FRANKLIN, Mass. - In only her second game of the season due to injury, sophomore forward Megan Adams provided the winning moment for Franklin, when she ran on to a rebound with only eight minutes remaining and picked out the top corner.
The goal lifted Franklin to a 3-2 victory over Central Catholic in Saturday afternoon’s highly anticipated matchup of top 10 teams and rematch of the 2010 state semifinal.
“It’s been a frustrating season for me not playing and coming out here and obviously having a big part in the game just felt great, felt like last season, and I was right back in the team again,” said Adams after the game.
The goal came off a breakaway by junior forward Bailey Knous after a mix-up in the Raiders’ defense. Sophomore keeper Amanda Fay (six saves) stopped Knous twice before the ball bounced out to Adams who was racing into the box. The sophomore side-footed an unstoppable shot into the top corner.
Franklin coach Tom Geysen said, “We preach all the time you have to anticipate the keeper will misplay the ball and be there for the rebound. That is exactly what Megan did. She didn’t stop her run, she didn’t give up, she did what she needed to do and she ended up finishing.”
There was a definite playoff feel around Pisini Field and it was more than just the cold weather. The intensity and aggressiveness of both teams was ramped up from the opening whistle with both sets of players unwilling to back out of challenges.
“That’s why we scheduled this game because we knew that it would be a tournament-like atmosphere -- just the physicality of the game,” explained Central Catholic coach Casey Grange. “It’s a good measuring stick with a couple weeks left in the season to just see where we’re at.”
The visitors had the first good chance of the game when senior forward Ali Wiggins played in classmate Jenna Martin, but she shot just wised of the far post. Wiggins would have the next big opportunity in the 13th minute, but her 30-yard free kick was tipped onto the crossbar by Franklin keeper Dani Lonati.
Just a minute later and Franklin had its first good chance when Megan Georges stepped up from midfield and had her shot from the right side of the box tipped around the post by Fay.
Grange said of her sophomore keeper, “Amanda is extremely talented back there and she came up huge. She kept us in the game.”
In the 17th minute, the Raiders took the lead. Wiggins played in freshman forward Ashley Raphael and she had her first chance saved by Lonati, but as the ball trickled toward the goal line she followed up and knocked it into the back of the net.
Almost immediately after the restart, Franklin equalized. Taylor Cogliano headed a cross from right back Lindsey Mastaj off the bar and the rebound fell to Georges, who had her header blocked by a defender. That rebound kicked out to Knous, who opened up and coolly slotted the ball into the empty far side of the net.
That pattern would repeat itself in the second half. This time it was Franklin that scored first.
Mastaj again provided a great service from the right side and picked out junior Alexis Stowell at the back post and the forward got the outside of her right foot on the cross to score in the 44th minute. One minute later and Martin rose highest in the box to nod home a free kick with Lonati stranded and just like that it was 2-2.
“You can’t let down for an instant,” said Geysen. “If you do, the end result is that someone is going to do something and it generally doesn’t end up being a good result for us.”
Grange echoed that sentiment. She said, “I think that was good for our team to see that if we give up a goal we can come right back and to put one in on them early was key for us but you can’t relax after a goal and they learned that lesson.”
The next 30 minutes would see Franklin create a handful of chances with Cogliano having a pair of shots slide just wide and Knous sending a shot just over the bar after a clearance by Meghan Dieterle. Raphael would have a good chance for the Raiders but she also sent her shot wide of the far post.
In the 72nd minute, Adams stepped up to put the Panthers in the lead and this time there was no goal to match.
Despite the loss – just the second regular season loss for Central Catholic since 2011 – Grange was pleased with the overall play.
“If we played like that in our loss last weekend and our tie on Thursday, then I think they would have been different results,” she said. “We played hard, we hung tough, and it was a good game.”
Geysen was likewise proud of his team’s play and also hoping that it bodes well for the final playoff push. He said, “We’re up and down. If we’re able to come out and play the next three games at a high level, I would be very optimistic, but we haven’t done that.”