FHS Girls Soccer Squad Aiming for Tournament Success
Franklin High’s captains are, from left, Clare Bowen, Izzy Arnold. Stella Regan and Chloe Barca.
By KEN HAMWEY
Staff Sports Writer
Playoff soccer offers no guarantees, but the Franklin High girls squad seems like it’s ready for a deep advance in the Division 1 tournament that gets underway this month.
High expectations sometimes get derailed by overconfidence, injuries or unlucky circumstances. But, coach Jodi Klein’s contingent, which had a 9-1-2 record at Local Town Pages’ deadline, has all the ingredients to be successful in what should be a challenging post-season stretch.
“We’ve asked the girls to perform at a high level this season,’’ said Klein, the Panthers’ interim head coach. “We’ve got lots of potential and have the ability to do well in the tourney. What’s important is to remain solid on defense but be equally strong as an attacking offense.
Klein, who’s filling in for Tom Geysen after he suffered a severe leg injury, has been Franklin’s freshman and jayvee coach during her first three years with the program. Now, the 44-year-old Framingham native is guiding the varsity as its interim coach, and so far, she likes the attributes her players have displayed.
“We’ve got talent, depth, and experience,’’ Klein emphasized. “The girls are athletic, technically skilled, have a high soccer IQ and are fast and quick. Their goals at the start of the season were to win the Kelly-Rex Division title, to enjoy their athletic experience and to advance deep into the tournament.’’
The division crown and a deep playoff run are definitely in the cards. Four girls who’ll play key roles in taking the division title and going far in the tourney are the senior captains — center midfielders Stella Regan and Chloe Barca, outside midfielder Clare Bowen, and outside back Izzy Arnold.
“Stella is very calm and composed,’’ Klein said. “She distributes the ball effectively, has great field awareness and a high soccer IQ. She’s also very sound in transition. Chloe is a tall target who’s very instinctive, good in transition, a sound decision-maker and quick on her feet. Clare is aggressive, gritty and enthusiastic. An excellent attacker in midfield, she’s very intense. Izzy has adjusted well to our possession style. She’s incredibly strong, tenacious and a tough one-on-one defender.’’
As leaders, the quartet gets high marks. “Our captains lead by example and by being vocal and supportive,’’ Klein offered. “They set high performance standards in practice.’’
Another senior, outside midfielder Riley Fitzpatrick, is a quality contributor. “Riley is fast, strong and has a huge offensive mindset,’’ Klein said. “She really doesn’t know how good she is.’’
Two juniors who’ve played efficiently are Norah Anderson (center defense) and Bridget Leo (center midfielder).
“Norah is a big, strong tenacious defender who anchors our back line,’’ Klein noted. “Her timing on her tackles is great and she’s outstanding distributing the ball out of the backfield. Bridget has a quiet presence; she’s smart and composed. Possessing lots of offensive ability, she isn’t afraid to take a deep shot.’’
Two sophomores in prime-time roles are goalie Rachel Welch and striker Anya Zub.
“Rachel has incredible awareness of the penalty area,’’ Klein said. “A great communicator, she’s got fantastic technical skills, is instinctive and has a very high soccer IQ. Anya has quick feet, she’s well-skilled, and she finishes strong. She’s at the right place at the right time.’’
Freshman Kelly O’Connor is a top-notch attacking midfielder. “Kelly always wants the ball and is eager to advance it towards the goalie,’’ Klein said. “Her first instinct is to score. She’s technically sound, relies on great footwork and has excellent one-on-one skills.’’
At Local Town Pages’ deadline, Zub was the team’s leading scorer with 17 goals and 3 assists for 20 points. Regan was second with 8 goals and 3 assists for 11 points, and Welch had a goals-against average of 0.60.
Klein, who was a Bay State League all-star striker at Framingham High, has altered Franklin’s up-tempo style to a controlled possession approach. “We’ll adjust and change depending on personnel and our opponents,’’ she offered. “I lean towards keeping the ball, not forcing the play and just letting the game unfold. If our opponents give us an opening, then we’ll move quickly and bank on crisp passing.’’
At Framingham High, Klein also played basketball and softball and she was a captain in soccer as a senior. When the Flyers’ soccer team competed for the state title in 1993 against Springfield Cathedral, they finished as runners-up, but Klein was chosen as the tourney MVP.
After graduation, Klein enrolled at Stoneybrook College in New York and played varsity soccer for four years. She earned two bachelor’s degrees, one in biology and psychology, and the other in health science. She also has a clinical doctorate from Stoneybrook in physical therapy and works as a physical therapist.
Klein works to ensure that her players reach their potential and enjoy their time competing. “I also want players to compete at a high level, to be creative, and not be afraid of making mistakes,’’ she emphasized, adding hopes sports will guide her players in “being humble, being life-long learners, becoming leaders and maintaining physical and mental health.’’
No matter how the state tourney unfolds, Klein is glad this season has returned to a sense of normalcy. “There’s been no Covid-19 soccer rules, we’ve played without masks, and we’ve followed the protocols,’’ she said. “I’m a proponent of vaccinations and believe they’ve helped.’’
What will buoy the Franklin girls’ soccer squad is a lengthy streak of success in the playoffs. The players and their coach are focused on that goal. And, with all hands on deck and on the same page, tourney success could definitely be in the mix for the Panthers.