The Ben Franklin girls soccer team entered the 2015 Division II championship match on a 62-game winning streak. Two state title wins in the past two seasons accentuated the Falcons’ dominance during that stretch.
After Friday’s championship match, it’s time to up the ante to 63 consecutive wins for Franklin.
And don’t forget the state championship “three-peat.”
Ben Franklin, the third seed in Division II this year, dictated the pace against top-seeded Loyola Prep of Shreveport. The Falcons defeated top-seeded Loyola 3-2 on Friday evening at Tad Gormley Stadium in New Orleans’ City Park.
The seniors on the Franklin roster haven’t lost a game since they were freshmen. Despite that success, they played hungry Friday night — running down errant passes, cracking down on defense, and driving home shots when they needed to score.
It was the first loss of the season for Loyola Prep (28-1-2).
“We’ve really built this program up,” said senior Eleanor Pratt. “To get through three undefeated seasons and to win three championships in a row is just incredible. I dreamed about it when we were freshmen, but really, who thinks you can do that? It’s just unbelievable.”
Franklin (23-0-2) showed it was ready to defend its title early. The Falcons’ first score came in the fourth minute when Alex Thomas, a senior and an LSU commitment, backed into the left side of Flyers’ territory and set up just outside the box. Thomas whirled to her left, struck the ball in mid-rotation, and flipped a shot to the bottom right corner to give Franklin a 1-0 advantage.
Loyola’s best look of the first half came in the 20th minute, when Madeline Mays sneaked into the Franklin box off a cross and drilled an attempt to the net. The shot traveled just over the bar, however, and the Falcons maintained their 1-0 lead.
Thomas tallied again in the 23rd minute when she burst through the Loyola box and laced a shot to the bottom left corner. Noelle Higginson assisted on the score.
But the top-ranked Flyers (28-1-2) wouldn’t break. In the 34th minute, Bailey Freeman knocked a corner kick perfectly to the front of the Franklin goal. Lily Valiulis collected the ball and fired it to the back of the net to close the score to 2-1.
Franklin outshot Loyola 7-3 in the first half, and 13-6 in the match.
The Falcons increased their lead in the 45th minute on a free kick. Pratt pounded the shot from 30 yards over the top of Loyola goalkeeper Alexandra Peters to make the score 3-1. The Flyers rebounded with a score by Ashley Faith in the 62nd minute from the box to close the score to one goal. Rebecca Mays assisted the Loyola goal.
The Flyers came out firing after that goal, with two shots in the next two minutes. Both were stopped by the Franklin goalkeeper, though, and the score remained the same.
“This is just amazing,” said Thomas, the game’s MVP. “Eleanor just is amazing on free kicks. That goal gave us just the lift that we needed.”
Franklin coach Jose Ferrand, who also coached the Franklin boys in Friday’s Division II final, said he was still trying to wrap his brain around the idea of his girls winning a third consecutive title.
“It hasn’t hit me yet,” he said. “The 63 wins; that’s big. But we haven’t lost, and that’s bigger. That’s what to me is so incredible. We do lose Alex and Eleanor and some other players next year who have been so critical to this success. No one has given up. No regrets. We’ve been working hard, and we’ll be working hard next year too.”