LYNN — Kristi Kirshe’s 100th career goal gave the Franklin girls’ soccer team the lead for good on Wednesday night, and the top-ranked Panthers (21-0-1) advanced to the Division 1 state final with a 2-0 win over Beverly at Manning Field.
Kirshe’s strike, which came off a free kick from 28 yards in the seventh minute, was her fourth of the postseason.
“I knew [my 100th goal] was coming, but I’m more happy with the win than the goal,” she said. “I’m not focused on scoring. I’d give up that ball any time, as long as someone else got the goal.”
Kirshe’s attitude is indicative of the way Franklin, which had never advanced to the state final, has played this season.
“You have to be willing to do whatever you can do for the team,” said Franklin coach Tom Geysen. “At the beginning of the season I told the team that if they could sacrifice self for the team then we’d have a chance to be successful.
“If you had asked me at the beginning of this season if there was any chance that we’d wind up 21-0-1 this season, I would have said, ‘What, are you daft?’ But they’ve come together and they have never done anything except play for each other.”
With a little less than 30 minutes to play, Beverly put together its best scoring chance when sophomore Eva Gourdeau threaded a cross into the box that just missed connecting with leading scorer Caitlin Harty (50 goals on the season).
Beverly called a timeout 10 minutes later and moved its goalkeeper, Casey Cook, into the midfield in an effort to generate offensive opportunities.
“You’re in the state semifinals, there’s no tomorrow,” said Beverly coach Kristin Simpson. “If you’re losing, then you have to give it everything you have, and Casey is a great field player as well as a keeper. She generates a lot of attacks, so I thought we’d take that chance.”
However, shortly after the move, Franklin’s Taylor Cogliano took advantage of a miscommunication between the back line of the Beverly defense and raced in on a breakaway, making a move to her left to score an insurance goal.
After watching a 3-0 lead with 3:30 to play against Oliver Ames in the Division 1 North final turn into a nail-biting 3-2 win earlier this week, the goal did little to calm the nerves of Geysen.
“There wasn’t any relief on my part until the referee blew the whistle at the end of the game,” he said. “You feel good about having gotten that second goal because it’s a little bit of insurance, but there was no relief for me right then, not after what we went through the other day.”
Franklin will play Central Mass. champion Nashoba (18-0-4) for the state title Friday at 5 p.m. at Worcester State.
“I think that as long as we play as a team, no one can stop us,” said Kirshe. “Most of the time, when we give up a goal, it’s because we made a mistake. As long as we play together, we can play against any team in the state.”