FRANKLIN, Mass. – Franklin faced perennial Div. 2 power Notre Dame Academy (Hingham) in the regular season finale on Saturday afternoon and it started well for the Panthers, who hit the bar and forced four saves from the NDA keeper in the opening 40 minutes, but the offense stalled after the break.
In the second half, the Cougars had an opportunity to hand Franklin just its third loss of the season but standing in the way was Catherine Robbins. The junior keeper stopped a pair of breakaways 15 minutes into the second half that preserved another clean sheet and grabbed Franklin a point in a 0-0 draw at Pisini Field.
“She’s been solid the whole year long,” said Franklin coach Tom Geysen of Robbins, who took over in net after the graudation of four-year starter Dani Lonati. “She’s done everything we’ve asked her to do. There isn’t anything more that she could have done than she’s already done.”
The Panthers were struggling to get anything going offensively in the second half, losing the ball in midfield and allowing the Cougars to push forward in the attack. In the 54th minute a bad bounce off the turf skipped over the head of Abigail Gipson and allowed Emma Tucker to get in alone on Robbins but the keeper stood tall and got two hands to the shot.
Franklin failed to clear the rebound and it was intercepted by Shannon LeVangie who also had a one-on-one with Robbins. The striker opened up her foot and tried to slide it past the keeper to the far post, but Robbins managed to drag her foot and get a toe on the shot to direct it around the post.
That would be the only chance of note for either team until the final eight minutes of the game. When asked about the struggles in the second half, Geysen replied, “The same thing happened the other day against KP when we were on that end of the field. I don’t know.”
He continued, “I don’t know if psychologically…I really don’t know. When we start watching every ball bounce then there’s something wrong. No matter what I said, they just weren’t reacting.”
Franklin tried to snag the full points with a flourish at the end of the game. Playing Molly Duncan up top as a focal point and with Halle Atkinson and Emily Mastaj running the wings, the Panthers went direct with balls over the top and in behind the NDA back line. It worked to create a few chances.
“In the last seven or eight years we were pretty to watch because we could move the ball,” explained Geysen. “We’re ugly as sin now. We can’t really move the ball very well, so we have to put the ball over the top.”
Mastaj had the best chance to steal the win when she got free on the edge of the six-yard-box to get a left-foot to Atkinson’s cutback from the byline, but the shot was straight at the NDA keeper.
Two minutes later, Franklin had another opportunity after good combination play between Jamie Dragsbaek and Grace Gallo freed up Sabrina Masters but her shot smacked off the football goalposts above the net.
“We played three games last week that were all physical games, but that’s just an excuse,” said Geysen about the Panthers inability to get going in the second half.
The first half was a very different game, as Franklin had several chances to take the lead and its physical play in the midfield took control of the matchup.
Dragsbaek had the first chance off a feed from Duncan but her lofted shot came back off the crossbar inside the opening 10 minutes. In the 13th minute, right back Nadia Havens put a 30-yard free kick on target and forced a diving save from the NDA keeper. Havens would also have a chance off a corner at the half-hour mark but her header flashed inches wide of the post.
Duncan was the primary outlet for the Panthers and she had a snap shot on the turn that was again saved by a diving NDA keeper and the rebound fell to Mastaj but she was unable to turn it in. Mastaj would get another chance when she outmuscled the NDA defender to get to Meghan Doherty’s through ball but the shot was saved.
Franklin finishes the regular season at 10-2-5 and will not wait the seedings for the Div. 1 South tournament that will come out next week.