Patriots Deal Franklin Second Straight Semis Heartbreak

Franklin girls lacrosse
Franklin senior Annie Walsh was held to two goals in the Div. 1 East semifinal against Concord-Carlisle, which beat the Panthers at the same stage for the second straight season. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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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.

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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.

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Panthers Find the Range in Second Half to Reach Final

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The Franklin bench celebrates one of the team’s five three-pointers in the second half that allowed the Panthers to pull away from Concord-Carlisle. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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WORCESTER, Mass. – When the ball swung around to Franklin guard Shannon Gray right in front of the Panthers bench, her teammates started to rise in anticipation of a shot. But Gray hesitated and passed it back up top. Franklin coach John Leighton urged the senior to let it fly when she gets the chance.

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Gray heeded that advice and she knocked down a pair of threes on back-to-back possessions to stretch the Franklin lead from just four points to double digits. She knocked down three of her team’s five shots from beyond the arc in the second half, helping the Panthers pull away for a convincing 59-43 victory over No. 2 seed Concord-Carlisle in the Div. 1 Central semifinal at WPI’s Harrington Auditorium.

“We talked at halftime, start like it’s 0-0 and play like we do and the key is to keep reversing the ball,” Franklin coach John Leighton explained. “In the second half, they were just packed in so when we reversed it the kids were just wide open to take the shot and once one goes in that confidence starts coming.”

At halftime, Franklin held a slim, two-point lead over the Patriots and that was entirely because of two players, junior center Ali Brigham and her classmate Megan O’Connell.

The Panthers opened the game with a 10-0 run, as O’Connell took advantage of the attention on Brigham in the paint to find driving lanes. Brigham added an and-one off an offensive rebound and had four points in the first, but O’Connell was the aggressor in the paint and on the glass (13 rebounds), scoring 10 of Franklin’s 14 in the first. She finished with 19 points in the game.

“I had a pretty bad game last time and I really just wanted to get back to where I know I can be,” said O’Connell about her aggressive start. Leighton added, “I’m so happy for her because she’s been so patient all year. They were so hyper-focused on Ali that the lane just kept opening up. Early on everyone was a little tentative and she was aggressive.”

The Patriots crept back into the game, trailing by just six after one and then getting as close as two at several points in the second quarter. Franklin was determined to get the ball into the paint and Brigham (game-high 22 points, 14 rebounds, and five blocks) scored all of her team’s nine points in the period, twice scoring on put-backs and twice getting baskets at the rim thanks to O’Connell assists.

While Franklin had the lead at the break, it was hard to envisage a trip to the final with only two players getting on the scoresheet, especially as the Patriots threw a variety of different defenses at Brigham in the post, almost daring the Panthers to shoot from the perimeter. That strategy worked for a half, but Franklin made the Patriots pay in the second half.

After an O’Connell drive for two, Bea Bondhus knocked down Franklin’s first three, and her only shot of the game, to make it 28-21. Concord-Carlisle, which came into the game with only one loss on the season, cut the lead back to just four points but then Gray stepped up and knocked down a pair to suddenly make it a 10-point edge.

“She’s our captain and she leads us in every way,” Leighton said of Gray. “She’s the most selfless kid. She makes us run, her composure…so for her to get a little bit tonight was really nice.”

Leighton added about the team’s outside shooting, “It broke what they were doing. They went into that triangle-and-two to look to pack the paint hoping we wouldn’t make any threes. I think it was vital to break their confidence in what they were doing.”

Again the Patriots rallied with back-to-back buckets, but Brigham answered with a rebound and score and then Teagan Collins finished a break with a scoop shot off the glass. As the clock wound down on the third, Erin Quaile put a punctuation mark on the quarter by drilling a three at the buzzer to give Franklin its largest lead at 43-31.

The Panthers scored nearly as many points in the third quarter as in the first two combined. That offensive barrage continued in the fourth. Brigham got a three-point play on a rebound and then finished off another rebound to make it 49-31.

Corcnord-Carlisle hit back with five straight points, but then the Panthers put the game out of reach. Gray snagged an offensive rebound and made a nice dish underneath to a wide open O’Connell for two. Gray then stepped back outside and nailed her third three-pointer of the afternoon and O’Connell added two more with yet another rebound.

“We just needed to slow down really,” said O’Connell. “We were getting ahead of ourselves and trying to make the perfect pass, but we just needed to make the easy pass and we’d get layups.”

Franklin (20-4) is making a second appearance in the D1 Central final, its first since 2015, and will face the top seed Wachusett.

“It’s definitely a big deal,” said O’Connell. “We’ve been working really hard every day in practice and we’re just trying to get as far as we can.”

Leighton praised his team for meeting its high expectations. “Two years ago, we started 0-6 and I brought the team that year to watch the finals at Worcester State,” he recalled. “We were like, this is where we want to be. This is what lays ahead, if we do what we need to do.”

He added, “For this team, hard work has been the key.”

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Franklin Ousted By Concord-Carlisle in D1 East Semis

By Joe Clark, HockomockSports.com Student Reporter

FRANKLIN, Mass. – A year ago, Franklin beat Concord-Carlisle in the D1 East Final. This year the teams met a round earlier, in the semi-final, and not only were the stakes different, but the result was as well, as Concord-Carlisle pulled off a 14-10 win in a back and forth game that featured four ties and five lead changes.

“They knocked us on our butts last year, they physically took it to us, but I think it was a learning experience for us, we really had something to prove today and I think we did an outstanding job,” said Concord-Carlisle coach Paul Morrison.

Franklin started out the game strong, with two good goal opportunities early, but two great saves by Natalie Slade turned the Panthers away. They were eventually able to capitalize, with goals from Kelsey MacCallum and Katie Jones giving Franklin a 2-0 advantage early on.

But, when C-C switched to Fallon Vaughn on the draw, the Patriots went on a huge run of draw controls, taking a 9-3 advantage in that category at the end of the first half. After MacCallum put Franklin up 3-1, Concord-Carlisle went on a four-goal run from 9:08 to 7:22 in the first half.

“Offensively, we were patient, especially when they went up by a couple in the first half, we didn’t rush it down there, we were patient, and we got good looks,” Morrison added

Franklin was able to cut the lead to 5-4 after Annie Walsh found Katie Jones, but a play that might have been the turning point occurred with just over three minutes to go in the first half when, after a Gianna Cameron save, Payton Vaughn read the clear pass perfectly, picked it off, and cashed in to put C-C up 6-4.

Franklin was able to get one back, however, as Jones scored her third of the game with 1:13 left in the half to cut the halftime lead to 6-5.

Erin Walsh came out ready to play for Franklin the second half, scoring back-to-back goals and assisting on a Jones goal that put Franklin up 8-6.

Payton Vaughn and Evelyn Karl scored for C-C to tie the game up, but MacCallum helped Franklin regain the lead at 9-8 with her second goal of the game. C-C got right back in it though, as Karl scored her second goal of the game and Payton Vaughn went on a three-goal run by herself to put Concord-Carlisle up 12-9 with 7:50 to play.

“We’ve talked about focus for about a week and just doing the little things,” Morrison said about his team’s energy. “Just doing the little things, go to the game and let it come to you.”

With the game at 12-9, Erin Walsh scored her third of the game to cut the lead, but back-to-back goals by Evelyn Karl finished off Franklin and gave the Patriots a 14-10 win and a bid to their second straight sectional final.

Concord-Carlisle will face Walpole in the D1 East Final after the Rebels Lincoln-Sudbury on Monday night. Franklin ends its season with a 14-6 record, but the future is promising for the Panthers with multiple underclassmen on their roster.

“We’re definitely going to miss our seniors, we thank them for everything we’ve done, but we do have a young team but hopefully a loss like this motivates us to work harder in the offseason and come back and get back here and win this game,” said Franklin coach Kristin Igoe Guarino about the Panthers’ youth going forward.

Tough Quarter Ends Foxboro Playoff Run in Opener

Foxboro boys lacrosse
Foxboro senior Mike Moses (12) drives on his defender during the second quarter of the Div. 2 Central/East quarterfinal. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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FOXBORO, Mass. – Foxboro is a team that prides itself on defense and limiting opposition chances and in Thursday night’s Div. 2 Central/East quarterfinal against Concord-Carlisle at Sam Berns Community Field the Warriors were typically stout for three quarters.

It was the one quarter where things broke down that ended up being the difference.

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The visiting Patriots scored five unanswered goals in the second to break open a tie game and take control before halftime. That quarter proved decisive, as Foxboro (15-4) held Concord-Carlisle to only two goals in the second half (and none in the fourth) but could not find a way back into the game and saw the season come to a close with a 9-6 loss.

“I’m just proud of the boys and the way they battled all year,” said Foxboro coach Matt Noone after taking time to speak with each player and give each player a hug following the final huddle.

He added, “There was a time where I thought they (Concord-Carlisle) were going to separate and at the time I said to the guys, ‘we’re fighting for our lives,’ and they did. I couldn’t be prouder of them for that.”

The Warriors got off to a rough start when, three minutes in, senior Patrick Kaveny’s cross-field pass on a clear was intercepted. Foxboro was subbing players at the time and the Patriots were handed a three-on-none break that was eventually finished off for a 1-0 lead.

“We had some poor turnovers, some poor quality shots,” Noone said. “We can’t give teams like that chances. It wasn’t one thing, but we can’t give teams second chances or freebies, especially not in the playoffs.”

That lasted only a minute before sophomore Bobby Yerardi found the back of the net with an overhand shot on the run to tie it. With two minutes left in the first, the Patriots regained the lead but again Yerardi had the answer, turning the corner and ripping a shot under the bar with 42 seconds on the clock.

While the teams combined for four goals in the first 12 minutes, Concord-Carlisle came out strong in the second and scored four times in the first four minutes.

Foxboro did have a few chances offensively in the second, but not many. Louis Piccolo, Foxboro’s top scorer in the regular season, was pretty tightly marked by Henry Nelson all game but he got free with five minutes left to the break only to have his shot ricochet off the helmet of Patriots goalie Ben Kacher. Sophomore Shayne Kerrigan had a good chance four minutes later but that was also saved.

With only 21 seconds left in the half, Foxboro had a rare breakdown defensively. Robert Doherty shook a pair of markers and wound up before unleashing a rocket past Foxboro goalie Jake Addeche.

“They had some great looks,” said Noone of the second quarter struggles. “Our game plan was to force the middies into the middle so Jake could get a better look. We didn’t want to let them down the alley and we were letting them go. We talked about our game plan and started forcing them down the middle and doing a better job.”

The momentum was with the visiting team at the break and it continued in the third quarter when Alexi Hunt fired a shot past Addeche to make it six straight for the Patriots. Foxboro responded right away to stop the bleeding. Kerrigan won the face-off and Mike Collins scored with a running shot to make it 8-3.

Foxboro also went man-up following the goal and the Warriors took advantage. Brendan Tully finally got his hands free and rifled a shot into the corner to get back within four.

Two minutes later, Addeche stopped a bouncing shot and appeared ready to break up the ice but play was halted for a two-minute, locked-in penalty against the Warriors. Matt Moreau found space in the middle and scored with a bouncer to make it 9-4, but Kerrigan won the ensuing face-off and allowed the Warriors to run out the penalty. It was a momentum-builder for Foxboro and the players seemed energized when Ronnie MacLellan put in a good check to force an errant pass, raced up field in transition, drew a penalty, and forced a save out of Kacher.

The defense continued to be strong to the final whistle with Patrick Stapleton, Will Morrison, Kaveny, and MacLellan locking down the shooters and Addeche getting stronger as the game wore on.

In the fourth, Piccolo finally got going. He beat his man to the left and scored with an overhand shot for his first of the night to make it 9-5 with 8:31 left. Exactly four minutes later, he twisted and turned his marker before again finding the goal with a close finish.

Unfortunately for the Warriors, it would be as close as they would get as Kacher stopped shots from Kerrigan and Tully and several chances flew past the post.

After a Davenport division title during the regular season, Noone admitted that some of the league games were not enough of a challenge to prepare the Warriors for this level of competition. Of course, Foxboro also had not played in two weeks (Concord-Carlisle won its opening round game on Tuesday) and that lack of game sharpness was a major factor.

“It was awful, just trying to keep the boys focused and here and wanting to come to practice every day,” Noone said of the layoff. “We tried to make it fun and work on things that would make us better at the same time but yeah it was tough. That’s a lot of time.”

Noone continued, “It sucks that our last game had to end in a defeat. I love them and they battled for me and I’m so proud. They showed the Foxboro spirit and the Foxboro fight.”

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Oliver Ames Falls In Double Overtime In D2 State Final

Oliver Ames boys soccer
Oliver Ames’ Chris Lawrence, Matt Campbell, Nathaniel Cardoza and coach John Barata receive the D2 State Finalist trophy. (Greg Dudek for HockomockSports.com)

By Greg Dudek, HockomockSports.com Contributor

FITCHBURG, Mass. – Playing in a state final was nothing new for the Oliver Ames High boys soccer team.

The senior-laden Tigers, playing in their third state final in four years, looked to hoist the state championship trophy like they did in 2015.

But in Saturday’s Division 2 state championship match, it played out more like 2014, when OA fell to Concord-Carlisle.

The Tigers had a chance at redemption facing C-C again for the crown, but OA left the door open by not finishing all its first-half chances and the Patriots fought back, securing the game-winner in double overtime to defeat OA, 2-1, at Fitchburg State University’s Elliot Field in the D2 State Final.

“We didn’t take advantage of our opportunities early on,” said OA coach John Barata. “The game should have been over in the first half with two or three goals. Then, the bounces didn’t go our way and all of a sudden momentum started to pick up on their side.

“It was anyone’s battle, going back-and-forth. They’re a great team. They’re well-coached. They have an absolute terrific group of players and we’re pretty excited that we were able to compete with them. We could have had a better outcome if we had put a couple balls away.”

OA (15-3-4) certainly had its share of chances to put C-C (14-2-6) away, but unable to do so, the game went into overtime.

The Patriots dictated play throughout the first overtime and thought they had notched the game-winner twice, only to have each goal in the extra frame called back due to offsides.

OA couldn’t do anything with the new life. In the 98th minute, Cameron Emde-Gerdine worked his way into the box on the left side before crossing it to Logan Dick, who got a knee on the ball to send it into the back of the net to give C-C its fifth state title since 2006.

“Concord-Carlisle seems to have our number right now,” Barata said. “We’ll have to continue to develop as a program to catch up to them.”

Even though C-C leveled the score, 1-1, in the 66th minute when Kyle Jackson stayed with his shot and snuck the rebound inside the left post from the top of the box, OA still had plenty of opportunities to end the contest in regulation.

In the 76th minute, senior forward Jack Sheldon crossed a ball in from the right wing, but nobody was on the other end of it as the ball trickled just wide of the left post.

“We had a lot of chances today,” Barata said. “A few went right past the goalpost and the six (yard box). Some of those might haunt some of the kids, but hopefully it won’t because they should be very proud of themselves. They played a great game and great season.”

OA dictated play in the first half with consistent pressure and it paid off with a goal in the 18th minute.

A long throw-in from senior Chris Lawrence found the head of senior forward Michael Nikiciuk in the box. Nikiciuk flicked the header over the reach of C-C’s 6-foot-5 goalie Davis Van Inwegen as the ball hit the crossbar and dropped into the back of the net for a 1-0 lead.

“Those throw-ins and set pieces are a blessing for us,” Barata said.

It wasn’t meant to be for OA, though, as its offense only mustered two shots on net. The loss ended the career of 21 OA seniors, who left a lasting impact with their tremendous state-final runs over their careers, including three sectional titles over the past four seasons.

“They’re a fantastic group of kids,” Barata said. “We’ve had a good four years. To get to the state championship three times in four years, programs would love to do that. Some haven’t made it ever. We’re very blessed in that case. (The seniors) did win a state championship and now they’re the top-two team in the state for the second time.”

Pleshaw Fires Franklin to Comeback Win

Franklin girls lacrosse
Kenzie Pleshaw (15) scored five goals and the Panthers rallied from an early deficit to beat Concord-Carlisle. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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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.