FRANKLIN, Mass. – It just snowballed for the home team. An early yellow card, a quick goal, the pressure ratcheted up and next thing that Franklin knew it was trailing Notre Dame Academy (Hingham), the top ranked team in the state, 7-0 midway through the first half.
It proved to be a deficit too deep to recover from and NDA rolled to a 15-4 victory on Monday night at Pisini Field and showed that the Panthers still have some work to do to compete with the very best in the state.
“Just their speed and their skill shocked us a little in the beginning and we kind of dug ourselves a hole that we couldn’t get out of,” said Franklin coach Kristin Igoe. “I saw flashes of us being great, but we just didn’t have the ball enough.”
Reflecting on the result, Igoe said, “They very talented and very well-coached and I just told my team at the end, you should want to be like them.”
Franklin defender Sam Jones picked up a yellow card for a foul just 1:12 into the game. The controversial call put NDA up a player and the Cougars took advantage. Freshman Madison Ahern scored the first of her four goals to put the visitors in front.
Senior Morgan Caron followed with the first two of her four goals on the night and Igoe was forced to call a timeout with the Panthers down 3-0 after seven minutes.
“They’re so good that you have to capitalize when you get a chance,” she explained, “and from there put pressure on. We could never really put the pressure on them; they were always putting the pressure on us.”
NDA star Charlotte Allard tacked on a pair of goals and then another freshman, Kelsey Kenney, scored a pair before Franklin could get on the board.
Caroline Lounsbury finally found the back of the net for the Panthers off an Emily Spath assist and then Spath made it 7-2 with a sidearm finish. The momentum was short-lived, as Ahern came right back with a pair of goals, slicing through the heart of the Franklin defense.
Franklin’s transition game, generally a strong suit for the Panthers, was being swallowed up by NDA’s aggressive defense and its ability to send multiple players to the ball on the ride. With 5:40 left in the half, the Panthers finally broke free thanks to a good run by Grace MacCallum, who split a few defenders before passing to Kendall Reardon who hit Julia Jette for the goal.
When Dani Lonati made her seventh save of the first half to stuff an Allard chance, Franklin had another break that could have cut the lead to just five with a few minutes to go before the break, but Jette saw her shot saved by freshman Caroline Cooper.
“We didn’t capitalize on our opportunities like when our goalie came up with saves or we came up with the draw,” said Igoe. “We have to be able to finish…and then we were one-and-done and they were off to the races.”
Lonati would make eight saves on the night and Igoe praised her senior goalie for another big game against a strong opponent. Unfortunately, Igoe noted that Lonati’s saves could only do so much when the Panthers could not get the ball into the attack.
“Dani played awesome,” Igoe said. “She kept us in the game, but then we couldn’t clear; we couldn’t get the ball up. So, then they just get it right back and we have to play defense for another five minutes.
“We’ve got to be able to clear it and give our offense the ball.”
In the second half, Franklin appeared to have forced a turnover, but a late foul was called against Kenzie Pleshaw that gave NDA back possession. On the whistle, Allard fired a pass across the face of goal to a wide open Kenney for her third goal of the game.
That sparked another big NDA run of five straight goals that ended any thought of a potential comeback by Franklin.
When asked about the importance of not settling for the lead, NDA coach Meredith Frank responded, “Franklin’s a fantastic team. They have a lot of fast, athletic players, so we couldn’t ever rest or ever think they weren’t going to come back hungry and make plays.
“So, You have to keep that edge and keep that fight and that hunger.”
Spath scored her second goal of the game with 5:41 remaining, skipping her shot off Cooper’s stick and under the bar, but Caron scored her fourth with three minutes left to wrap up the scoring and a dominant performance by the Cougars.
Franklin (12-3) will try to rebound when it travels to Foxboro for a battle of league leaders on Wednesday. NDA will get another Hockomock League opponent on Friday when North Attleboro pays a visit to Hingham.
Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.