FRANKLIN, Mass. – Franklin opened the defense of its Div. 1 Central/West title against an unfamiliar foe on Saturday afternoon, but it turned out to be a perfect way to ease into another postseason run.
The Panthers needed only about an hour to dispatch Doherty in the first round, winning 25-12. 25-12, 25-11 to advance to the quarterfinal. While it wasn’t a perfect performance, Franklin coach Kelsey Weymouth was pleased with the team’s ability to focus on the task at hand and not allow the visitors to get any momentum.
“I wanted them to just focus on what was happening on their side of the net and playing Franklin volleyball at the pace that Franklin volleyball is played at,” she said. “I wanted them to be aggressive and to stay aggressive. Now was kind of the time to run some plays and try some things but mentally stay focused.”
It was a quick start for the hosts. Franklin won the opening 10 points of the match with sophomore setter Cailyn Mackintosh recording three aces in the stretch, senior Makayla Raffin adding a pair of kills, and senior Sophie Lyons adding one strike.
Doherty came back with seven straight points, but the Panthers regained their focus at that point and went back on the attack. Junior Allyson Bonnet-Eymard, the lone player with experience from last year’s sectional title run, had a pair of aces in the first and junior Emma Chase had a kill, as the Panthers cruised to a lead in the match.
The second set didn’t go much better for the team from Worcester. Franklin won 12 of the first 13 points to take control. Mackintosh continued to be a force at the service line, winning three straight points, Bonnet-Eymard had a couple of kills and an ace, and Raffin had a block.
Franklin’s defensive shape wasn’t significantly challenged by the Doherty hitters, but they still had to be awake and the match offered the opportunity to try a few rotations and plays that may prove useful in the coming rounds.
“I wanted our offense to be a little faster,” Weymouth explained. “On free balls that we were getting on our side, I wanted our offense to be faster because we’re going to see a faster team on Monday. I understand the level that this game was at but I need them to still realize what’s coming and be ready.”
Bonnet-Eymard had a hat trick of kills during the closing stretch of the set, libero Jill Benoit and middle hitter Sarah Jackson each had aces, and Raffin rose up to blast a cross-court kill to seal a 2-0 lead.
There was no let up for the Panthers in the third set, as they jumped out to another solid lead. Chase, Mackintosh, Raffin, and Jackson all won points to put Franklin on the precipice of the quarterfinal. Senior Bridget Jackson added an ace in the set and Benoit closed out the match with back-to-back aces.
“A match like this was great for them,” Weymouth said. “I plan on having a different starting lineup for the playoffs, but I think this was a good time for them to get a win like this under their belt and be like, okay we’re going to keep going. I know this team can go far, but it’s up to them if they decide to do so.”
Franklin (15-3) will travel to face No. 3 seed Algonquin on Monday night.