Franklin's veteran girls soccer team went into yesterday's game at Hereford determined to carry over the momentum built during last season's run to the state Class 3A title game.
It didn't take long to get rolling again. Ashley Harris scored in the third minute and No. 9 Franklin went on to beat the Bulls, 3-0, on the first day of action for Maryland public school teams.
A year ago, the Indians won eight straight games before falling to a superior River Hill team, 3-0, in the state final. Still, a lot of cohesiveness and determination carried over from that improbable late-season run, which overcame a 3-6-1 start.
"It was definitely important to keep up the momentum," Indians senior Meghan Higgins said, "because once we saw that No. 9 ranking, our team was all psyched for this. We have the potential, but we couldn't be overconfident."
There was no sign of overconfidence as Higgins and Erin Chisnell controlled the ball in the middle while the Indians played steady defense and took advantage of first-half miscues by the rebuilding Bulls.
"I told the kids at halftime that we were never up 3-0 on Hereford at halftime," Franklin coach George Wagner said. "We only lost two of our starters, which surely helps us, and our defense played really well."
Harris put the Indians on the board off a feed from Liora Lobel after Bulls goalie Nikki Buser slid for the ball but couldn't get it.
Harris and Lobel connected again in the 36th minute. This time Harris nailed a shot off Buser's body, the ball caromed over to the unmarked Lobel, who netted the rebound.
Three minutes later, Brittany Roberts added the Indians' final goal, a high shot that slipped through Buser's hands.
In the Hereford head coaching debut of Nancy Ferguson, who guided Fallston to state titles in 1994 and 1996, her Bulls challenged more in the second half. But they spent too much time on defense in the first half as Hereford outshot them 9-3.
With less experience than the Indians and no scrimmages under their belts, the Bulls were more tentative going to the ball. Franklin's speedy defense, led by Wendy Stahl and Nikki Wilner, took advantage of every hesitation.
"Just experience with each other is what we need right now," said Bulls defender Jessica Allen, whose team lost all but five starters. "We need the combinations, just working well together. That comes with time."