Benton Saves Day, OA and Franklin End in Stalemate

Regan Benton
Regan Benton makes a save against Franklin. The sophomore made several key stops to preserve a 0-0 draw. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

By Josh Perry, Managing Editor

Click HERE for a photo gallery from the game.

NORTH EASTON, Mass. – Last year, when Franklin and Oliver Ames met in the first game of the girls’ soccer season, the Panthers dominated with a number of scoring chances that weren’t put away. In the end, keeper Dani Lonati saved the Panthers from those wasted chances by stopping a late penalty kick and earning a point.

This year, the roles were reversed in the second half at Muscato Stadium. Oliver Ames dominated the ball in the second half, pushing forward, and controlling the center of the pitch, but struggled to put away the chances that it created.

In the dying seconds, sophomore goalie Regan Benton made her third huge save of the half, diving out at the feet of Meg Adams, to stop a breakaway and ensure the battle of reigning league champions finished 0-0.

“When we had our chances, we couldn’t put them on frame,” said OA coach Britt Sellmayer. “We had some chances to shoot and they either went wide or were from too far out and with a keeper like Dani it needs to be in the corner with some pace on it.”

Franklin coach Tom Geysen added, “We’re fortunate that we’re getting out of here without a loss. That’s how he (Sellmayer) felt last year. It’s a forward step in some areas and some work to do in others.”

The first half was a midfield battle with neither team able to create much in the way of consistent attack. The game was not helped by the temperatures soaring into the 90s, which felt even hotter on the sun-drenched turf. Both teams utilized their benches frequently to make sure the players would not wear down.

Sellmayer explained, “It’s the team-first attitude I’ve talked to them about. I’m going to play a lot of players. I might have done longer shifts, instead of seven minutes I might have done nine or 10, but I’m just keeping them fresh.”

Franklin had two chances, a Megan Georges shot and a Victoria Stowell free kick, in the opening 20 minutes that forced Benton into saves, although neither was particularly difficult. Kiana Lozzi nearly broke the game open in the 26th minute with s strong run at the heart of the Franklin defense but her shot from 20 yards out would not curl enough to sneak into the corner of the net.

The best chance of the first half fell to Franklin senior Alexis Stowell in the 37th minute. Adams won a header towards the edge of the box and Bailey Knous hustled to steal it from the defender and cut it back to Stowell but her first-time shot from the edge of the six-yard box was saved at the near post by Benton.

The second half was more one-sided with OA imposing its style on the game. The Tigers are a strong, physical squad and like the ball in the air where midfielder Francesca Calabraro controlled the game.

“Francesca was dominant in the middle today,” said Sellmayer. “I think she must have had 10-15 headers, which is huge for us. Kiana played stronger in the second half. Things will come.”

Fourteen minutes into the second half, the game suddenly broke into life with a through ball flicked into the path of Lozzi by Julia Roy forced Lonati off her line quickly to save at the forward’s feet. Just seconds later, Franklin had a chance when Alexis Stowell finally snuck in behind the left back and was free on goal only to be denied by Benton again at the near post.

In the 64th minute, Benton was again forced into action when Victoria Stowell found space on the edge of the box and fired a shot that was tipped over the bar. On the ensuing corner, OA broke quickly with junior winger Lauren Wright being played into space down the right and raced the full half of the field only to place her shot inches wide of the post.

A couple minutes later OA again worked space on the right side of the box with Lozzi who turned and cut it back to Calabraro, but she didn’t get full contact on her shot and hit it right at Lonati.

Franklin was struggling to get Stowell, Adams, and Knous into the game, in part because of the solid defending of young outside backs Jaqueline Mills (sophomore) and Zoe Chazan (freshman). Sellmayer marveled, “That’s a big introduction into big time soccer and Zoey and Jackie did a great job on the outside for us today.”

As the game started to wind down, the young Panthers started to come into the game and move the ball from side to side, probing the defense. With four minutes left, Knous had a chance but pulled it just wide and then with the clock stopped at 2:00 Adams suddenly burst onto a through ball in the box.

Trailed by two defenders, Adams stretched to get a shot off but Benton was quick off her line, made herself big, and smothered the chance. There was a big collision and Adams was left punching the turf in frustration that he had not been able to find the late winner.

“When it comes down to it, their keeper came up big for them or it could’ve been a loss,” said Geysen.

Franklin will host Foxboro on Friday at Pisini Field, while Oliver Ames will travel to Taunton on Saturday morning.

Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.

Girls Soccer: 2015 Kelley-Rex Division Preview

By HockomockSports.com Staff

ATTLEBORO

2014 Record: 3-12-3
2014 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Steve Santos
Attleboro heads into the 2015 season with a strong core of sophomores that have the Bombardiers thinking positive thoughts about the future, although  this may be a season of growing pains.
Paige Medeiros is back for Attleboro and the senior midfielder will be a key player for the Bombardiers as her set pieces have been one of their best sources for creating scoring chances. Head coach Steve Santos will also be hoping for positive contributions from Rebecca Entwistle and Kayla Merritt among other returning players. Attleboro also has several players bouncing back from serious injuries who could step right back into the lineup.
Attleboro scored only eight goals a season ago and offense may be at a premium again this fall as the young players grow into their new roles. The Bombardiers will focus on pressuring the opposition and being tough to beat.

FRANKLIN

2014 Record: 17-1-3
2014 Finish: Reached D1 South Final
Coach: Tom Geysen
Franklin reached its third consecutive Div. 1 South final last fall but couldn’t come through with a three-peat in an overtime loss to Whitman-Hanson. The Panthers lost several key pieces including two-time HockomockSports.com Player of the Year Taylor Cogliano, but remain among the favorites for the Kelley-Rex title.
The Stowell twins, Assumption commits Victoria and Alexis, are two important players coming back for the Panthers in midfield and attack along with senior forward Bailey Knous, who has battled injuries during her career but when on the field can be prolific in front of goal. Also, junior Meg Adams is back and healthy, which will be a huge boost in the early season, and Megan Georges returns after a breakout season at attacking mid.
Franklin was not only a strong offensive team but also one of the league’s best defensively and Geysen is counting on Lauren Rudolph and Meghan Dietrle to hold down the center of defense while young players step into roles on the outside. Geysen is confident his team is going to be solid, but he believes younger players are going to need to grow into new positions if the Panthers are going to get back to the sectional final.

KING PHILIP

2014 Record: 6-6-8
2014 Finish: Reached D1 South Preliminary Round
Coach: Gary Pichel
King Philip is waiting on a new turf field to be finished, but in the meantime will be battling the Kelley-Rex leaders and aiming for another spot in the postseason.
The Warriors will return junior striker Rachel Hogan, who will be joined this fall by senior captain Makenzie Nickerson, who is returning after 1-1/2 years out with a knee injury and should be a big boost to the forward line. Maggie Hall will return for her second year in goal and Lauren Hehn and Kate Sexton are back to shore up the midfield and Brooke Thomas and Emma Corcoran will lead the defense.
Logan Greenburg, Liz Cooley, and Caitlin McNulty are new faces that head coach Gary Pichel says “will add an exciting style of play across the board.” He added, “Our goal this year is to compete well with all the teams in the Hock and of course, make it to the postseason.”

MANSFIELD

2014 Record: 11-4-4
2014 Finish: Reached D1 South Quarterfinal
Coach: Kevin Smith
The Hornets took No. 1 seed to the brink in the quarterfinals last season before being knocked out of the playoffs. This year’s team will be missing several key pieces from that squad, but returns 14 players including several from the 2014 HockomockSports.com Second XI.
Mansfield will be counting on junior Quinnipiac commit Hannah Reiter to continue her emergence as a star player in the Hock and to dominate in the midfield. Up top, the Hornets will have plenty of firepower with seniors Jackie Carchedi and Jen Kemp back after combining for 19 goals last fall. Defensively, Mansfield also has plenty coming back with Trish Murphy, Lindsey Dalton, and Anna Chiarolanza all returning.
The top four scorers are all back for Mansfield and all but one of the starting back four. Head coach Kevin Smith also noted that the players who are returning have 2-3 years of experience at the varsity level and should be able to step right in to keep the Hornets among the top teams in the league.

NORTH ATTLEBORO

2014 Record: 10-5-4
2014 Finish: Reached D1 South First Round
Coach: Glenn Pasquel
The Rocketeers were stunned in overtime by league rival Mansfield in the first round last year and will have a new coach with former JV coach Glen Pasquel taking over from Doug Wheldon.
While there are plenty of changes for the Rocketeers this season, there was plenty of youth on last year’s team that could develop into top talents. North will look to senior Hana Caster for the primary scoring punch and Pasquel is pleased with the developing partnership up top between Caster and sophomore Haley Guertin. Grace Guertin is back in the midfield and Rachel Labonte will be moved back into defense to cover for the loss of Hannah Kane.
Pasquel feels comfortable moving into his new role and hopes to instill a passing game that keeps the ball on the ground. He is also adding a sweeper/stopper system rather than a flat back four. Once again, North appears to be a team that can compete among the best in the league.

TAUNTON

2014 Record: 6-9-4
2014 Finish: Missed the playoffs
Coach: Edith Dixon
Taunton earned plaudits for its growth under first-year head coach Edie Dixon last season, as the Tigers won six games and showed tenacity and competitiveness with everyone they played. This season, Taunton will return all but two starters and is eyeing a potential tournament berth.
HockomockSports.com Second XI goalie Kayla Wentworth is among the returning players and will be expected to backstop the Tigers defense. Up top, the combination of Bristol-Plymouth transfer Alana Vincent and Sam Tichelaar will be back to provide a scoring punch and freshman Maggie Sullivan will be back in midfield after starting a couple of games as an eighth grader in 2014.
Dixon has high hopes for the Tigers. She said, “We’ve got high expectations for this season and are getting excited to get into games.”