Ben Franklin’s seniors have no idea what it feels like to finish the girls soccer season without hoisting the state championship trophy, and clearly, they have no intentions of finding out.
The second-seeded Falcons are headed back to the state finals for a fourth straight season after posting an impressive 3-0 win over No. 3 Parkway in the Division II semifinals at Ben Franklin on Friday afternoon.
“I knew I just had to finish my chances,” said Yale signee Noelle Higginson, who scored two second-half goals. “I don’t play striker that often, but when I do, I try to score. My first goal was big. I hit one of the defenders with my first shot, and I just stuck my foot out hoping to get the rebound. I did, took a touch and just hit it in the side netting as best as I could.”
The Falcons (20-1-1) will play No. 4 Lakeshore in the state championship at 5 p.m. Friday, Feb. 26 at Tad Gormley Stadium.
The three-time defending state chams pressured the Panthers early and often, but it was Parkway that nearly took the lead in the 18th minute when Sara Funderburk unleashed a hard, low shot in the box that was saved by Caroline Clayton.
Parkway keeper Madelyn Elliott made save after save for the Panthers (26-6-1) until the 31st minute when Cadie Higginson scored on a 25-yard free kick that bounced off the underside of the crossbar and in for a 1-0 halftime lead.
“I sort of freaked out when I scored that,” Cadie Higginson, a Navy signee, said. “I was trying to decide power or finish, and it sort of just ended up being both. That was kind of lucky, but their keeper is really, really good, so I was happy to get one by her.”
The Panthers had a pair of chances to tie the match off free kicks near the box in the second half but couldn’t convert.
Ben Franklin finally extended its lead in the 67th minute on a shot by Noelle Higginson. She added a header off a corner from Gabby Donofrio three minutes later to set the final score.
Ben Franklin coach Jose Ferrand said he was proud of his players’ effort highlighted by sisters, Noelle and Cadie Higginson.
“We had our shots, but give credit to Parkway because they did make it difficult, and their keeper had a phenomenal game,” he said. “I think Noelle (Higginson) had a phenomenal game too. She put on a clinical out there.”
Parkway coach Brent Barker credited the play of Elliott, who recorded more than a dozen saves, but added that his squad simply could not convert on its chances.
“We just didn’t get our breaks,” he said. “We knew we had to be patient because we were going to get our opportunities. Our goal was to take advantage of those chances, and unfortunately, we didn’t.”