Boston High School: Tom Geysen

D1 EMass Girls: Newton North 2, Franklin 1

November, 13, 2013
TAUNTON, Mass. –- Shannon Fitzgerald scored with seven minutes remaining to lift Newton North into the state championship game after a 2-1 victory over defending state champion Franklin on Tuesday evening at Taunton High.

The winning goal was created by fellow forward Angela Ward sliding a pass through to the speedy Fitzgerald, who had made a diagonal run across the Franklin defender. Fitzgerald, who is committed to play lacrosse at Johns Hopkins next year, held off her marker and was able to slide the ball past keeper Dani Lonati.

It is a common sight for Newton North head coach James Hamblin to see his senior striker come through in a clutch situation. That was Fitzgerald’s 29th goal of the season and her seventh of the tournament.

“She takes her chances,” explained Hamblin. “She didn’t do much in the first half, but in the second half you just need to give her that one opportunity and she gets the game-winner time and time again. She’s been huge for us this season.”

Franklin head coach Tom Geysen admitted that his team was guilty of sitting back, but gave credit to the Tigers. He noted, “That’s the best team we’ve faced...easily.”

Geysen added, “That breakdown on the second goal happened for several reasons. They kept pushing, pushing, pushing and [with] that kind of pressure eventually you will make a mistake and they capitalized.”

It was Fitzgerald who created the first shot of the game in the opening minute of the first half. Her near post effort after cutting in from the left would be one of the few chances that either team created in the opening 40 minutes. The Panthers allowed Newton North to have the ball and attempt long through balls to the forward that Lonati and central defenders Julia Bireley and Nicole Ellin were able to clear.

Within the opening 10 minutes of the second half, the Panthers were able to show their strength on the counterattack and took the lead. Victoria Stowell picked out her sister Alexis with a diagonal ball on the edge of the Newton North penalty area. Alexis took it first time on the volley and put her shot into the top corner.

It was an incredible goal, but it also seemed to spark the Tigers into life.

Three minutes later, a cross from the right was tipped but not held by Lonati and it fell into the path of Ward, who nodded it home for the equalizer. The Tigers started to use width and Fitzgerald sent in several dangerous crosses through the six-yard-box that the Franklin defense struggled to deal with.

It was the width that Hamblin was looking for all game long.

He explained, “I think my forwards were too narrow and that made for less opportunities. We like to use the width, so we were playing too many straight passes and too many straight runs, not enough diagonal runs or switch passes.”

Bay State Conference MVP Christina Callahan also had a pair of shots saved by Lonati, including one that seemed destined for the top corner before the sophomore stuck a hand out to knock it over the bar. Shortly after that save, the Tigers finally found a seam and a winning goal.

“When that goal went in it lit something underneath our, you know, and it was great to see the character of the team,” remarked Hamblin. “It was great that they trusted each other and trusted the system.”

Franklin has won three out of the last four D1 South titles and with a team comprised almost entirely of underclassmen, Geysen expects that the Panthers will challenge again next year, if they keep the same attitude.

He said, “There’s a lot of young kids coming back next season and if they continue to work in the off-season and that idea of playing for each other and not playing for themselves; I think that’s why we were as successful as we were.”

Newton North will head into the state championship game on Friday at Worcester State at 5 p.m. to take on West sectional winners Minnechaug.

Soccer recap: Silver Lake, Franklin take sectionals

November, 11, 2013
TAUNTON, Mass. -- It took nearly the full 80 minutes for him to get a chance, but when the ball fell to Silver Lake senior striker Paul Beatty in the box, he was ready to pounce.

Beatty scored with fewer than two minutes remaining and then added a game-winner in the second overtime to lead the top seeded Lakers to a dramatic 2-1 victory over Needham in the Division 1 South sectional final on Sunday night at Aleixo Stadium in Taunton.

The Rockets double-covered Beatty the entire game with Greg Evans marking him directly and captain Daniel Alpert giving cover behind him. The strategy worked for 78 minutes, as Beatty struggled to find room to run and went minutes at a time without even touching the ball.

Down by a goal late in the game, Silver Lake started to throw people forward and the strategy paid off in the final two minutes when the ball was not properly cleared by Needham and a cross was nodded into the path of Beatty by Pat Hutchinson. The senior settled the ball off his chest and slid his shot just past the sprawling Adam Lassman to make it 1-1.

[+] EnlargeSilver Lake soccer
Josh Perry for ESPNBoston.comMembers of the Silver Lake soccer team celebrate their sectional title.
Needham had looked very strong up until that point, but the Lakers carried the momentum into overtime. Three minutes into the second overtime, Alpert tried to head a pass back to Lassman only for Beatty to beat the keeper to the ball and fire a left-footed winner that sparked celebrations on the bench and in the stands.

Head coach Dan Correia knew that Beatty would come through eventually. He remarked, “Even though they contained him for the most part, you could tell that they were very conscious of every touch that he had. We felt it was a matter of time that we get him the ball in the right spot.”

Correia also commented on his team’s ability to persevere and battle to the end of the game. He noted, “We haven’t had to do it often, but it’s good to know that the guys are mentally tough and can do it.”

Needham head coach Don Brock, whose team had not lost since September of 2012, was disappointed with the final result, but proud that the Rockets had a strong season, despite losing eight starters from last year’s state championship team.

“The one with two minutes left, we had that game won if we didn’t let them score,” Brock said. “We just goofed a little bit, as kids will do, but I’m very proud of the way we played.”

He added, “It speaks volumes for the few seniors that we have back from last year and the program. It speaks volumes that we can reload like that and we’ll be back next year.”

It was a very even first half between the top two seeds in D1 South and two teams that had yet to lose this season.

Needham created a few chances down its right side with Matthew Brand playing in a cross that Marco O’Donnell tapped just wide. Junior captain Aram Ouligian also had a header flash wide on a corner and later had a shot deflect inches wide of the post. On the ensuing corner, Brendan Nemes almost put the ball into his own net but keeper Stephen McSwain was able to get his hands on it.

The Lakers best scoring opportunities came from set pieces, including a Beatty corner that had to be cleared off the line and then the rebound shot went narrowly wide.

Coming out of halftime, the Rockets took control of the game and began to dominate the midfield behind strong play from Ouligian and Jordan Angel. Five minutes into the second half, O’Donnell crossed from the left and Brand had a diving header saved by McSwain. It was a warning for the Lakers, but a minute later they were behind.

Ouligian drove forward into the box and sent in a low cross from the right that was tapped in by Hantzly Murat, who was able to get in front of his defender. The goal seemed to inspire the Rockets. Needham started flying all over the pitch and closing down Silver Lake as soon as it got possession.

Beatty was increasingly isolated and Correia looked for any answer to try and get back into the game, including moving the forward out to the left wing in hopes of getting him more touches.

Correia explained, “We shifted a lot of guys forward in the last 10 minutes. We went from 4-5-1 to 4-4-2 to 3-4-3, whatever we had to do.”

Silver Lake thought that it had found the equalizer with six minutes remaining, but defender Tim Barrow (who also scored the winner against New Bedford) was ruled offside by the assistant referee.

Four minutes later, Beatty had his chance to keep the Lakers season alive.

“It’s something that we’ve talked about all season,” remarked Correia. “You can’t control the little things. If you go down a goal, who cares; just go out and get the next one.”

Silver Lake will take on north sectional champion Somerville in the state semifinal on Tuesday night at 7:15 p.m. at Taunton High.

D1 South Girls: Franklin 2, Bishop Feehan 1

Taylor Cogliano had a goal and an assist and freshman Meg Adams scored the winner with only two minutes remaining to lead Franklin to a 2-1 victory over Bishop Feehan in the D1 South final at Taunton High. It was the Panthers second consecutive sectional title and third in the past four years.

Head coach Tom Geysen reflected on how far the Panthers have come from the preseason to now.

He explained, “In the whole preseason we didn’t score a single goal. Three days before our first game, we scrapped the whole thing – offense, defense, everything. It’s just been a work in progress the whole time and they keep working on it.”

The Shamrocks took the lead in the 37th minute on a goal by leading scorer Maddie Jolin. A long throw was played into the box and Jolin was able to slide a tough angled shot past an onrushing Dani Lonati and inside the far post.

Lonati redeemed herself in the second half with a series of good saves that kept Franklin in the game. She slid to stop a Jolin breakaway and then another from Allie Luongo. She also tipped a hard shot over the crossbar. Those saves would turn out to be huge, as Franklin turned its possession into goals.

Cogliano blocked a Feehan clearance and beat the defender and the goalkeeper to the ball before picking out the top corner and making it 1-1. It was the fourth straight tournament game with a goal for the junior.

“Taylor has stepped up the last three games. Big players step up in big games and that’s what she’s done,” said Geysen.

With two minutes remaining, Cogliano read a bouncing ball and then out jumped a defender to flick a header into the path of Adams. The freshman was able to get a toe on the ball just ahead of the Feehan keeper and it rolled inside the post.

Geysen noted, “She’s going to do numerous things wrong because she’s young, but all of a sudden she’ll do something that makes you say, ‘Wow, where did that come from?’ She makes people make mistakes and she has the ability to capitalize when she does.”

Franklin will face north sectional champion Newton North in the state semifinal on Tuesday at 5 p.m. at Taunton High.

Franklin's Kirshe is ESPN Boston Miss Soccer

December, 14, 2012
AM ET and its High School section today announced that Kristi Kirshe, senior striker of the Division 1 state champion Franklin Panthers, is the recipient of its first-ever "Miss Soccer" award, which will be presented annually to the top high school girls’ soccer player in Massachusetts.

The Miss Soccer award winner was chosen by a panel of experts made up of staff and correspondents. Kirshe will be presented the award at a later date.

“Kristi may have flown under the radar coming into the season, despite being Franklin's leading scorer each of her four years on varsity, but she was the star of an otherwise very young team,” ESPN Boston High Schools soccer correspondent Josh Perry said. “She handled the pressure of leadership all the way to the program's first state title.”

Kirshe, a four-year varsity starter, capped her prolific high school career with a strong run in the Panthers’ first-ever MIAA Division 1 state championship season. She will play soccer at Williams next year.

For her career, Kirshe finished 102 goals and 44 assists for 146 points after a 40-goal, 13-assist season in 2012.

“I think that her first three years, she kind of flew under the radar,” Panthers head coach Tom Geysen said. “I don’t know if it’s because of where we are, but she never got the attention some of the other girls in the state got. But she’s been our leading scorer for four years, our team MVP in each of those years and an Eastern Mass. All-Star. She’s accomplished just about all you can in a high school career.

“But the thing that impresses me the most about her is that she’ll talk about the team accomplishments first when talking about soccer. That’s the kind of player she was.”

D1 girls soccer: Franklin 2, Nashoba 1

November, 16, 2012
WORCESTER, Mass. -- With the program’s first-ever state championship on the line, Franklin knew that it could count on one of the program’s best-ever players to come through in the clutch.

Kristi Kirshe scored two first half goals and completed the Panthers' unbeaten season in a 2-1 victory over Nashoba on Friday night at Coughlin Field, on the campus of Worcester State University.

Franklin head coach Tom Geysen marveled at the talents of his All-American forward.

“Kristi’s been doing this for four years and it took them until this year to figure out who she was," Geysen said. "She ends up a high school All-American and a state champion on a Division 1 team. She deserved it...All those kids deserved it.”

Kirshe opened the scoring in the 13th minute with a brilliant side-foot finish. Sophomore Taylor Cogliano slid a through ball into Kirshe’s path, but the senior got the ball stuck under her feet. Somehow, Kirshe was able to swivel, open her body up, and flick the ball off the far post leaving the Nashoba keeper stranded.

In the 21st minute, the combination of Cogliano and Kirshe produced a second brilliant goal.

Nashoba had a header cleared by Kirshe on the edge of the Franklin box. Cogliano received the loose ball and passed it directly back to Kirshe, who sprinted the length of the field on a breakaway. Even at full speed, Kirshe had the presence of mind to round the keeper and slot into the open net.

“It was a classic goal of Taylor and I combining," said Kirshe, who will be playing at Williams College next season. "That’s how we always try to do it with small ball, small ball, and I just got the outside of my foot on it and it hit the far post. It was the best feeling of my life.”

Nashoba was much stronger in the second half and finally got on the board behind its star player, Kim Slade. With 15 minutes to go, Slade bent in an in-swinging corner that flew directly into the net and made it 2-1.

Nashoba coach Pam Vaughan recognized that her team played much better after the break.

“We had to make some defensive adjustments," she said. "There’s a lot of belief on the team and there’s a lot of hard work and I’ve got a lot of good players. We’ve been down 2-0 before, so that didn’t really phase us mentally.”

Slade’s goal sparked the Panthers into life, and they began to press forward and limit the chances that Nashoba was able to create. Geysen spoke afterwards about the needing to change the momentum late in the game.

“Better teams will step back up and try to push it back and maintain their poise," he said. "The last 10 or 15 minutes I thought we maintained our poise a lot better and that was the difference for us to stay ahead.”

While the Franklin attack -- Kirshe in particular -- will deservedly get the headlines, the Panthers showed strength on defense. Sweeper Julia Bireley and defender Allexia Martin clearing a host of chances, and freshman keeper Dani Lonati made 10 saves -- including one highlight reel dive to rob Kaitlyn Thorogood.

Vaughan explained what the senior class has brought to the Nashoba program.

“They have determined our work ethic and they really show the culture of our team to the younger kids," she said. "They have been great role models.”

Amidst tears and a huge traveling contingent of Franklin fans, Kristi Kirshe tried to explain what it meant to finish her senior season with a state championship.

“It’s the greatest feeling in the world," she sadi. "I mean, going undefeated senior year, winning the first ever state title… it’s something I’ve dreamed about.”

She added, “It’s a dream come true right now.”