second of the game to answer another Patriots goal with 2:25 to play.
The offense was clicking but it was the defense that turned the tables on the Patriots. Senior Sam Jones controlled the defense, as the Panthers closed off the middle of the field, and classmate Dani Lonati came through with eight saves, including a couple down the stretch that kept the Patriots from changing momentum.
Igoe said of Jones, “You can hear her on the sidelines, sending doubles and coming up with knock downs and ground balls. I’m really proud of our defense and how they figured them out and were able to crash on their top dodgers and slow them down.”
It was the perfect way to start this tough stretch for the Panthers (4-1), but Igoe wanted to make sure that her team was not getting carried away with a trip to North Andover looming on Saturday.
“We have a good stretch of games coming up and we’re going to kind of take it one-by-one,” she said. “I told them this is exciting, have fun with this win, but tomorrow we have stuff we have to work on. We’re happy, but we’re not satisfied.”
Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.
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