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FHS Girls’ Soccer Team Has Plenty of Strengths Coach Returns after Serious Injury

Coach Tom Geysen has guided the Franklin High girls soccer team to 33 playoff berths.

By KEN HAMWEY, Staff Sports Writer
The Franklin High girls’ soccer team has a different look than last year’s squad — veteran coach Tom Geysen has returned after suffering a leg injury that forced him to miss the 2021 season.
The 78-year-old Geysen, who’s guided the Panthers to 33 tourney berths in 37 years and led Franklin to a state championship in 2012, underwent surgery for a fractured femur (thigh bone). Geysen’s rehab, which took six months. 

 The captains for the Franklin High girls’ soccer team are Bridget Leo, left, and Norah Anderson. 

In his absence, jayvee coach Jodi Klein did a solid job as the Panthers posted a 14-1-1 record, then went 1-1 in the state tourney where they were eliminated by Brookline. 
Geysen, who also has coached boys’ track for almost 30 years, is pleased to return to soccer. 
“I’m happy to be back, felling really blessed,’’ he emphasized. “I saw as many games as I could last year, whether I was in a wheelchair or using a cane. The girls are passionate about soccer, and I wanted to share their passion with them. My family is most important, but the best part of my day is being with the kids.’’
Although the new season is young, one thing that hasn’t changed is the Panthers’ relentless nature that’s been a key to the program’s success. At Local Town Pages’ deadline, Franklin was off to a good start, winning its opener against Oliver Ames, 2-0.
Geysen’s 22-player roster has a plethora of strengths, and he’s quick to list them.
“We’ve got players who are athletic, have a high soccer IQ, are technically sound, are mentally tough, and rely on team chemistry,’’ he said. “We’ve also got experience and depth.’’
Geysen’s top goal for his squad is to win the Hockomock League’s Kelley-Rex Division. And, he also wants the girls to be playing their best against elite opponents.
“If we achieve those objectives, then we’ll be ready for the challenges the tourney presents,’’ he noted. “We hope we can go on a run, but it takes both luck and being good to win a state title. That’s not something I think about at this point in the season.’’
Franklin’s leadership team starts with its captains and seniors Bridget Leo (midfielder) and Norah Anderson (center back) get high marks.
“Both lead by example, are athletic and four-year veterans,’’ Geysen said. “Bridget is capable on offense and defense. She’s instinctive, has a high soccer IQ, her field sense is good and she’s tactically strong. Norah is a league all-star who’s tenacious on defense, technically sound, smart, physical and mentally tough. She knows how to stop an offensive attack.’’
Hockomock all-star Anya Zub led the team in scoring last year (20 goals, 5 assists) and the junior striker again is a major key to Franklin’s offense. “Anya is a terrific scorer,’’ Geysen said. “She’s got speed, is aggressive and feisty. Very competitive, she’s as good a field player as I’ve ever had.’’
Another all-star who’ll be counted on heavily is junior goalie Rachel Welch. “Rachel was both a league and an Eastern Mass. all-star,’’ Geysen said. “She was the best goalie in the league last year, (with) an instinctive nature, good hands, she’s fearless and vocal. Technically sound, she punts the ball to the midfield effectively.’’
Three senior midfielders Geysen can rely on are Tori Carmignani, Avery Greco and Chloe Stavely.
“Tori has a nice touch on the ball,’’ he said. “She’s a four-year veteran who can also play wing. Her field awareness, technique and skills are strong, and she’s got passion for the game. Avery is aggressive and very quick. She’s coachable, aggressive and has a strong work ethic. Chloe is quick, technically sound on defense, and physical. Not afraid of contact, she’s good in transition.’’
Other seniors include Katie Ewald (defender), Haylie Aniki (goalie) and Hailey Baima (forward).
“Katie is a three-year veteran who’s grown into the defender we thought she’d be,’’ Geysen offered. “She’s smart, deceptively quick, tactically sound and not afraid of contact. Haylie (Aniki) is a back-up goalie who’s fearless, instinctive and relies on sound technique. She’s got strong hands and plays the ball well. Hailey (Baima) has good game sense at forward, she’s reliable and knows where to play the ball.’’
Three capable juniors include forward Olivia Costa, center back Maddie Horton and defender Lily Deforge.
“Olivia has improved greatly,’’ said Geysen. “She’s got speed and good moves. Maddie is steady, physical and reliable. A fine decision-maker, she’s an effective positional player. Lily is a strong and tough defender who’s improved, is athletic and consistent.’’
Two other juniors include midfielder Selene Hammad and defender Alli Powderly. “Selene is a tactical player who’s smooth with the ball and solid in transition,’’ Geysen said. “Alli has finesse, she reads the play well, is reliable, steady and skilled.’’
Two sophomores in the mix are forward Kelly O’Connor and newcomer Eiley Cinelli at defender. “Kelly can score,’’ Geysen said. “She can change speeds quickly, play a physical or finesse style, and is a nightmare for defenders to mark. Eiley is new and still learning, but she’s got size, no fear of contact and is eager to learn. She’s got a strong leg and can shoot.’’
Franklin’s program has two jayvee coaches, and Geysen is glad he’s got Klein and Jen Duncan on board. “They’re both very capable and know how to teach the game,’’ he said.
A native of Charlestown, Geysen strives to instill the importance of effort. “There’s not much fun in losing but players have to understand that losing is part of sports,’’ he said. “If the girls give me their best effort, that usually results in winning. And, the life lessons they can learn as competitors are how to overcome adversity, how to be good leaders and teammates, how to manage their time and how to set goals.’’
Franklin’s girls will strive to achieve the goals Geysen has laid out. They know King Philip and North Attleboro will aim to unseat them as Kelley-Rex Division champs (three straight years). And, they’ll no doubt be at their best against elite teams. As for the state tourney, ask Tom Geysen about that next month. When it really matters.