CANTON, Mass. – Just four minutes into Wednesday night’s game at World War II Veterans Memorial Field, Franklin opened the scoring, but instead of hanging its head and allowing the visiting Panthers to take control, Canton turned up the aggressiveness, pressured all over the pitch, and turned the game around.
“We know how to play soccer and we have good soccer players,” said Canton coach Kate Howarth. “If we come out with that mentality then we’re going to play games like this. If you have that passion and that drive and leaving it on the field then there’s no way you can lose. It’s not a lack of talent; it’s a lack of oomph.”
Inside the opening four minutes, Franklin took the lead. Molly Duncan slid a through ball between the Canton defenders to find Miranda Smith running down the right channel and the senior forward lifted her shot over onrushing keeper Lindsey Barrett.
Although the Panthers had the lead, it was Canton that was pushing the tempo and creating scoring chances. Duserick and Diletizia both had long shots saved by Franklin keeper Cat Robbins in the opening 15 minutes.
The Bulldogs pressure created the breakthrough in the 23rd minute. Sullivan made a long run to the end line and sent in an inch-perfect cross over the outstretched arms of Robbins and to Diletizia unmarked in the middle of the six-yard-box. The freshman forward got a shin to the ball and knocked it in for the equalizer.
Ten minutes later, Canton got the lead. Leianne Bruce won the ball in front of the Bulldogs’ bench and played it forward towards Diletizia, who cushioned a one-touch pass into the path of sophomore Morgan McCabe. Franklin right back Madison Stewart came all the way across to get a piece of the ball but it bounced right back to McCabe, who fired an unstoppable shot into the far corner.
“They knew we build from the back and that we build with the outside backs because they had them man-marked in the first half,” said Howarth. “We kept trying to play them and they would come in and counter. Once they turned and faced up, we could find our forwards and they found opportunities that way.”
Franklin had one chance before halftime but a first-time shot from the edge of the box was sent over the bar by Carly Alston. Otherwise, the Canton defense looked impenetrable with center backs Sarah Connolly and Carly Hutchinsoncutting off every Franklin pass.
“We didn’t play well defensively,” said Franklin coach Tom Geysen. “We’ve got some problems we need to fix on the back line. We’re having problems all over the field at the moment. We don’t play the ball where we need to play the ball, we over-touch the ball, you saw how timid we were.”
He added, “You can’t play that way against them or against Oliver Ames or Mansfield or anyone else in this league because this is what you’re going to get.”
The second half was completely dominated by the Bulldogs. Franklin center backs Grace Gallo and Brenna Atwood seemed to be under constant pressure from the speedy Canton attack.
Diletizia had chance from the edge of the box saved by Robbins just one minute into the half. In the 47th minute, Duserick’s corner into the center of the box picked out Sullivan, who nodded home the third for the Bulldogs.
Howarth remarked, “I said at halftime, if we get one then we’ll get more than one. As long as we get that next one then it’s going to break them and we’ll get more after that.”
The chances kept coming for Canton. Diletizia set up Sullivan for a first-time hit from the edge of the box but it went narrowly over the crossbar. A minute later, Juliana Agnitti burst forward from midfield and set up Diletizia, but the shot was saved.
“They’re soccer players,” said Howarth about Diletizia and classmate Olivia Rodman. “They play the game all the time and they have instincts that you can’t teach kids. It’s different than just being a physically good athlete…they have soccer instincts and it’s a special thing.”
Lauren Fitzpatrick drove at the Franklin defense in the 56th minute and the ball was deflected by Atwood into the path of Julia Hamilton and she fired a shot that just missed the top corner.
In the 61st minute, Duserick wrapped up the win for Canton with a pinpoint 35-yard free kick from outside the right hashmark that sailed into top, far corner. After the game, Howarth called it the midfielder’s “sweet spot.”
“Front to back it was the best game mentality-wise we’ve had yet,” said Howarth. “We have had lots of goals scored on us and we haven’t in the past responded well. The passion has to be there; you have to respond well…Today, we finally responded the way that we try to instill.”
Canton (4-3-2, 4-3-2) will try to keep the momentum going on Friday with a trip to Taunton, while Franklin (6-3-1, 6-3-0) will look to bounce back when it hosts Stoughton.
2016 Record: 10-8-2 2016 Finish: Reached D2 South Semifinal Coach: Kate Howarth
For each of the past two seasons, Canton has finished second in the Davenport division and, with only three seniors graduating from the 2016 roster, the Bulldogs are poised to make another run at a league title this fall. Enthusiasm is also high after a strong closing stretch to last year, which included a draw with Kelley-Rex champ Mansfield and playoff victories over Greater New Bedford and Milton.
Senior Riley Duserick is the focal point of the Canton midfield and her ability to open space, pick out the right pass, and shoot from distance gives the Bulldogs a consistent threat in the attack. Junior Julia Hamilton emerged last season as a solid counterpoint to Duserick in the heart of the midfield with her tenacity and speed adding even more cover to the back line. Sophomores Lauren and Morgan McCabe will be added to the midfield options after strong rookie seasons. Lauren Fitzpatrick could see more time up front to replace the graduated Hannah Link and Tessa Cudmore and head coach Kate Howarth expects several freshmen to contribute as well.
The defense had inconsistent moments early in 2016, but the Bulldogs seemed to figure things out midway through the season and with the back four all returning defense should be a strength for Canton. Seniors Sarah Connolly and Carly Hutchinson will lead the defensive unit and junior Sarah Collins brings energy and speed from her right back spot.
“We are working really hard every day to get better at the little things that will push us beyond being a good team this season,” Howarth said. “I think our biggest weakness last year was consistency, so if we can get ahead of that right away we will be in a much better place than we were last year.”
Foxboro had an inconsistent 2016, but demonstrated the talent in the program by beating perennial power Notre Dame Academy in the first round of the playoffs and nearly going on the road to beat Medfield in the second round, only to fall in a penalty shootout. The Warriors have seven returning players, so this will be a young team in 2017, but new head coach Katie Stalcup will be familiar with those players after her stint as the JV coach last year.
The Warriors will be able to count on senior Lily Sykes. The four-year starter is one of the most dynamic players in the league and is capable of dominating the midfield by beating a defender off the dribble or picking out a defense-splitting pass. Senior Shaina Abbott will be one of the forwards that Sykes will be looking to set up, while senior Olivia Dantona adds speed on the wings. Senior Mackenzie Cusack is also back to lead the defensive unit along with junior Alex Stamatos.
Stalcup is counting on a number of young players to step in and contribute right away. Sophomore Lizzy Davis played for Stalcup on JV last year and brings speed and physicality to the forward position. Among the freshmen that will be on the roster are midfielder Katelyn Mollica, forward Jordyn Collins, and defender Emma Dahl.
“I am very excited about being the new varsity coach this year,” said Stalcup. “We have seven returning varsity players, four seniors who are all captains and five very impressive freshmen on the team for this season as well as some great players coming up from JV. We are a young team, but I am excited to see how well we can play together.”
2016 Record: 5-9-4 2016 Finish: Missed playoffs Coach: Jay Mastaj
Milford is looking to bounce back from a five-win season to challenge for a spot in the state tournament this fall. The Hawks have a roster filled with youth and bring the majority of the starting lineup back and head coach Jay Mastaj is confident that the talent is there to make a push up the table and compete with the top teams in the league.
The Hawks are deep and experienced on the back line and the defense could be a real strength for Milford this season. Seniors Rachel LeBlanc and Brianna Braza will be the leaders in the heart of the defense and will try to keep everyone organized. Senior Leeanne Kibbee will lead the attack and will be counted on to finish off chances created by senior Maggie Boyle and sophomore Ashleigh Starks, who will look to create from the center of midfield.
Mastaj said of the attackers, “The combination brings strong skills, familiarity and solid varsity experience.” He is also excited about the younger players and what they can bring to the table this year, including sophomores Madelyn Boyle, Julianna France, and Annie Flanagan.
“This season we expect to be very competitive across the entire league,” Mastaj added, “and with a little bit of luck we believe we can challenge for the top of the Davenport.”
2016 Record: 14-4-2 (Davenport Division Champions) 2016 Finish: Reached D1 South Quarterfinal Coach: Bill Wallace
Despite changing coaches midway through the 2016 season, North Attleboro rolled to its first league title in its first season in the Davenport division. The Rocketeers racked up 14 wins and a goal differential of plus-40. Expectations are even higher coming into this fall with North returning a roster filled with experienced upperclassmen.
URI-commit Haley Guertin is the player to watch for the Rocketeers, as the senior forward is both a goal threat and also a playmaker who consistently opens up opportunities for her teammates. Her 37 career assists is tied for the most in program history. Head coach Bill Wallace said that there is a change in systems coming up front, but with Leah Jette and Ashlyn Gaulin joining Guertin, North will have a formidable attack.
In the midfield, Aine Mendonca returns to hold things down in the center of the pitch. Her poise in posession and ability to break up opposing attacks is critical for the Rocketeers. Of course, if anyone gets through, HockomockSports.com Best XI defender Rachel LaBonte and fellow senior Emily Chiasson are on hand to clean it up. North also returns both Nina Beauvais and Emma Noreck in goal.
“We should be up tempo and have a lot of depth,” said Wallace. “These kids have played together for years and generally care about each other. As always, the Hock is a ‘bear’ of a league and for us to continue last years success we are going to have to work hard and continue to improve!”
Sharon narrowly missed out on reaching the playoffs last season under first-year head coach Brad Furnival. This year, making the playoffs could be even more difficult after the team lost nine seniors and seven starters from last year’s team. The Eagles will be building with youth this fall and gaining experience for a number of new faces.
One returning player that the Eagles will be counting on is senior Ally Filipkowski, who is coming off an exciting summer that saw her named to the U-20 Puerto Rican national team. The George Washington-commit is one of the most talented players with the ball in the league and she will be tasked with creating most of the chances for the Eagles. Senior Sabrina Robbins will step into a leadership role at the heart of the Sharon defense this fall and will be counted on to organize a young group.
Among the new faces to watch is junior Maxine Gordon, who will be starting in the attack this fall and is hoping to build off her experience from last season to be a consistent goal scorer. Sophomore Bella Berger is another player that Furnival believes could be in for a strong season. Berger will be influencing the game from the center of midfield.
“This season will be more of a transition season for Sharon girls,” Furnival said. “We have a very young team so the vision for this team is a couple of seasons down the line. We are hoping to continue playing an attacking brand of soccer and are looking forward to coming up against some top opposition that the Hock will pit us up against.”
Stoughton has been in a rebuilding mode for the past couple of seasons, but entering 2017 head coach Tara Daniels is making changes to the formation and counting on an experienced back line to get the Black Knights moving up the table in the Davenport division.
The leader for Stoughton is senior Sarah Widrow, who was the team’s lone league all-star last fall and impressed during the HockomockSports.com Charity All-Star Game. As an attacking fullback, Widrow pushes the Black Knights forward and adds vocal leadership to the back line. She will be joined at the back by the speedy Gabriela Diaz, who was converted from striker to defender. Senior Mia Greene will be the focal point in the midfield to try and keep possession for Stoughton.
Sophomore Chinazo Odunze returns from a injury-shortened season to lead the line for the Black Knights attack. She had a strong start to her freshman campaign before her injury and Daniels calls her combination of speed and physicality a “game-changer” for the attack.
Daniels said, “This season we are trying a new formation to give us more offensive opportunities…Staying healthy and in good shape is key to a successful season. We are looking to step up our possession game and having more of an offensive push this year.”
CANTON, Mass. – The pitch was slick from two days worth of rain, but the Canton defense showed no ill effects and zero slip-ups, as it corralled Sharon’s top two attacking threats, Alex Rabb and Ally Filipkowski, limiting the Eagles to only a couple clear scoring chances.
It was a major turnaround for the Bulldogs, who had allowed six goals last time out against Milford. The back four, with help from the midfield, held firm on Saturday morning at World War II Veterans Memorial Field and Canton pulled out a 2-0 victory that edges the Bulldogs closer to a spot in the state tournament.
“After the Milford game, I took the back line and we talked about some issues,” explained Canton coach Kate Howarth, “and there was a little bit of confusion I wasn’t aware of. We cleared everything up and you could see the back line was so solid today.”
Chances were at a premium for both teams in the first half. The Bulldogs has the first shot on goal when Tessa Cudmore’s shot was handled by Sharon keeper Natalie Gray. A corner three minutes later from Sarah Connolly had to be cleared off the line by Amanda Klayman and then Lauren McCabe had the rebound saved by Gray in the bottom corner.
The Bulldogs’ best scoring opportunities were coming from Connolly’s set piece deliveries. She fired in a long free kick that Gray caught cleanly and then in the 27th minute she was credited with the opening goal when her corner was deflected off the leg of a Sharon defender and just over the line.
The defensive effort for Canton started with the midfield trio of Julia Hamilton and freshmen cousins Lauren and Morgan McCabe, who bottled up Filipkowski by sending multiple players at the junior playmaker as often as possible. Even without Riley Duserick, who was out with an injury, the Bulldogs put the clamps on the Sharon midfield in the first half.
“She’s a good player and I think when you can shut her down they don’t really create a lot of chances,” said Howarth of Filipkowski. “[Julia] fought hard and I think she stood her ground with Ally.”
When the Eagles did get the ball forward, Rabb was regularly alone up top surrounded by Connolly and Carly Hutchinson. At halftime, the Eagles made an adjustment to try and get more runners out wide and it created Sharon’s best chance in the 46th minute.
Filipkowski managed to shrug off the attention of the Bulldogs and slid a pass into Victoria Zambello angling in from the right wing but Canton keeper Kathryn Doody was off her line quick to block the shot. Ally Steinberg also started to find space on the right side going one-on-one with Canton right back Sarah Collins and created a couple dangerous crosses that Doody and the defense managed to clear in front of Rabb.
“We made a formation change in the second half to try and isolate Ally [Steinberg] one-on-one out wide,” said first-year Sharon coach Brad Furnival. “We were able to create a few chances. Their keeper dealt well with some crosses, but unfortunately we didn’t have enough players in the box to score goals, which kind of killed us in the end.”
When asked about opponents focusing on Filipkowski to try and stunt the Eagles attack, Furnival replied, “I thought Filipkowski had a good game. I’d like her to get more shots off but even if teams put two or three players on Ally, she’s still going to create chances because she’s that kind of player.”
Canton had its chances to close out the victory. Cudmore was causing problems with her speed, running at the Sharon back line, and Lauren Fitzpatrick added some good minutes off the Bulldogs bench.
Cudmore nearly doubled the lead in the 48th minute when she chased down a deflected pass but it was saved by back-up keeper Isabella Berger and the follow-up by Hannah Link sailed over the bar. In the 52nd minute Cudmore had another good look but her curling effort from the edge of the box smacked off the bar.
“We had a couple other chances that would have been easy finishes,” said Howarth, “and we didn’t get them in and those are the ones that we talk about every week. If we put away some of the easy chances…we would be beating teams by a lot more than we are.”
In the 64th minute, Cudmore set up the goal that sealed the win. She hustled to keep a loose ball alive on the near side of the box and laid a pass into the path of Catherine Leonetti, who had just come into the game, and she hit it first time off the underside of the crossbar and across the line.
Howarth said, “Once we got that I think everybody calmed down a little bit. It took the pressure off and we could finish the game.”
With the win Canton (7-6-1, 7-5-1) moves back into second place in the Davenport, one point ahead of Foxboro, which the Bulldogs will face on Tuesday afternoon. Sharon (5-9-1, 4-9-1) will step out of the league on Monday for a trip to Norwood.