FOXBORO, Mass. – Last season, Franklin rolled through the league unbeaten and scored 124 goals on its run to the Div. 1 state semifinal, which was more than double any other Hockomock League team. The Panthers started this season just as potent in front of goal, with 14 tallies in the opening two games.
Foxboro knew exactly what kind of threat the Panthers would pose on Wednesday evening at Sam Berns Community Field and put together a total team effort to keep the Franklin attack at bay. The game plan worked perfectly.
The Warriors held Franklin to just three penalty corners, the defense stayed packed into the middle, Foxboro threw multiple bodies at last year’s top scorer Kaitlyn Carney, and goalie Kathryn Ferguson came up with a highlight reel stop in the fourth quarter to come away with an impressive 0-0 draw.
“One of the keys to trying to keep the game controlled for us would be our defense and keeping the ball out of the middle and slowing them down as fast as we could,” Foxboro coach Melissa Bordieri explained about her team’s third shutout in three games this season. “I thought we did a really good job of making them do other things and be more creative on the fly.”
Franklin coach Michelle Hess praised Bordieri for putting together a strong plan and the Foxboro players for executing it very well. I was just giving Melissa kudos because that’s how I would’ve played us,” she said.
“They completely packed it in and it was hard for us to generate anything,” Hess continued. “We were super nervous today for some reason. We didn’t play our typical style of play. It was back-and-forth, back-and-forth, not a lot of opportunities and we didn’t take advantage when we did get them.”
While Foxboro was intent on keeping compact defensively, it wasn’t all one-way traffic. In fact, the Warriors had several good chances of their own, including the best look of a tight first quarter when Mya Waryas broke free down the right wing and forced a near post save out of Franklin freshman goalie Devon Barry.
The Panthers were having difficulties getting anything through to goal in the opening 15 minutes. Their best chance came when Raena Crandall charged down a clearance and deflected it off the side of the net. Foxboro’s defense of Catherine Cotter, Macy Quinn, Paige Curran, Val Beigel, and Mia Dinunzio (with help from all the attackers) kept everything outside the circle.
After a tough opening quarter, Franklin seemed to find another gear in the second, but Ferguson was there to back up her defenders.
Carney had a chance in the opening minute of the period that was kicked aside. Seven minutes later, Haley Wernig stole the ball on one end and, after a give-and-go with Carney, raced half the field before forcing another kick save out of the Foxboro goalie. Less than a minute after that, Carney was teed up by Sophia Cuneo for a blast off a penalty corner but again Ferguson was able to get a pad to it.
Right before halftime, Carney again forced her way into the circle and got free for a backhand shot from a tight angle but Cotter was in front to block and clear.
Foxboro gained momentum from going into the break scoreless and carried that energy into the third. Camryn Collins spun and fired a shot towards goal that was tipped just wide of the post by Jennifer Gallagher.
“We have to capitalize on the opportunities we work so hard for,” Bordieri said. “We did a fantastic job against an obviously really strong team, but we’ve got to jump on and capitalize on those too.”
Midway through the third, Foxboro had another good look as Isabelle Chamberlin’s long shot from the left side was kicked away by Barry. The save turned into one of the few transition opportunities Franklin had all night. Shaw Downing raced down the right side, but her cross into the middle was cut out by Quinn in front of a couple of late-arriving Panthers.
Pressure continued to mount, as Franklin grew increasingly anxious about trying to preserve its perfect start to the season. On a corner, Cuneo played the ball out to Carney, who tipped it to her sister Emily for a long shot that was blocked in front. Play stayed alive and Franklin won another corner. This time Kaitlyn Carney took the shot from the top herself and Ferguson came through with a nice stop.
Franklin nearly grabbed the opener with six minutes to play. Emily Carney flicked a shot in front that was tipped by Wernig in front. Ferguson (six saves) appeared to be wrong-footed, but was able to plant and dive at full stretch to get her stick to the shot that seemed destined for the bottom corner, preserving the shutout.
“The diving save and then she jumped right up to make sure,” Bordieri said about her goalie’s late heroics, “They’re a quick team. You can’t make a dive like that and lay there.”
It wasn’t the result that she was looking for, but Hess sees positives in her team getting tested like this early in the season. “We all know other teams are going to go after Kaitlyn,” she said. “So, this was a good learning experience for us that we’re going to have to work with the other girls to pick up the slack. It was a really good learning experience for us.”