Facing a Whitesville girls soccer team that not only was making its third straight East regional title game appearance, but which had also run roughshod through its previous four N.C. High School Athletic Association 1A playoff games, Franklin Academy coach Kambyl Borries expected a nail-biter Tuesday.
What she got instead was quite possibly the finest performance of the season from her squad, which dominated play most of the way en route to a 6-0 victory over the Wolfpack that earned the Patriots a berth in Saturday's state title game at N.C. State's Dail Soccer Complex.
Niamh Stephan scored a pair of goals, and Kiera Stephan and Kennedy Capps each added a goal and an assist for Franklin (22-1), which will meet Community School of Davidson for the 1A state title at a time to be determined. In November, Franklin's boys defeated Davidson, 3-1, to win the 1A state title.
"Plain and simple, no." said Borries, when asked if she anticipated such a lopsided contest. "We were expecting a 3-2 or maybe even an overtime match. (They) had lost in this round in overtime the last two years."
Both teams had advanced through the 1A playoffs into Tuesday's regional final with relative ease, though Whitesville's run had been especially impressive, the Wolfpack (21-6) having outscored its four playoff foes by a combined 30-3.
And yet, it was Franklin that was in control from the onset. The Patriots spent nearly the entirety of the first half with possession of the ball in Whitesville territory, producing countless scoring chances.
In the opening 15 minutes alone, Franklin had at least a half-dozen significant opportunities to score, the best of those a shot from Anna Krussow that hit the crossbar. Eventually, the Patriots would capitalize on its chances, scoring three goals in a span of just under five minutes.
The first of those goals came with 16 minutes, eight seconds remaining in the first half, when Kennedy Capps dribbled through traffic near the right side of the box before firing a shot from 20 yards that caromed off the left post and into the net.
Moments later, Capps would assist on the second goal when sent a short cross to Kiera Stephan, who rifled a shot from 25 yards past Whiteville goalie Catlin Baldwin to make it 2-0 with 13:58 remaining.
Niamh Stephen scored her first goal not long after, receiving a long pass from Madison Geigle and scoring easily on a shot from the right side to put Franklin ahead 3-0 with 11:13 to go in the first half.
"It was really frustrating," Capps said of the early missed opportunities. "Going into the championship game, we're really going to have to turn those opportunities into goals.
"That was huge (getting those goals), once we got them it was a big relief."
Franklin wasn't quite as sharp in the second half as it was in the first half. Regardless, it managed to extend its lead as Krussow, Niamh Stephan and Isabelle Upchurch all scored goals.
"They were extremely quick, and they spread the field well and moved the ball very well," Whiteville coach Ronnie Todd said. "I was really impressed with their speed, we hadn't seen anything like that all season to be honest."
"It caught us off guard, we tried to make adjustments but that's a very good team."
Things were not all good for Franklin, however. With 11:20 remaining in the second half, Kiera Stephan had to be carried off the field after crumbling to the ground in agony after taking a ball off her left knee. Early in the first half, starter Chloe Armitage left with what Borries believed was a broken wrist.
Borries was hopeful that with a few days rest that Stephan might be able to play in Saturday's championship contest. She was unsure what the extent of her injury may be.
Regardless, Franklin proved every bit a worthy state-championship contender on Tuesday and will now hope to add some hardware on Saturday to the school's trophy case to accompany that of the boys' team.
"It's mindblowing," Borries said. "This is our 17th week of soccer, that's five days a week of either practice or games ... and here we are. We're making history for Franklin Academy and these girls have earned it every single step of the way."