By MADISON BROWDER | Photos by STEVE WHEELER
The Region 6-AAA champion Franklin Lady Rebels are state-tournament bound following their 2-1 home victory in penalty kicks against Hendersonville on Saturday night.
Following 40 minutes of overtime periods, Franklin goalkeeper Holly Harris stopped three of five shots in penalty kicks for the victory.
“I was a little nervous,” Harris said about going into the penalty kicks. “This was only the second time I’ve ever been in this situation, but I was just relaxed. One of my coaches was like ‘Holly, just pick a way, dive, don’t overthink it.’ I’ve never actually blocked a penalty kick before, so I was just like ‘let’s go!’ I was so excited.”
“[Harris was] unbelievable,” Lady Rebels head coach Mike Burgoyne said. “I looked over at our assistant coach when [Harris] made the second stop, I said ‘if you’re goalkeeper makes two stops, you have to win the penalties.”
As for regulation, the first goal was off the foot of senior Caroline DeFranco when she connected with a well-placed ball in empty space in the 17th minute.
The Lady Commandos answered with a goal of their own from senior Brooke Long just a little over a minute later.
Both defenses played well and several scoring opportunities from both sides were broken up, keeping the game tied at one to go to overtime.
Two 10-minute halves followed by two five-minute sudden-death halves, and still no change in score, so the teams lined up for the best of five penalty kick attempts.
The Lady Commandos were up first and Harris dove to her left, stopping the shot. Franklin’s Harper found the back of the net in the ensuing kick to put her team up 1-0.
Harris failed to stop the next two shots from Hendersonville, but teammate Madeleine Ash made her shot to tie the teams at two after three shots.
The fourth shot from Hendersonville was stopped by Harris. Junior Izzy Michaud then scored to put Franklin up 3-2 headed into the final shots.
Franklin secured the victory and the state tournament berth when the last penalty kick from Hendersonville hit the post.
“Hendersonville played well,” Burgoyne said. “They’re a physical team, a well-organized team, a well-coached team. They battled the whole time. They had several chances to score. I hate it when it goes to penalty kicks. I’ve been on the other side of them. Fortunately for us, we were on [the winning] side tonight.”
Burgoyne reveled in his team’s success Saturday night, but knows the challenge his team faces in the upcoming week after it fell short in the title game last year.
“We need to get better every game,” he said. “Today wasn’t our best game, but part of that was how well Hendersonville played and how they played against us. We need to calm down a bit more, connect some passes and play our game. We need to get better, because there is going to be some really good competition at state.”
The Class AAA girls soccer state tournament runs from Wednesday through Saturday at the Richard Siegel Soccer Complex in Murfreesboro.