CANTON, Mass. – Just four minutes into Wednesday night’s game at World War II Veterans Memorial Field, Franklin opened the scoring, but instead of hanging its head and allowing the visiting Panthers to take control, Canton turned up the aggressiveness, pressured all over the pitch, and turned the game around.
“We know how to play soccer and we have good soccer players,” said Canton coach Kate Howarth. “If we come out with that mentality then we’re going to play games like this. If you have that passion and that drive and leaving it on the field then there’s no way you can lose. It’s not a lack of talent; it’s a lack of oomph.”
Inside the opening four minutes, Franklin took the lead. Molly Duncan slid a through ball between the Canton defenders to find Miranda Smith running down the right channel and the senior forward lifted her shot over onrushing keeper Lindsey Barrett.
Although the Panthers had the lead, it was Canton that was pushing the tempo and creating scoring chances. Duserick and Diletizia both had long shots saved by Franklin keeper Cat Robbins in the opening 15 minutes.
The Bulldogs pressure created the breakthrough in the 23rd minute. Sullivan made a long run to the end line and sent in an inch-perfect cross over the outstretched arms of Robbins and to Diletizia unmarked in the middle of the six-yard-box. The freshman forward got a shin to the ball and knocked it in for the equalizer.
Ten minutes later, Canton got the lead. Leianne Bruce won the ball in front of the Bulldogs’ bench and played it forward towards Diletizia, who cushioned a one-touch pass into the path of sophomore Morgan McCabe. Franklin right back Madison Stewart came all the way across to get a piece of the ball but it bounced right back to McCabe, who fired an unstoppable shot into the far corner.
“They knew we build from the back and that we build with the outside backs because they had them man-marked in the first half,” said Howarth. “We kept trying to play them and they would come in and counter. Once they turned and faced up, we could find our forwards and they found opportunities that way.”
Franklin had one chance before halftime but a first-time shot from the edge of the box was sent over the bar by Carly Alston. Otherwise, the Canton defense looked impenetrable with center backs Sarah Connolly and Carly Hutchinsoncutting off every Franklin pass.
“We didn’t play well defensively,” said Franklin coach Tom Geysen. “We’ve got some problems we need to fix on the back line. We’re having problems all over the field at the moment. We don’t play the ball where we need to play the ball, we over-touch the ball, you saw how timid we were.”
He added, “You can’t play that way against them or against Oliver Ames or Mansfield or anyone else in this league because this is what you’re going to get.”
The second half was completely dominated by the Bulldogs. Franklin center backs Grace Gallo and Brenna Atwood seemed to be under constant pressure from the speedy Canton attack.
Diletizia had chance from the edge of the box saved by Robbins just one minute into the half. In the 47th minute, Duserick’s corner into the center of the box picked out Sullivan, who nodded home the third for the Bulldogs.
Howarth remarked, “I said at halftime, if we get one then we’ll get more than one. As long as we get that next one then it’s going to break them and we’ll get more after that.”
The chances kept coming for Canton. Diletizia set up Sullivan for a first-time hit from the edge of the box but it went narrowly over the crossbar. A minute later, Juliana Agnitti burst forward from midfield and set up Diletizia, but the shot was saved.
“They’re soccer players,” said Howarth about Diletizia and classmate Olivia Rodman. “They play the game all the time and they have instincts that you can’t teach kids. It’s different than just being a physically good athlete…they have soccer instincts and it’s a special thing.”
Lauren Fitzpatrick drove at the Franklin defense in the 56th minute and the ball was deflected by Atwood into the path of Julia Hamilton and she fired a shot that just missed the top corner.
In the 61st minute, Duserick wrapped up the win for Canton with a pinpoint 35-yard free kick from outside the right hashmark that sailed into top, far corner. After the game, Howarth called it the midfielder’s “sweet spot.”
“Front to back it was the best game mentality-wise we’ve had yet,” said Howarth. “We have had lots of goals scored on us and we haven’t in the past responded well. The passion has to be there; you have to respond well…Today, we finally responded the way that we try to instill.”
Canton (4-3-2, 4-3-2) will try to keep the momentum going on Friday with a trip to Taunton, while Franklin (6-3-1, 6-3-0) will look to bounce back when it hosts Stoughton.
“It was a good win, we’re young as far as experience goes and I thought we would be a be a little thin in certain areas but some kids stepped up a bit today that I wasn’t really anticipating,” Geysen said.
“Defense was one of my concerns coming in. We graduated two all-league starters we had to replace. We changed our formation a little bit, and I was a little concerned about it during the preseason. But you have to let it ride and get used to it. The back line bent but they didn’t break.”
It didn’t take long for Franklin to try and use its speed to get in behind North Attleboro’s back line. Just five minutes in, after a long ball was spilled by North’s keeper, Miranda Smith jumped on the loose ball in the area but had her bid slide wide at the far post.
North registered its first chance in the 16th minute when a ball put into the area fell to Big Red senior Aine Mendonca, but her low shot was saved comfortably by Robbins at the near post.
The Panthers broke open the scoring less than five minutes later. Senior Molly Duncan gained possession in the midfield, turned forward and played a perfect diagonal through ball to Smith. Smith faked with her right, cutting past a defender, carried to goal alone and tucked her shot in at the near post to make it 1-0.
North Attleboro nearly had an immediate response, forcing Robbins into one of her two big saves in the 21st minute. The Rocketeers quickly moved the ball up field before junior Ashlyn Gaulin unleashed a wicked shot from 25 yards out, but Robbins made a leaping save and tipped the ball over the bar.
“That’s what you expect from Cat,” Geysen said. “She might not be the greatest athlete in the world but nobody is tougher than her, nobody works harder than her and she anticipates really well.
North had one more serious chance just before the halftime break when Mendonca laid a pass off for senior Felicity Monfils but her strike from just outside the area went just over the bar.
The Rocketeers carried that momentum into the second half and looked like they found the equalizer less than a minute in. Mendonca served a ball to the far post and Haley Guertin calmly finished her shot from close range, but the ref disallowed the goal, whistling for a foul off the ball.
“I’ll be the last person to use an excuse, but to have that goal called back changed things,” said North Attleboro head coach Bill Wallace. “I felt like we came out and were playing really well to start the second half. And then they scored five minutes later so it hurt.
“We’re working through some kinks right now. I thought we’d be further along offensively than we are. But Franklin always throws one of those defenses at you where you have to work your butt off to get anything. It’s that one extra pass or one shot instead of a pass. The good news is that we have a great group of seniors and they’ll pick each other up. It proves how tough this league is.”
But seven minutes after North’s goal was waved off, Franklin doubled its lead. The Panthers took advantage of a quick throw with Smith springing Duncan in behind the defense. North’s goalie came charging out but Duncan calmly carried around her and finished into the back of the net to make it 2-0.
“We have some speed,” Geysen said. “We have to work on our touch, and that’s one of the reasons we don’t have the possession yet because our first touch isn’t where it needs to be. But with the speed and the two kids in the middle, [Molly] Duncan and Carly Alston, they can really thread the ball. Carly looked good the last couple of days.”
The Panthers put the finishing touches on the win in the 69th minute. Junior Hailey Toolin laid a perfectly weighted pass in the area to sophomore Anna Balkus and she placed her shot just inside the post to make it 3-0.
North Attleboro had one final chance with just over three minutes remaining when Gaulin turned and ripped a left footed strike from inside the area but Robbins made the diving stop at the near post to preserve the shutout.
ranklin (1-0 Hockomock, 1-0 overall) hosts Algonquin on Saturday in a non-league showdown while North Attleboro (0-1, 0-1) will welcome Taunton (1-0, 2-0) to town on Monday afternoon.
2016 Record: 2-15-1 2016 Finish: Missed playoffs Coach: Steve Santos
Goal scoring has been the biggest issue for the Bombardiers in the past few seasons, including a league-low eight in 2016, but head coach Steve Santos is confident that this year’s squad has the speed and experience to take advantage of counter attacks and he expects Attleboro to create a lot more scoring chances this fall.
While goal scoring is a focus of the preseason work, it is at the back that Attleboro boasts the most experience with the entire back line returning. Senior Jordyn Forte is the leader at the back, using her “good soccer IQ,” according to Santos, to keep things calm and making the right plays. She is joined in the defense by fellow seniors Morgan Laplume and Graycen Cassidy. In goal, Madison Brown returns to give Attleboro a solid presence to control the penalty box.
Turning that defense into attack will be the responsibility of senior midfielder Julia Hayes, who will be a key player in the center of the pitch. Junior Ashley Lauzier and senior Kara Thornton will be hoping to take advantage of the opportunities that are created. Santos is also excited about the youth coming into the program with three freshman on the varsity roster to start, including Riley Harnois, who will help out in the attack.
“We have a little more speed this year,” said Santos, “and we’ve been generating a little more in the transition. This year I can rest [the starters], bring people off the bench and the pace doesn’t drop off. They’re great kids, they work hard, and they fight for the team every day.”
2015 Record: 10-3-5 2015 Finish: Reached D1 South First Round Coach: Tom Geysen
After six straight league titles, Franklin had an atypical season in 2016. The Panthers only lost three times all season, but drew five times, struggling to find consistent goal scoring that would turn a tie into a win. Franklin only allowed nine goals, but only scored 36, which was 20 goals fewer than league champ Mansfield. This year, head coach Tom Geysen is working on a new formation to get the best out of his attacking options with the goal of returning to the top of the league standings.
The Panthers return leading scorer Miranda Smith and the senior takes advantage of her size to create scoring opportunities in the box. Junior Halle Atkinson is back for her third year on the varsity and gives Franklin speed on the wings and is an accurate crosser of the ball to give Smith plenty of chances. Molly Duncan and Ellie Teixeira are also back and will give the Panthers a consistent presence in the center of midfield, while Emily Mastaj is another option on the wing.
The key to Franklin’s defense this season will be senior goalie Cat Robbins. Stepping in between the posts last year, Robbins turned in an impressive year and quickly became one of the top goalies in the league. This year, there will be several new faces and younger players that will be counted on to step up on the defensive side of the ball, including senior Molly O’Reilly and juniors Grace Gallo and Madison Stewart.
Geysen noted that there are several underclassmen that could step in during the season to add to the Panthers’ depth. He added, “We need to find the right mix. If we can patch things together and they can gain experience over the course of the season I’m confident that we will get better.”
2016 Record: 12-8-2 2016 Finish: Reached D1 South Quarterfinal Coach: Gary Pichel
It was a great turnaround for King Philip from 2015 to 2016. The Warriors were snakebitten by injuries the year before, losing almost an entire starting 11 many of them to long-term injuries, but last year a large and talented freshman class stepped in to supplement the players who were back healthy helping the program jump from just two wins to 12 last fall.
Expectations are even higher for the Warriors this year, as that freshman group gained a year of experience playing in the Hock. The sophomores are led by Avery Snead, last year’s Underclassman of the Year, who excelled up front or in the midfield and sealed the team’s playoff victory over Mansfield with an overtime headed winner. Chloe Layne showed off silky skills and finishing ability in the box and Olivia Berry stepped right into the heart of the defense and showed that she belonged.
It is not all about the underclassmen. Senior Emma Corcoran is back for another year at the heart of the defense and as the primary dead ball specialist, being named an Eastern Mass. All-Star in 2016. Senior Emma Durant has grown into the role of starting keeper and was a solid and steady presence between the posts last season. Senior Julian Massarone is a three-year varsity player and will be one of the primary playmakers in the center of the pitch.
“Overall, we made great strides in improving our game last year,” said KP coach Gary Pichel. “We want to continue to become more advanced in all three phases of our game. Last year, we turned a corner. This year, we want to move full speed ahead and compete hard against all of our opponents in the Hock!”
2016 Record: 14-1-4 (Kelley-Rex Division Champions) 2016 Finish: Reached D1 South First Round Coach: Kevin Smith
Mansfield is coming off the program’s best ever season. The Hornets set records for wins, points, goals scored and claimed their first ever league title, finishing the regular season unbeaten. An overtime loss in the first round of the playoffs to league rival KP was a tough finish to 2016 and trying to replace the production of HockomockSports.com Player of the Year Hannah Reiter will be a challenge, but the Hornets return a ton of talent to make a run at another title.
Juniors Melissa Reef (an Eastern Mass. All-Star last season) and Bryn Anderson will be back in the midfield this fall, breaking up opponents’ attacks and pushing Mansfield into the attack. Their ability to cover a lot of ground in the center of the pitch and pick out the right pass to start the transition will be key. Classmate Stephanie Kemp will be back at the top of the attack, after scoring nine goals as a sophomore. Junior Emily Vigeant will lead an experienced defensive unit and also gives the Hornets a dangerous weapon from set pieces.
Mansfield coach Kevin Smith likes has a lot of players that he can call on this season. In the attack, Kemp will be joined by Sydney Mulkern, Allee Bezeau, Amanda Mangano, Cassidy MacMahon, and Emma Oldow. Defensively, the Hornets will turn to Mikaela Maughn, Kerina Geminiani, Erin Daniel and goalkeeper Lauren Whitman.
Smith said, “We will be hoping to spread out the offense amongst multiple attackers and relying on the experience of 13 juniors and three seniors who were on varsity last year to fill the roles of the five starters who graduated.”
Last fall, Oliver Ames made the switch from the Davenport to the Kelley-Rex division, but it had little effect on the success of the program. The Tigers shared the league title with Mansfield, the fourth title in a row for OA and seventh since 2007. That run of success may be tough to keep going this year, as the Tigers graduated 10 seniors and are battling injuries to start 2017.
Losing players like Francesca Calabraro (who was injured midway through last season) and Kiana Lozzi is tough enough, but the Tigers lost almost an entire starting 11. To make matters worse, the strong central defensive pairing of Emily Freeman (knee) and Zoe Chazan (academy) are both missing to start the season. Senior goalie Regan Benton is back and will give the Tigers one of the best goalies in the league and in Eastern Mass. to backstop the rebuilt defense.
Offensively, the Tigers have been known for pace and strength, particularly on set pieces, and this year will count on three senior to try and provide consistent scoring opportunities. The pacy group of Abby Reardon, Jackie Mills, Annabella Walsh will be the primary focus of the attack. There will be a lot of new faces on the pitch this season, trying to keep the legacy of OA success going for another fall.
“We have quite a few players who had limited minutes last year,” said OA coach Britt Sellmayer, “but they practiced against some good players every day. If we can stay healthy I feel confident.”
It has been a roller coaster ride for the Tigers over the past few seasons under head coach Edith Dixon. In 2015, Taunton reached the postseason for the first time in program history and made it count by beating Wellesley on the road in the opening round and gave top seed Bishop Feehan a tough game in the second round. But, after losing a number of players to graduation, Taunton won only three games last season and are looking to bounce back behind a young roster in 2017.
The key for the Tigers is senior Samantha Tichelaar, who is coming off a league all-star and HockomockSports.com Best XI season, and gives Taunton speed, control, and leadership either as a forward or dropping deep into the midfield. Her versatility opens opportunities for her teammates. Classmate Kayla Felix will be the leader at the back for the Tigers, adding aggressiveness to the defense from her sweeper position.
Numbers are good for the program overall and Dixon expects that the younger players, including a strong crop of freshman and even eighth graders could make an impact on the varsity as the season goes along. She said that many of the younger players are “ahead of their age performance-wise.”
Dixon added, “Some of our younger players are going to step up and change how we play, but our upperclassman and seniors will remain the core of our team. I believe that their leadership and team-first mentality will push us to do well this year and set the program up for long-term success as the underclassmen mature.”