The Franklin Academy girls’ soccer team found themselves in a similar position to last year’s team: one win away from regionals.
With a one-goal loss to eventual champion Raleigh Charter in the 2015 playoffs on their minds, the Patriots got off to a blistering start to defeat East Carteret by a score of 3-1 in the fourth round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 1A playoffs on Friday.
Franklin Academy (21-1), the top seed in the East region, controlled the ball early as they outshot the Mariners 7-4 in the first half to put pressure on East Carteret. Kiera Stephan netted the game’s first goal at the 14-minute mark off of Abby Wade’s corner kick.
“Abby Wade is a fierce player. She comes with a lot of intensity. She’s fast; she knows how to use her feet,” said Franklin Academy coach Kambyl Borries.
Wade had several more chances on corner kicks but they failed to connect.
The Patriots made it a two-goal lead 11 minutes later when Anna Krussow, who was surrounded by defenders, got a shot off in traffic that beat goalie Jillian Kelley.
Franklin Academy has now won 11 straight games, including the playoffs. Even coach Borries was surprised to hear just how dominant her team has been recently. During the winning streak, her team has outscored the opponents 74-4, and have two double-digit offensive games in these playoffs.
“I think it honestly comes down to our chemistry. These girls have been playing together, not only with Franklin Academy’s team, but outside of Franklin Academy,” said Borries.
“Our two strikers are sisters and they’ve been playing hand-in-hand with our centers and midfields for at least 10 years of their lives. They know each other like the back of their own hand. They’re able to generate that driving force that we need to be successful.”
Fourth-seed East Carteret (9-5-3) pulled within one late in the first half when Kathryn Nelson’s kick from the side glanced off goalie Marlayna Frutiger’s hand and into the net. East came alive with their intensity, and their offensive chances started opening up but failed to tie up the game.
“Sadly, it sometimes takes a goal let in to set fire to a team. I think letting in that goal in really pushed them. From then on, they rocketed off,” said Borries. “They never got down. East Carteret had the momentum toward the last of the first half. But they were able to overcome that and fight back.”
It took just four minutes into the second half for the Patriots to stretch their lead back to two when Kelley couldn’t corral a bouncing ball that allowed Kennedy Capps to shoot at an empty net.
The Patriots will face Whiteville for the chance to play for a state title. Their mental toughness was praised by coach Borries, who revealed the lessons learned from last year’s team that found themselves in the same position as tonight’s team.
“It was this moment that will drive this team through regionals,” said Borries. “They know that this could have been it. They’ve been coming out for every single game of these playoffs like it’s their last match that they’re ever going to play; and for my seniors, it easily could be.”