WELLESLEY, Mass. – The Franklin defense was able to keep the Panthers in Monday evening’s Div. 1 state semifinal at Babson College’s MacDowell Field, holding North Andover to just eight goals (two of them empty net goals in the final minutes), but the offense faltered against the Scarlet Knights’ zone look.
“Not many teams play it,” said Franklin coach Kristin Igoe of the North Andover scheme. “We’re used to man-to-man and we’re successful against it. We knew that they played a backer, so I told them it’s nothing we haven’t seen but it was the unforced errors – throwing it into their sticks or their goalie intercepting.”
The Panthers were limited to just two goals in each half, their lowest scoring output of the season, and saw their season come to a close with an 8-4 loss.
“Our ‘D’ has carried our game all season and I think they did it again tonight,” said North Andover coach Meredith Prior. “Two goals per half, that’s pretty low in lacrosse and I think Lauren Hiller came up huge and that’s why she’s the best goalie in the state.”
In the first half, senior Dani Lonati was a match for Hiller, a University of Massachusetts commit, with eight of her 10 saves. After Julia Jette opened the scoring 29 seconds into the game off an assist by Kendall Reardon, Lonati stopped four shots, including two free positions, on the first North Andover possession.
She continued to dominate the Knights as the half wore on and Diana Griffin doubled Franklin’s lead with 15:02 before the break on an assist by Caroline Lounsbury. Unfortunately for Franklin that would be the last goal that it would score for the next 27 minutes of game time.
“Six goals against…I thought our defense was amazing,” said Igoe. “Especially in that first half, Dani Lonati was on fire and she really kept us in the game. I think our trouble was offensively just capitalizing and then unforced errors kind of hurt us in the end.”
North Andover scored twice before halftime to tie the game and then added two more in the opening eight minutes of the second half. Freshman Annie Walsh got one back for the Panthers when she bounced in a free position goal that cut the deficit to just one.
“With the backer you can’t really dodge, so you can’t just go because there’s someone on the ball and someone waiting to back up that person,” said Igoe. “So, you have to be patient and move the ball and I thought we did a much better job of that in the second half.”
Again, the Knights had the answer, scoring the next two goals before Emily Spath ended the run with a free position with 4:40 remaining. By that time, Igoe had already called Lonati off the field to get an extra defender on and the Knights would take advantage of the empty net to tack on two more goals.
“I’ve been in that place, exactly where Franklin was, the past two years where you’re going as hard as you can and it’s not a fun place to be and I’m glad we’re on the other side of it this season,” said Prior.
While disappointed in the loss, Igoe refused to let that be the final word on the Panthers and the season that they have had, which included the program’s second sectional title and another undefeated Hockomock League championship.
“I told them don’t let one game define you,” said Igoe. “At the beginning of the season, I wasn’t sure how it would go. In the first Needham game, someone asked how we were going to do and I said, I don’t know; we could get killed and then we tied them and from there this team won a sectional championship.
“They worked hard all season long and credit to the seniors for bringing us this far and I’m excited for the future.”
Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.