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Franklin High Girls Soccer Team Ready to Adjust to Changes

Sep 28, 2020 03:41PM ● By Ken Hamway

The 2020 soccer season for Franklin High’s varsity girls’ squad will be very different than what’s occurred in the past.

A plethora of changes have been made, all because of the coronavirus pandemic that eliminated last spring’s interscholastic athletic competition. Not only will soccer be played differently, but the Panthers’ schedule also has been altered. 

Like so many other teams, Franklin will be playing a limited schedule (10 matches), and there’ll be no non-league games. Fans can forget about Sectional and State tourneys, because there will be no post-season play.

Modifications on the field primarily deal with eliminating contact, thus restricting defenses and making the sport more offensive-minded. Final scores could resemble a low-scoring football result — a 10-7 score could be the norm.

“Soccer previously was played with contact,’’ said Panthers’ coach Tom Geysen. “Now, the modifications make it a game that’s aimed at keeping everyone safe. There’ll be plenty of restrictions, but I prefer playing with changes versus what happened to athletics last spring when all was lost. At least we now have an opportunity to have a season where student-athletes can play a sport they love.’’

The changes, implemented by the MIAA Covid-19 Task Force, are numerous but some key alterations include: no shoulder-to-shoulder contact; no hand contact; heading is not allowed; unnecessary contact results in an infraction; masks are mandatory while playing but can be moved for easier breathing if an opponent is 10 feet away; and for a re-start to occur, a referee must check that all masks are in place.

“Everyone will have to adjust,’’ said Geysen. “Referees are burdened with added responsibilities while trying to call a match. Coaches have to change their strategic approach, because offenses have more of a chance to dominate since contact is limited, and players will be under more pressure. Now that the rules have changed, players will have to control their instincts. The basics they learned in youth leagues are different now, and there’ll be confusion on what’s allowed and what’s not allowed.’’

The Panthers, nevertheless, will have some talented players who’ll be dealing with all the ramifications that occur. 

Geysen has capable backs in sophomore Norah Anderson and senior Carissa Alers. 

“Norah is well-skilled and has speed,’’ he said. “A starter on the varsity as a freshman, she’s soccer smart and has experience. Carissa was an outside back last year, but will play in the center slot. She’s experienced, athletic, quick and knows how to get to the ball.’’

A trio of midfielders are definite assets — seniors Erin Quaile and Bridgette Ginley and junior Stella Regan, who can also play forward.

“Erin has great instincts and good speed,’’ Geysen noted. “A four-year veteran, she’s got top-notch skills and a high soccer IQ. Bridgette is very athletic, possesses great speed and is tenacious to the ball whether she’s on offense or defense. Stella is recovering from a broken leg suffered last year. She’s worked hard in her rehab. A player with solid instincts, she’s also aggressive and has a high soccer IQ.’’

Senior Sydney St. Marie and junior Riley Fitzpatrick should provide the Panthers with some offensive punch.

“Sydney is a four-year veteran who’s aggressive and physical,’’ said Geysen. “A hard-nosed player, she’s quick up front, reads the play well and has experience. Riley is really quick. Her skills are very good and she can shoot well with either foot. She’ll help us up front.’’

Senior Julia Bertone is ticketed to start the season in goal. “She’s fearless,’’ Geysen said. “She plays the angles consistently, she’s vocal and also athletic.’’

Geysen, whose goals every season are to compete for the Hockomock League title and qualify for tourney play, has a different set of objectives in these pandemic times.

“I’d like us to be as successful as we can and be able to enjoy the moment,’’ he emphasized. “Think of the ups and downs these kids have had to deal with. At least now they can enjoy their sport and make the most of the moment.’’

Franklin’s schedule will include two games against each of their Kelly-Rex Division opponents (King Philip, Mansfield, Attleboro, Taunton and Milford). An 11th game could be added if the league’s A.D.s vote in favor of a playoff matchup of Kelly-Rex Division teams versus Davenport Division squads. A post-season format, however, is still to be determined.

During the 10-game schedule, teams will play the same opponent twice in the same week. “That’s designed to trace and pinpoint any illnesses that occur,’’ Geysen noted.

No stranger to teaching and coaching, Geysen is sensitive to what all students had to endure last spring when schools were closed for 3½ months. Not only were sports curtailed, but all kinds of extra-curricular activity also ended.

An English and social studies instructor for 35 years, Geysen taught at the middle school and high school levels in Franklin. On the athletic front, he coached a variety of sports at the varsity level — boys’ track, softball and boys’ basketball. As the girls’ soccer coach, he’s led the Panthers to 32 tourney appearances in 36 years and his 2012 squad won a State championship by defeating Nashoba.

Tom Geysen is acutely aware that high school soccer in 2020 will be played very differently than in previous years. But, he’s glad there will be a season.

“We’re taking a negative situation and making it as positive as possible,’’ he emphasized.