WALPOLE, Mass. – It was a game that could have gone either way. Neither team led by more than two goals at any point in the game. There were four lead changes (all in the second half) and eight ties. In games that are that close, every play gets magnified and the smallest margins can be decisive.
Concord-Carlisle took its largest lead of the game, 11-9, with 4:39 remaining in Tuesday night’s Div. 1 East semifinal at Walpole High’s Turco Field, but with 1:15 to play a turnover gave the Panthers a chance to get back within one. Stella Regan scored her second goal of the game to give Franklin (20-3) hope.
Despite losing the ensuing draw, an issue all night, and being down a player after a yellow card to senior Annie Walsh, the Panthers managed to force another turnover and regain possession inside the final minute. A foul stopped play right in front of the Franklin bench. As the players prepared to restart, one of the officials ran up and brandished a yellow card to the bench, which not only forced Franklin to remove another player, but also give up the ball.
The Patriots managed to keep the ball moving for the final 30 seconds, as the Panthers continued to chase, eventually running out the clock on an 11-10 victory and their second straight semifinal win against Franklin.
“Emotions were running high, intense game and I told them some things you can’t control and unfortunately we lost the ball again,” said Franklin coach Kristin Igoe Guarino. “They battled to the end and we all on the sidelines thought that we were going to tie this and win the draw and win the game.”
Franklin got off to the perfect start, as Walsh cut in from the right and scored with a low, lefty shot just 44 seconds into the game. That started the back-and-forth battle, as Concord-Carlisle answered two minutes later only for Kelsey MacCallum to fake out her marker, spinning back through the middle where she was found by Jackie O’Neil to make it 2-1.
Concord-Carlisle was consistently winning back and maintaining possession and putting the Franklin defense under pressure. After the Patriots scored to tie it again, they held the ball for several minutes with the Panthers holding on but failing to secure any of the ground balls that the defense was forcing.
“Its hard to win a game when you don’t have the ball,” Igoe Guarino said. “Draw controls definitely hurt us and when we did make stops or got it on the ground we couldn’t clear or made unforced errors. I think we hurt ourselves a little too much.”
While Franklin was under pressure, it held out and then took its largest lead of the night. First Erin Walsh dodged from the left side and her overhand shot had enough backspin that it bounced back over the line even after being saved. Then MacCallum went right down the middle for a lefty finish to make it 4-2.
After the Patriots got one back, Walsh smacked the bar with a free position chance and Ali Socci put in a timely stick check to deny a free position on the other end. MacCallum set up a cutting Regan in front but Natalie Slade stuck with it and made the save.
The Patriots tied the game with 3:56 left in the half but Erin Walsh was given a free position opportunity two minutes later. The junior went nearly underhand to fire an unstoppable shot just under the bar to put Franklin in front. Gianna Cameron made the lead last to halftime with a big stop in the final 30 seconds.
Concord-Carlisle came right back after the break, winning the opening two draws and scoring on both. Fallon Vaughn scored the first and assisted on the second. Vaughn nearly made it three in row but Cameron made a huge stop, getting a piece of a free position shot.
MacCallum completed her hat trick seven minutes into the half to tie the game at 6-6 and Franklin got the lead back when Regan showed great patience cutting across the front of the crease finally getting Slade to commit before firing her shot just under the bar.
A minute later and the game was tied again, but Franklin answered back with Kate O’Rourke using an Annie Walsh screen to get space down the middle and went high-to-low on her shot. The Panthers got the ball back to try and extend the lead to two, but an unforced error gave the ball back to the Patriots, who promptly scored.
“We didn’t have the ball a lot, so we couldn’t establish a rhythm on offense and our dodgers could never get going and couldn’t find space,” igoe Guarino explained. “They played excellent man-to-man, seven-on-seven ‘D’ and were very packed in and we just couldn’t find our space and finish our opportunities.”
That was the start of a run for Concord-Carlisle, which scored three times in a row to build the lead out to 11-9. Franklin had chances to cut into the deficit but Slade (six saves) came through with a series of stops, once each from Walsh and O’Rourke and twice from MacCallum.
“We felt like we didn’t have the ball a lot so when we did get it it was like, let’s go,” Igoe Guarino said about the uncharacteristic issues finishing. “We didn’t take all our best shots or we had an unforced error and that makes you feel like I have the ball so I have to shoot again as soon as you get it. I don’t think we were fully ourselves on the offensive end.”
Franklin continued to push, never giving in until the final whistle, but for the second straight season it will be the Patriots that advance to take on top seed Walpole in the sectional final.