FRANKLIN, Mass. – With its second straight Kelley-Rex division title already in-hand, the Franklin field hockey team had their sights set on proving they were the best team in the league through the Hockomock Cup.
But just before the final week of the regular season, the Panthers’ season came to an abrupt halt when the high school went completely remote, forcing a two-week hiatus for athletics.
Not only did that mean Franklin’s final two games were canceled, it looked like the Panthers wouldn’t be able to compete in the league’s postseason tournament.
But the Franklin school committee and administrators from FHS came together, organized COVID testing for varsity athletes, and — after all the tests came back negative — athletics was back on.
The Panthers took advantage of their so-called second chance, capping their postseason run with a 1-0 win over King Philip in the Hockomock Cup final on their home turf field at Beaver Street.
“The fact that we got our season back was huge,” said Franklin coach Michelle Hess. “It would have been super disappointing because this is probably one of the best teams I’ve had in years. It would have crushed me and the rest of the team if we weren’t able to continue so we are very grateful we were able to play tonight.
“I’ve actually coached a lot of this group since they were in the rec program. So to celebrate this and have them play the way they did tonight just makes me super proud as a coach.”
The only separation between the top two teams in the Kelley-Rex division came off the stick of Franklin senior Amanda Lewandowski, finishing off a pass from classmate Sara Carney with just seconds left in the third quarter.
And when the Warriors threatened to equalize, Franklin senior goalie Neilee Hess came charging off her line to deny a partial breakaway chance from KP’s Grace Crocker midway through the fourth quarter to help secure the one-goal win.
“We made one mistake on defense,” said King Philip head coach Lisa Cropper. “We were trying to force everything to our right, their left, which is our strong side. The one time we didn’t, they got it in and deflected it in. But we had our chances, we had that breakaway in the fourth and couldn’t quite slip it past her, Neilee came up big on that one. We marked [Lewandowski] and we marked [Kaitlyn Carney] and we were trying to force to our strong side to keep them away from their strong side. Any time anyone was winding up for a shot, we had to have a stick on it and we did. But we just had one mistake, we didn’t quite force them [the way we wanted].
“I was hoping we could get to overtime. I felt like we had the advantage going into overtime or a shootout but we didn’t get that far so congratulations to [Franklin].”
After it a scoreless first half, it looked like the teams would head to the final 15 minutes without a goal but the Panthers finally broke through with 20.9 seconds to go. After a restart from the 25-yard line, Carney tossed a pass into the mix in front of goal and Lewandowski finished for a 1-0 lead.
The Panthers had a good chance to double the lead in the 51st minute as sophomore Kaitlyn Carney intercepted a pass with the Warriors pushing numbers forward. Carney sprinted into the attacking half but KP’s last defender Ally Beltramini was able to break up the play, and then came in and cleared the ball before Lewandowski could latch onto it.
That defensive stop led the KP’s best chance to level the match as Isabelle Crocker raced onto a loose ball before firing a pass ahead for her sister Grace, who used her speed to get by the defense. With pressure from Franklin defender Molly Collins, Crocker unleashed a shot as Hess came charging out to close down the angle. Hess made the stop with the pad and Isabelle Crocker’s rebound attempt was just wide of the post.
“I think that just showcased her skills and how hard she’s worked as a goalie,” Michelle Hess said of her daughter Neilee. “She’s very lucky this season to have the players in front of her that she did. So she didn’t face as many shots as some of the other goalies in the league but when it was crunch time, when it was critical, Neilee stepped up and got the job done.”
Both teams opened the contest with a chance to score right away. First it was Kaitlyn Carney, weaving her way through the KP defense but her shot was denied by KP keeper Makenzie Manning (13 saves). On the other end, Abby Nixon knocked down an aerial clearance attempt but her shot from in close was turned aside.
Both defenses stole the spotlight throughout the first half, limiting the opposing offenses to few genuine scoring chances, allowing their keeper to see any shots from distance.
“If you can stop their transition…their forwards are so fast,” Hess said of the defensive gameplan. “But my fullbacks kind of matched them speed-wise so we kind of knew we were pretty safe there with them trying to get through the midfield and pushing forward.
“Their defense was very good. We talked at halftime about how we were trying to do a lot of things individually, we were trying to penetrate the defense individually. That’s not our strength, we’re much better when we play together as a team so we had to go to our passing game. We were getting into the circle and they had three girls on them right away. We tried getting it down low…and one of our strengths is using Sara Carney at the top. So we tried to get it down low to shift the defense and then get it back out to Sara, and sure enough, that’s how we scored the goal.”
Just seconds before the halftime whistle, Manning stood tall on a rocket of a shot from Kaitlyn Carney to keep things scoreless. Five minutes into the second half, Sara Carney had a big shot kicked away as well. Alongside Beltramini, Morgan Cunningham, Lily Brown, and Kelly Holmes anchored the KP defense.
It was just the third time this season that Franklin was limited to two or fewer goals; the first two times also came against KP back in week two of the regular season.
“I’m extremely proud of how they progressed and how well they played in this big game,” Cropper said. “There was a lot of adversity that everyone had to deal with and the kids did a phenomenal job. And I’m so appreciative of the ADs for their efforts to put this all together.”
Franklin field hockey finishes the season at 11-0-2 while King Philip finishes at 8-3-3.
MANSFIELD, Mass. – As Franklin raced away from the corner kick with the ball, there was the faint sound of a whistle. There was some hesitation but the Panthers kept running and, with no other signal from the officials, the Mansfield players chased back. The play continued upfield and Franklin was able to get off a shot that went wide of the post.
Before Hornets goalie Olivia Salisbury could put the ball back into play, confusion erupted. The official that had been trailing the play ran across the field to talk to his partner. After a conversation, the officials ruled that a Franklin player had headed the ball on the corner and, despite the amount of time that passed, pulled play back to the edge of the Franklin penalty area for an indirect free kick.
Mansfield didn’t waste the opportunity. Isabella Lennon took the touch to set up Cathryn Cooney and the senior blasted an unstoppable shot into the bottom corner, out of the reach of Franklin keeper Rachel Welch’s dive.
It was the game’s only goal. For the second time in two days, the Hornets beat Franklin 1-0, sweeping the season series, making it six games unbeaten, and moving within two points of the league-leading Panthers in the Kelley-Rex division standings.
However controversial the decision that led to the goal, there was no question about the quality of Cooney’s strike. “She’s come up with a couple of those this year,” said Mansfield coach Kevin Smith. “She’s come a long, long way and controlling a lot of our attack. She’s everywhere and you can see that she wants to be on the ball. She’s playing really, really well.”
It was also a goal against the run of play. Franklin stormed out of the halftime break and had the Hornets on their heels.
Five minutes into the third quarter, Bridget Leo picked the pocket of a Mansfield player and started a quick transition that led to a long shot from Sydney St. Marie that was just wide. A minute later, Erin Quaile blocked a clearance and set up Anya Zub for a shot from the edge of the box that was charged down by Kayla Doherty.
The Panthers had another chance just a minute after that, Quaile again played provider, picking out Leo for a strike that Salisbury was able to collect on the second attempt. In the 51st minute, St. Marie forced another save with a shot off the bounce.
It was all Panthers until finally Mansfield got one good counter attack in the closing minutes of the quarter and forced a corner. Franklin cleared it. The Mansfield bench initially called for a free kick from a header but turned its attention to the Panthers’ break. Then came the call and Cooney’s go-ahead goal.
Franklin coach Tom Geysen said, “The official wouldn’t explain the call to me. He wouldn’t come to the sideline and explain why he made that call. It was at least 30 seconds after the infraction.”
“If you don’t score, you can’t win,” Geysen admitted, “I thought we played really well and kept them off-balance. I wasn’t happy with the result, but I was happy with the performance.”
The game certainly wasn’t over after the Hornets went in front. Quaile had a free kick from the left side that she played into the middle of the box. After a couple of good blocks by the Mansfield defense, including one from Kara Santos, the ball popped out to Katie Ewald whose deflected strike was punched out by Salisbury.
Cooney forced Welch into a save with a long distance strike and Olivia Homsi nearly doubled the lead when she slipped the ball under the onrushing keeper but Cariss Alers stretched to clear it off the line.
With three minutes to play, St. Marie took a kick-in from the far side of the field and played a low cross through the box to Clare Bowen, who hit it first-time just over the bar.
“The whole second half until maybe after the goal and they were starting to push and push and push and we had a little more space to play, they were on top of the game,” Smith said. “They’re an excellent team. They pass the ball well and their spacing is so disciplined. They knew exactly who to move. We had to fight tooth and nail to stay with them.”
The first half was more even and had fewer chances, as both teams played it around in the midfield and both defense stood strong.
Mansfield almost scored in the first minute when Cooney’s free kick was spilled by Julia Bertone and Tarynn Smith had a chance on the volley, but Bertone made amends with a good stop. It was the lone scoring chance of note in the opening 20 minutes.
Franklin started to get going in the second, as its winger started to get into the game. Zub nearly got on the end of a cross, only to be denied by a combination of Santos and Salisbury. Then Zub played in Leo, who set up Bowen on the left side, but the cross flashed across the face of goal with no Panthers on hand to get a touch.
Bertone had to be quick to recover and stop a deflected cross from Avery Hawthorne that nearly snuck in at the near post in the final minute of the first half.
Mansfield (4-2-2) faces a difficult stretch to close out the regular season, with two games against Milford over the weekend. Two wins could give the Hornets a shot at the league title. Franklin (6-2-0) needs two points to clinch at least a share of the league title and faces Attleboro on Monday.
Instead, the fireworks came early.
After leaving it late in their win over Mansfield to finish last week, the Warriors came out firing in their first matchup with Franklin. KP scored twice in the opening quarter and once each in the second and third quarters to earn a 4-1 decision on the road over the Panthers.
“It’s a credit to how creative our midfield has been and how hard our wings are working,” said second-year King Philip head coach Mike O’Neill. “They’re all working really hard. This team is very unselfish. We had assists from an outside back, we had assists from wings, assists from midfielders so I’m just really pleased with how they are sharing the ball.”
Senior Evan McEvoy bagged a brace in the win, finding the back of the net just before halftime and shortly after the second half began. Ajae Olsen opened the scoring less than five minutes into the contest and Cole Breen doubled the visitors’ advantage before 15 minutes had expired.
The Warriors went without a goal in 80 minutes in their season opener against Mansfield last week, and then finally broke through in the 77th minute in the second meeting. This time out, King Philip wasted little time finding the back of the net.
Franklin opened the game with the early pressure as junior Terry O’Neill tested KP keeper Aidan Lindmark with a left-footed go from just outside the box in the first minute. But the Panthers didn’t sustain the pressure and the Warriors took advantage of failed clearance.
Outside back Anthony Zappala was rewarded for his venture into the attacking third, combining with senior Alex Leon to gain possession on the left side after Franklin was unable to play out of the back. Zappala split a pair of defenders with a service to the far post and Olsen found himself all alone in behind and finished off a bouncing cross for a 1-0 lead in the fourth minute.
King Philip did sustain their offensive pressure and nearly had a second just three minutes later. Leon played McEvoy on a short indirect kick on the left side, and McEvoy used a nice fake to earn some space before rifling a curling shot on frame that forced Franklin keeper Luc Boudreau to make an acrobatic one-handed save over the bar.
Franklin forayed back into the attacking third but King Philip took possession back and broke out on the counter. Leon used his speed to carry out of the back before sliding a low through ball in behind the defense. Junior Sean McCarthy timed his run perfectly, latching onto the pass entering the area. McCarthy alertly centered the ball to find senior Cole Breen for a one-touch finish from six yards out to make it 2-0 in the 12th minute.
“I think one thing that really worked for us that doesn’t get enough credit is how hard the front three and the midfielders work to make those runs,” O’Neill said. “A lot of the time they go unrewarded but you have to make them anyway and trust your teammates to find you. And we were able to find them on a couple of goals.”
The Panthers’ best chance of the opening quarter came in the 15th minute when junior Aidan Griffith played senior Ben Moccia into space in the area but his tight-angle bid at the near post was just wide.
After a spirited pep talk from head coach Fran Bositis, who is in his 50th consecutive year at the helm of the program, the Panthers came out with a little more pep in their step to start the second quarter. And that resulted in quick success.
Junior Nelson Martinez took a touch into space before unleashing a low shot from outside the area. Moccia made a run across the box and redirected the low shot leaving no chance for Lindmark, cutting the deficit to 2-1 in the 22nd minute.
Shortly before the halftime break, King Philip answered back to restore its two-goal advantage. Junior Stephen Griffin played a diagonal ball near the penalty spot and McEvoy buried his bid for a 3-1 lead in the 35th minute.
“I think that was the turning point in the game,” O’Neill said. “You know there’s the old joke about a two-goal lead being the worst lead in soccer but when you get a second two-goal lead, it makes that mountain a lot harder to climb for the other team. And we talked at halftime, it was really important to keep playing the way we were playing and to stay organized. Coach Fran’s team is always going to come out and play hard and give a tremendous effort, they have some excellent players over there so we had to keep organized.”
King Philip tacked on another insurance goal late in the third quarter. Tadhg Keller linked up with Olsen, who connected with McEvoy in the area to extend the advantage to 4-1 in the 55th minute.
Franklin pushed late but couldn’t breakthrough. Martinez found Charlie Amante in some space but the senior didn’t get a clean shot off and Lindmark covered. Minutes later, Lindmark was quick off his line to deny Amante a chance at a shot and on the next play. Keller came up with a big challenge to prevent another bid on goal.
“It’s a great comfort for a coach to have a goalie like Aidan Lindmark back there,” O’Neill said. “Not only is he a terrifically polished shot-stopper but tactically he’s very, very aware and his judgment is terrific. In a year like this now where you can’t head the ball, your goalie better be the boss of the box and he was tonight.”
King Philip boys soccer (2-1) will host Franklin (0-3) in a rematch on Friday.
WRENTHAM, Mass. – In a shortened season, jumping out to an early lead in the division standings could be critical and Wednesday afternoon’s meeting of Franklin and King Philip at Macktaz Field was the chance for one to grab the lead in the Kelley-Rex after both went undefeated in the first week of play.
Behind goals from senior Erin Quaile and freshman Anya Zub and a typically strong defensive performance, Franklin beat KP 2-0 and took a one-game edge in the standings with the second game of a home-and-home coming up on Friday.
Over the past year, Franklin has become synonymous with defense. The Panthers recorded clean sheets in 11 of their final 12 games of the 2019 regular season, then held Oliver Ames scoreless through regulation of the playoff game before the Tigers scored the winner in extra time. This season, Franklin has tossed shutouts in all three games, remaining stout and hard to break down even with the modified rules that discourage physicality.
“We lack experience with a lot of these kids,” said Franklin coach Tom Geysen. “If you don’t have that kind of experience right now then you want to speed up the other team’s play faster than they want to get rid of the ball. So, if we can pressure them and make them make earlier decision than they want to, you’ve got a better chance to win the ball. It kind of worked.”
It was clear from the opening whistle that Franklin was the aggressor on Wednesday. A long ball over the top to Ava Tormey gave the Warriors an early chance but pressure from Izzy Arnold gave goalie Julia Bertone time to slide out and grab the loose ball. It would be the last chance of note for KP in the first half.
Franklin’s best chance of the opening quarter came in the final two minutes with Riley Fitzpatrick playing a nicely weighted pass into the right channel for Zub to run onto. The freshman hit a shot from a tough angle and saw it go right through the box and just wide of the far post.
The visitors carried momentum into the second quarter and had two golden chances in the span of two minutes, only to be denied both times on goal line clearances by Taylor Thompson. The first chance came when Jamie Tanner got behind the defense and managed to bundle the ball by KP keeper Emma Glaser, but Thompson intervened at the last second. Two minutes later Quaile crossed it from the left to Tanner and again the ball was redirected towards the line but Thompson got there in time to clear.
With three minutes remaining in the half, Franklin’s pressure finally turned into a goal and from an unlikely source. Quaile collected the ball in midfield and found space for a 20-yard strike that sailed over Glaser’s hand and just under the bar for what turned out to be the game-winner.
Geysen said, “Erin I thought played really well on both sides of the ball today. She just does a lot of good things.”
“At halftime, I was telling them you had three days out of four off and you come back and you look like you’ve been working out for 10 days straight,” said KP coach Gary Pichel. “I told them, the team I put out on Friday will be very different than today because you didn’t work for it and you didn’t earn it.”
Ella Pisani had three goals in the first two games but the Franklin defense was able to keep her largely in check on Wednesday. She did manage to get a shot early in the third quarter but it sailed wide, as the Warriors reacted to Pichel’s halftime team talk with a spark of energy.
It didn’t take Franklin long to reassert control. Arnold’s long ball out of defense picked out Zub on the run, but Glaser was able to slide and make the stop. Almost immediately after, Bridgette Ginley had a chance from the right side and her shot was narrowly wide of the post.
Kiera Lindmark gave Franklin freshman keeper Rachel Welch a scare with a free kick late in the third, but it curled wide from 25 yards out. Lindmark nearly found the right pass to Jenny Montville at the start of the fourth but Montville couldn’t get a solid touch and Welch was able make the comfortable stop.
Eight minutes into the final quarter, Franklin doubled its lead and secured the two points. Zub and Fitzpatrick played a nice one-two on the edge of the box, springing Zub beyond the back line. She managed to hold off the defender on her back and fire a shot past Glaser to make it 2-0.
“Anya is a special player,” said Geysen. “She’s so freaking smart. She puts herself where she knows they’re going to play the ball and a lot of times I don’t have to tell her.”
The Panthers nearly added a third in the final minute with another piece of solid ball movement. Tanner started the play with a pass to Zub on the wing. Her low cross was just behind Tanner in the middle of the box and found Tory Carmignani at the back post, but her shot skimmed the bar on its way out of play.
WRENTHAM, Mass. – It was nearly the perfect start for King Philip in its heavyweight battle against division rival Franklin.
Behind goals in the first and third quarters, Franklin field hockey secured a 2-1 win over the Warriors in the first of two meetings between the teams this week in a rain-filled contest on the slick turf of Macktaz Field.
“We didn’t show enough energy,” said King Philip head coach Lisa Cropper. “We didn’t believe that we could win the game…they didn’t say that but I could see it in their body language. We had chances right off the bat and I think if we popped one in, it would have been a different story. But we didn’t, they did and they relaxed played their game, and we had to struggle the whole way.”
There was a burst of energy at the opening whistle as the Warriors marched down the field into the attacking zone less than a minute into the 7-on-7 style contest, one of the modifications due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Senior Grace Crocker unleashed a low, hard shot from the right side that was denied by Hess with a kick save. After a brief scrum in front, KP once again put a shot on frame that got by Hess but only to be deflected wide by Carney, who was alertly covering the goal line for the Panthers.
The rest of the opening quarter belonged to the visitors, who continued to put pressure on KP goalie Makenzie Manning (14 saves). Just under 10 minutes into the game, the Panthers broke through.
Junior Kailyn Carney carried possession into some space but whacking a low shot on goal. Senior Amanda Lewandowski was positioned perfect right in front of the keeper and deflected the shot perfectly into the back of the net for a 1-0 lead.
“There’s a lot of nerves in a big game like this between these two teams so getting that goal [in the first quarter] kind of broke the ice, kind of helped us to settle in a little bit,” said Franklin head coach Michelle Hess. “To KP’s credit, they did more subbing than I did and I think that made a difference towards the end. It was a pretty competitive game, back-and-forth.
“Their goalie is really aggressive and since we’re not used to seeing that, it almost makes them think a little more. For us, just shoot the ball. We had a bunch of shots but we also had trouble putting shots on net.”
It was a scoreless second quarter but both teams came close to putting the ball in the back of the net. First, KP senior Isabelle Crocker forced another big save from Hess just before the midway point of the quarter. And with just under four minutes to go, Sara Carney dropped a pass to the far post that was just out of the reach of the sticks of both Lewandowski and sophomore Shaw Downing.
“My two backs, Kate [O’Rourke] and Kendall [Jones], they are so strong and they see the field so well,” Hess said. “Once they get the stop, we’ve drilled it into them to get it out to the side and clear it up and find the open man. And then Sara Carney playing in the center, she has the endurance to get forward and get back and play defense.
“A lot of teams are packing it in…King Philip had all six defenders in the circle so that’s hard to play against offensively. And with an aggressive goalie like they have, it makes it even more difficult. So we knew it’d be a low scoring game. We’re trying to work on our triangles, see the space, cut into space, and find the ball.”
Manning made a stellar save, diving out to deny a chance from Stephanie Bell just two minutes into the second half, but Bell added a big goal for the Panthers just five minutes later.
The Panthers broke out of the back, taking advantage of open space on the right wing. Lewandowski carried toward goal before rifling a pass to the far post where Bell one-timed it into the back of the net.
“[Franklin] passes really well, they move off the ball extremely well and they find each other,” Cropper said. “And they have a couple of very good shooters. Amanda scored one and created the second one, we had someone on her most of the game so we held her to one and an assist. They had [23 goals] in the first two games.
“We had some chances early on but didn’t score and didn’t follow up We kind of sat back in a shell and they took it to us. You can’t play that way. But with this format, no lead is safe, we knew we could come back. We started to some in the third and then the fourth quarter we really came alive.”
Fresh legs allowed the Warriors to get some momentum in the final quarter. KP forced a turnover in the defensive third which led to a counterattack the other way. Isabelle Crocker used her speed to split a pair of defenders and then slid the ball past the charging keeper, the ball rolling in just inside the post to make it 2-1 with seven minutes.
KP continued to garner more offensive pressure than it had throughout the previous quarters but couldn’t register a serious chance on goal to find the equalizer.
Franklin field hockey (3-0 Kelley-Rex, 3-0 overall) will host King Philip (2-1, 2-1) in a rematch on Thursday at 3:45 at Beaver Street Field.