Franklin Regional girls soccer thriving under 1st-year coach’s new system

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Tuesday, October 6, 2020 | 4:47 PM


Sitting atop Section 1-AAA with a half-game lead as this late-starting girls’ soccer season nears its halfway point pleases Franklin Regional. The Panthers didn’t expect to be in this position.

It has happened organically, a byproduct of a commitment to a new coach and his new style of play.

But make no mistake: The Panthers like the position they’re in.

“I am very surprised because the section is so strong,” Panthers first-year coach Scott Arnold said. “We have played well, but several of the games have been extremely difficult. There is a lot of chance in soccer, and, so far, we have been lucky and the results have gone our way. I expect the rest of the season to only get tougher.”

Franklin Regional (6-0-1), which hosts Hampton (6-1, 6-1) on Wednesday night in a first-place clash in Section 1-3A, is ranked No. 5 in Class 3A by the Tribune-Review. That ranking, and the team’s sound play, are a result of a new scheme put in place by Arnold, who also coaches the Pittsburgh Hotspurs in the Women’s Premier Soccer League.

The new style is based on the model used by the higher-level team.

“Positioning is really important for us,” Arnold said. “Every player should always be contributing to the game, whether providing passing options to your teammate or simply positioning to make the field very large or pinning opposing players to create space for their teammates.”

The positioning concept, which is always a play or two ahead, gives the player with the ball options.

“Then they determine solutions and make a decision based upon the opponent’s positioning,” said Arnold, who replaced Rich Garland, a successful coach in his own right who in now the coach at Mt. Pleasant. “In addition to being a fun and pretty effective way to play, I believe and hope it will reduce injuries. This is because we try to minimize the number of physical challenges from 50-50s, bouncing balls, aerial duels (etc.).”

It takes talent, knowledge and cooperation to make a new system such as Arnold’s work, and the coach has three key seniors he can rely on: midfielder Halle Jakiela, goalkeeper Sydney Caldwell and defender Sam Cavalier.

Patience is another key component to the system. Getting out of position not only could blow their cover, in a sense, but it also could lead to detrimental results on the other end of the pitch.

Arnold is pleased with the girls’ early command of the scheme.

“We have been pretty good at keeping our composure so far,” Arnold said. “On the field probably the most noticeable thing about us is our willingness to build out from the back and circulate the ball. When our opponents press aggressively, we do our best to stay calm and continue to find and pass to open players. It can be really difficult sometimes, but playing under pressure is helping us to improve.”

The Panthers have outscored their opponents 23-2 over the first seven games. They have five shutouts.

Franklin Regional tied for a section title in 2016 but hasn’t won a section outright since 2014.

The main scoring threats for the Panthers have been junior midfielder Sydney Lindeman, sophomore forward Sierra Todero and junior forward Sydney Kranick.

With midfielders and forwards pitching in on defense, the Panthers have been a tough bunch to score against.

That includes junior Annie Klingensmith, Jakiela, junior Benna Kaforey and Lindeman, along with the anchor back foursome of Cavalier, junior Abby Bogler, sophomore Riley Phillips and sophomore Mauriana Dorsch.

Caldwell, a Seton Hill commit, is one of the top keepers in Class AAA.

“Sydney is truly a well-rounded, elite modern goalkeeper,” Arnold said. “Beyond being an excellent shot-stopper, her distribution skills are vital to how we play.”

Arnold sounded like he was referring to a quarterback when he noted Caldwell “completed 31 of 33 passes,” including three into the attacking half of the field in a recent game.

Arnold simply has a passion for soccer. He still plays in adult leagues in Pittsburgh.

“Even the over-40 league has three divisions with promotion and relegation,” he said. “I am rostered on a couple teams and play when I can.”

Arnold and his family moved to Latrobe from Cincinnati when he was 12. His parents helped start the Latrobe boys program.

He went to Penn State but only took part in intramurals and indoor soccer. He later played in the Greater Pittsburgh Soccer League.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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