By Josh Perry, Managing Editor
FRANKLIN, Mass. – Franklin and King Philip faced off in the Div. 1 South tournament on Friday afternoon at the Beaver Street field. It was the third meeting between the two Kelley-Rex rivals this season with the Panthers winning each of the first two by a single goal both times.
Friday’s game would not be as close. The Warriors were coming off a thrilling, but draining, stroke-off win against Plymouth South in the opening round and the Panthers took advantage of the extra preparation time to create more offense.
It all worked for the home team and Franklin would come away with a 4-0 win that advances the Panthers to the sectional quarterfinal and a rematch with Dennis-Yarmouth on the Beaver Street turf on Sunday.
“I was not looking forward to having to beat [KP] a third time,” admitted Franklin coach Lisa Cropper after the game.
She added, “They had a long, emotional game on Wednesday, so I figured…they’d be pumped up and running on adrenaline, but maybe running on fumes and I felt if we got up on them early that we would have the upper hand the entire way.”
It was actually the Warriors that had the better chances in the opening minutes of the game. Franklin goalie Sam Jones was forced into two big saves right off the opening whistle and it looked like the confidence of Wednesday’s win may be leading KP to another upset.
But, after the first five minutes, Franklin took control. First the Panthers hit the post on a quick break and then Kelsey McPhee opened the scoring off an assist from freshman Annie Walsh in the 11th minute.
“They scored on some beautiful offensive corners,” said KP coach Liz Hathaway. “There was really no way to stop those and they’re strong; their defense is strong and it’s really hard to penetrate.”
In the 23rd minute, Franklin doubled its lead when another freshman, Cassi Ronan, found the back of the net on a first-time shot from senior Taylor Reutlinger’s assist.
“Having played them twice already,” explained Cropper, “we knew exactly how their defense was going to be and use what they do on defense against them. We kept using that short pass to Cassi and Annie.”
The Warriors tried to get the ball forward, particularly down the wings, looking for attackers Casie Curtin and Mary O’Connor, but each time the pay was cut off by Franklin’s strong midfield, including senior Kenzie Pleshaw who had a number of interceptions. As the game wore on, Franklin’s pressure intensified.
“We started out the first 10 minutes of the game really dominating and ready to go,” said Hathaway. “We got a few corner out of it and if we could have put one of those in then it could’ve been a different game.”
KP had a chance eight minutes after the break but again Jones was equal to the shot at her post and kicked it aside. Four minutes later and Franklin had the dagger. Walsh’s initial shot was saved by sophomore goalie Abby Campbell, who made 12 saves in the game, but Diana Griffin followed up and knocked in the rebound.
Two minutes after that, the Panthers struck again on the break. This time it was Griffin playing provider with a long pass out of midfield right to the stick of Walsh and the freshman coolly knocked it home.
“She was on fire today,” said Cropper of Walsh. “She was flying all over the place.”
“Our strength is definitely our midfield and our defense, our seniors, but she and Cassi and Christina [Quinn] provided a spark on offense.”
Although the final score was not as close as the two regular season games, Hathaway took nothing away from the play of her team and gave all the credit to the hosts.
She said, “I think that was just an amazing win [on Wedmesday]. We were ready for anything…but Franklin just did a good job today.”
A cheer went up from the Franklin bench when it was informed that the next opponent woul be Dennis-Yarmouth. The Panthers have been knocked out each of the last two seasons by D-Y and both times on the road. Now, D-Y has to come to Franklin.
Cropper joked, “Make them take the long ride this time.”
Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.