No. 2 Mars maintains shutout streak with win over Franklin Regional

Monday, October 9, 2017 | 10:03 PM

Franklin Regional's girls soccer team had aspirations of ending Mars' season-long shutout streak against section opponents Monday, but the Panthers became the latest team to succumb to the Planets' strong defense, goaltending and possession-heavy offense.

The Class AAA No. 2 Planets got a hat trick from Maggie Williams and didn't allow a goal for the ninth consecutive Section 1 game in a 4-0 victory over the Panthers at Mars Athletic Complex.

Williams, a senior, scored in the 10th minute and added two more goals in the second half.

Freshman Caroline Wroblewski scored a goal in the final minute of the first half.

That cushion was plenty for Mars goalie Claire Valentine, who stopped eight shots, and her defense.

“They have talented girls all through the lineup, and they're coached well. You can't mess with that combination,” Franklin Regional coach Rich Garland said. “They know what they want to do, and they impose their will on teams.”

Mars (12-1, 9-0) has one more section game at Hampton on Wednesday. Planets coach Blair Gerlach said they had a similar streak in 2011 when they went on to win the PIAA title but tied with Knoch, 2-2, in the final section game.

“I think it was the last section game against Knoch and the two girls that scored played on my Northern Steel cup team,” Gerlach said. “I've been hearing about that from them since 2011.”

Gerlach called the streak a “cool side note,” but is more pleased with how his team is playing considering its youth. The Planets have only three seniors.

“This year, we thought it was going to be a rebuilding year because we're starting four freshmen,” Gerlach said. “The idea was to try a couple different formations and different styles to see which one fits us. Right out of the chute, we found a couple of things that worked. With the work rate and the effort of the girls, I shouldn't have been surprised, but I didn't know what I was going to have. The girls have come in with the mindset that Mars has a tradition, and it isn't going to end on their watch.”

Franklin Regional (10-4, 6-3) broke Mars' 86-game section unbeaten streak last year with a 2-1 victory last September. The Panthers had several chances to score, but couldn't breach the Mars goal.

The Panthers' best opportunity for a goal came in the fifth minute when Victoria Rothrauff sent a rising shot from 25 yards that looked to be ticketed for just under the crossbar, but Valentine jumped up and pushed the ball over the goal.

“I have struggled in the past with my confidence on high balls, and I've been working really hard to get better at stopping them,” Valentine said. “To be able to make that save felt really good. It shows that I'm growing as a player.”

Valentine's counterpart, Sydney Caldwell, made several nice stops to keep the score close early on before Mars broke it open in the second half. Caldwell, a freshman, is starting in place of Tiffany Jolayemi, who is one of three Franklin Regional starters sidelined because of injury.

Caldwell's best stop came in the 32nd minute when she dove at the left post with her right arm to keep a shot from Wroblewski out of the net.

“(Caldwell) is very good technically,” Garland said. “She knows how to catch and she knows how we want the organization of the defense. She stays close to the defense and that it's important. Calla (Solomon) does a good job clearing out the mess in front of (Caldwell), so she can read the shots well. She is very good at staying in position.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer.

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