Sectional Crown Realistic Goal for Franklin Field Hockey

By Ken Hamwey Staff Sports Writer
Franklin High’s field hockey team will be an experienced one this year, with good prospects, says its head coach, Lisa Cropper.
Issue Date: 
September, 2017
Article Body: 

Lisa Cropper has guided the Franklin High field hockey team into tourney play seven straight years, and it’s very likely that her eighth year as head coach will result in more of the same.
Last year’s squad, which finished as Kelley-Rex Division champs in the Hockomock League, compiled an 11-3-4 overall record and an 11-1-4 mark in its division. Only four girls have graduated from that squad, leaving Cropper with seven returning starters and eight others who gained valuable experience last year.
“We’ll be explosive on offense this season,’’ the 54-year-old Cropper said. “The league’s top scorer (Annie Walsh) is back, and we’ve got other players with lots of speed and stick skills. But, we’ll need to improve our back-line defense. Three of our four graduated players were midfielders. And, we’ll need our goal-tenders to quickly gain experience.’’
Only two of Cropper’s seven tourney teams have advanced as far as the South Sectional semifinals. Last year’s Panthers downed Bridgewater-Raynham, 1-0, after a bye in the first round, then were eliminated in a 6-1 loss to Walpole.
“Our goals this year are to win the Kelley-Rex Division, become a top-five seed for the tourney and win the Sectional,’’ Cropper said. “Anything in the states would be icing on the cake.’’
Those objectives are definitely realistic, because the strengths of this year’s edition of the Panthers far outweigh any concerns. “Besides being explosive on offense, we’re also athletic and experienced,’’ Cropper said. “We’ve also got size, depth and a high field-hockey IQ. During the pre-season, we worked on solidifying our midfield and our goal-tending. We can also improve our corner play on offense and defense.’’
Franklin’s four captains are good starting points when assessing Cropper’s core group. They include seniors Kate Morse and Meri Gendreau (both defensive backs) and juniors Annie Walsh (forward) and Cassi Ronan (wing/midfield). Walsh, Ronan and Morse were league all-stars last year.
“They’re all top-notch leaders, and they’re talented and athletic,’’ Cropper said. “Kate is about 5-10 and she hits with power. She’s fast, clears well and has good stick skills. She’s our QB on defense. Meri is small but she’s got heart. A tiger on defense, she sets the tone there. She’s vocal, reliable and has good stick skills.’’
Cropper is also bullish on her junior captains. “Annie was the Hockomock League’s top scorer (14 goals, 11 assists) and also the Player of the Year,’’ she emphasized. “She’s got blinding speed, she’s quick and has excellent stick skills. She’s a catalyst, and her one-one moves are great. Cassi can change direction on a dime. She’s got strong hands, good field awareness and solid stick skills. She complements Annie very well.’’
Two juniors who’ll play key roles are Reagan Paterson (forward/midfield) and Emily Valentino (back/midfield/sweeper). “Reagan has good hands, sees the field well, is versatile and distributes the ball effectively,’’ Cropper said. “Emily is aggressive, steady, fast and coachable. She’s working to improve her stick skills.’’
A trio of seniors in Franklin’s pool of talent are Caroline Jackson (back/sweeper), Jolie Bua (back/sweeper) and Maddie Hinckley (wing). “Caroline has good speed for her 5-10 size,’’ Cropper said. “Her reach is great, she drives well, her field-hockey IQ is high and she plays tough defense. Jolie is up from the jayvees. She’s 5-8, has good speed, is coachable and her drives are tremendous. Maddie is a speedy wing who has good passing skills. She could also play as a midfielder.’’
Sophomores Maeve Ledwith (forward/midfield/back) and Erin Walsh (forward) will be dependable competitors. Cropper likes their speed and quickness. “Maeve is a speed demon, she’s relentless and very coachable,’’ she said. “Erin is quick, deceptive, good around the goal and her field awareness is solid. Her speed is exceptional.’’
Juniors Christine Luccini and Anna Jardine and sophomore Gianna Cameron are Cropper’s top goalie prospects. They all have different strengths and any of the three could start. “Christina has the most experience after starting last year,’’ Cropper noted. “She’s feisty, has a great attitude and work ethic. Anna was a jayvee player last year. She’s technically sound and steady. Gianna is athletic and in the mix after playing on the freshmen team.’’
If Franklin is to repeat as Kelley-Rex champs, Cropper firmly believes the key opposition will come from Mansfield and King Philip. She also views Canton and Foxboro as formidable teams in the Davenport Division. “So many of the teams in the league are talented,’’ Cropper noted. “The coaches are outstanding, and the players are skilled. It’s not uncommon for seven Hockomock League teams to qualify for tourney play.’’
A former softball coach at Tri County, Cropper has been Franklin’s head freshman softball coach for five years. She’s also been an assistant for the last eight years for the girls’ ice-hockey team. She relies on a coaching philosophy of empowering her players to reach their potential and to become strong team players. “If that happens, then willing will follow,’’ she said.
With those precepts in mind, Franklin High’s 2017 field hockey team should experience a good deal of success in the days ahead.