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FIELD HOCKEY NOTEBOOK

With a memorable 2021 in the rearview mirror, Franklin field hockey looks to take it one step further in 2022

Franklin seniors (left-right) Kaeley Dubriske, Kaitlyn Carney, and Shaw Downing lead the Panthers into another season with title aspirations.Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff

After a program-record season in 2021, the Franklin field hockey team is certainly not resting on its laurels.

“Our team motto is ‘Earned, not given,’” Franklin coach Michelle Hess said. “They are a determined group.”

Despite the graduation of key defenders that anchored the Panthers’ run to the Division 1 state semifinals last fall, Hess and her senior class, which include standouts Kaitlyn Carney and Shaw Downing, want to ensure they get back to that point of the MIAA tournament and take things one game further.

“The seniors want to get back there,” said Hess. “They got a taste of being the best last year. We were ranked pretty highly in the power rankings last year, and then got as far as we did. The seniors are saying they want to go out with a bang.”

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With a 3-0-1 record, the fifth-ranked Panthers are well on their way to doing so. Even though they tied a tough Foxborough team last Friday, Hess is taking positives away from the win.

“It could have been really good timing for us,” said Hess. “We are trying to improve, and that showed us where we need to. We will take that tie early on in the season.”

Franklin’s early challenge has been filling those defensive holes, and that determined senior class has been key to doing so. Because of injuries to players expected to start, Downing and fellow senior Kaeley Dubriske have been shifting positions and it has been a boon for the team.

“Usually Shaw is a center forward, but she has been playing midfield,” said Hess. “We are calling her our utility player. She is highly skilled and we can play her at any position. And we dropped Kaeley back on defense and she’s been playing really well.”

Franklin coach Michelle Hess has her team raring to go and of to an unbeaten start this season.Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff

Then there is Carney, last year’s Hockomock League MVP, who collected 37 goals and 18 assists as a junior. She is a complete playmaker, and her prowess has continued this season. Carney had a two goal, four assist performance against Taunton, and notched three goals and four assists against King Philip.

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The success of this senior class can be seen in the program’s most recent milestone. The win against Taunton was their 50th game without a loss in the Hockomock League.

“It’s kind of shocking, to be honest,” said Hess. “Someone from Franklin TV came up to me a few weeks ago, saying that we were at 48 undefeated games in the Hockomock, and I said, ‘Wow, that’s pretty cool.’ It feels great, but it’s also surprising because our league is very tough.”

It can’t be overstated how much Franklin’s 2021 success has inspired them. It taught the program important lessons in team building that will serve them well this fall and beyond.

“Last year we knew we were going to be competitive, but we didn’t know how competitive,” said Hess. “I started a lot of freshmen. Things all came together in a nice way. By the postseason, we picked up our mojo and chemistry and it showed.”

Their senior talent and their team building will serve them well down the stretch, which includes tough non-league tilts against two strong Division 1 teams in Concord-Carlisle and Walpole. Every game – league or otherwise - will be a test, however, and the Panthers hope it leads them back to a deep tournament run.

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“Having these seniors sets us up well to at least get back to where we were last year,” said Hess.

Franklin's Kaitlyn Carney rips a shot from distance in a win over Sharon Tuesday.Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff

Free Hits

▪ Despite entering this fall with youth and inexperience, Central Catholic is making great strides.

“We are young,” said Central coach Josselyn Wilson. “We graduated a big class and had a handful of girls decide not to return to focus on other sports, so we had lots of available positions.”

Regardless of those challenges, Central Catholic (2-2) had two impressive wins last week: a 3-0 win over Beverly and a 5-0 victory over Methuen, both at home.

In the Methuen win, it was two sophomores — Liz Medford (two goals) and Kerri Finneran (goal, three assists) — who led the way, showing that the kids are alright.

“The sophomores make up a huge chunk of our team,” said Wilson. “My expectations are that they continue to grow this year, get more comfortable with the speed and intensity of the game, that they gain more and more confidence as we continue throughout the season, and that they become even bigger impact players for us.”

The Raiders will be tested: after playing No. 3 Andover Monday, Central will face a pair of Merrimack Valley Conference foes, No. 14 Chelmsford and North Andover, in the next two weeks. Their relentless league schedule will serve them well toward their team goal of “playing as far into November as we can,” per Wilson. Last year, they were the 13th seed in the Division 1 bracket and made it to the Round of 16.

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“Our goals are to be a fit team, never quit, and focus on what we can change today - in our personal play, in our decisions, in our commitment, in our openness to challenge ourselves and learn new things - that will help impact the team better tomorrow,” said Wilson.

▪ On Monday, Barnstable hosted Bridgewater-Raynham for the program’s fifth annual Pride game. Barnstable coach Caitlyn Sweeney said the objective of the game is to promote “the importance of inclusivity” and to show their support for the You Can Play project, which, per their website, “works to ensure the safety and inclusion for all who participate in sports, including LGBTQ+ athletes, coaches and fans.”

Barnstable (4-0), which has outscored foes, 21-0, to start the season, rolled to a 7-0 victory. Junior Ally McEneaney tallied a hat trick, raising her season total to seven.

▪ According to a tweet from Rockport coach Mary Ryan, the first MIAA field hockey power rankings will be released at the end of September.

⋅ How deep is No. 2 Walpole this season? In their 6-0 shutout of Braintree last week, the Porkers had five different goal scorers.

Games to watch

Thursday, Bishop Fenwick at St. Mary’s, 3:45 p.m. — Bishop Fenwick remains among the unbeaten following a tie against a strong Manchester Essex squad. But the high-powered offense of St. Mary’s will be a big test in this Catholic Central League clash.

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Thursday, Acton-Boxborough at Concord-Carlisle, 4:30 p.m. — Sporting a 19-0 goal differential, C-C is the team to beat in the Dual County League thus far. A-B will rely on strong defensive play in order to best the Patriots.

Friday, King Philip at Westwood, 3:45 —Westwood (3-1) has rifled off three straight shutout wins against Tri-Valley League opponents, but count on nonleague opponent King Philip (3-1) to apply pressure offensively.

Friday, Danvers at Masconomet, 4 p.m. — A highly-anticipated matchup of Northeastern Conference unbeatens.

Tuesday, Bishop Feehan at Medfield, 6:30 p.m. — Consistency is the name of the game for Medfield, which has a combo of big wins and tough losses. A nonleague tilt against a strong Bishop Feehan squad will be a good benchmark for the Warriors.

Correspondent Olivia Nolan contributed to this story.


Kat Cornetta can be reached at sportsgirlkat@gmail.com.