Never in Kristin Igoe’s five-year tenure with the Franklin girls lacrosse team had the Panthers’ head coach seen her team defeat Division 1 powerhouse Westwood. That changed on Monday.
FRANKLIN — Never in Kristin Igoe’s five-year tenure with the Franklin girls lacrosse team had the Panthers’ head coach seen her team defeat Division 1 powerhouse Westwood.
In Igoe’s first year with Franklin in 2013, the Panthers fell 11-2 to the Wolverines in a Division 1 South sectional semifinal game.
And over the past four years, whether it was a regular season or postseason contest, Franklin hasn’t been able to get over the proverbial hump against the perennial state powers, who this year are the defending Division 1 champs.
That changed on Monday.
After building a four-goal lead in the second half, the Panthers staved off a late rally from the Wolverines — needing a defensive stand over the last 45 seconds — to hold on for an 8-7 non-league victory over Westwood at Pisini Field.
Franklin improved to 16-1 with the win, the first for any member of the Panthers’ team and coaching staff over Westwood.
“I think it’s a good confidence booster,” Igoe said. “It was almost like a mental thing for five years and I think that now they see they can beat a state championship team and it will give them a lot of confidence going forward.”
Franklin seemed to have all the confidence in the world on Monday following freshman Kelsey MacCallum’s score with 4:45 remaining in the game to make it 8-4.
But a Westwood team that’s been to three straight state title games, and won two of them, didn’t turtle in the final five minutes.
Senior Haley Connaughton (4 goals) scored two quick goals for the Wolverines, slashing the Panthers’ lead in half, and Franklin held an 8-6 advantage with 3:20 left.
Even after a Franklin face-off win, a leg save by Westwood’s goalie gave the Wolverines the ball back with a little over two minutes remaining.
Just over a minute later, a Georgia Salvatore (2 goals) score made it a one-goal game with 1:11 remaining.
That’s when Franklin, collectively, turned a little blue in the face.
“I just held my breath,” Igoe said. “It’s just a long 45 seconds and the girls played good (one versus one defense).”
After a bit of a scrum following the ensuing face-off, Westwood collected the ball and had possession for the final 45 seconds.
In those waning moments, Westwood moved the ball from the left side, in front of the net, and behind the goal crease to no avail, and the Wolverines weren’t able to get off a clear shot on Franklin freshman goaltender Gianna Cameron (15 saves).
“Gianna,” said Igoe, “has been our backbone all year … so she’s there to stop whatever comes her way.”
With time winding under 10 seconds, Westwood made a final break for the net but couldn’t get a direct shot off as the ball floated in the air and Cameron’s stick snagged it.
The Franklin freshman then held on to the ball as the final seconds ran out before her teammates stormed the field to swarm her.
“I was just screaming at the defense like, ’Come on guys you have to stop the ball, stop the ball, stop the ball,’” Cameron said of the final seconds. “They kept their angling and didn’t let anyone get any good shots on goal.”
Senior captain Caroline Lounsbury added, “I was on the 30-yard line like, ‘Oh my god,’ because I’m on attack so I wasn’t in the defensive zone. … Being in the program for four years I haven’t beaten Westwood either so it was really exciting to go out and (compete) with a team that we know is strong this year.”
And although Franklin has been strong over the past four years, having made it to the sectional semifinals, or further, during that span, the Panthers needed a win over Westwood to give them some added confidence as a program.
Franklin did so with two freshmen — Erin Walsh (2 goals) and MacCallum — combining for three scores while Walsh’s sister Annie, a sophomore, added another goal.
Seniors Kendall Reardon and Lounsbury (3 goals) accounted for the four other Panther scores.
But perhaps the most impressive feat coming from Franklin’s win on Monday was the play of its defense.
The Panthers limited the Wolverines to just seven goals after Westwood had tallied 42 in its prior two games as a double-digit save performance from their freshman goaltender proved to be the difference.
“I obviously know I’m coming into a really good program with a really good coach and a very strong team,” Cameron said. “So it’s good to be an asset to that.”
Franklin has now won eight in a row and will face Foxboro on Wednesday.
Tommy Cassell can be reached at 508-626-4405 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @tommycassell44.