NEW ORLEANS — If the members of the Ben Franklin girls soccer team had any doubt that they could compete for a state title, they don’t anymore.
With a 4-1 whipping of Lakeshore on Saturday afternoon, the Falcons not only secured the Division II, District 7 title, but they proved to themselves that a state crown is within their reach.
“It was a huge win,” Franklin freshman Noelle Higgison said. “It really boosts our morale (heading into playoffs). To win district, we feel like we can do this; we can win states.”
The Falcons entered the contest ranked third in the state Division II poll, while the Titans were No. 4. Saturday’s victory gave Franklin a season sweep of district power Lakeshore, which, before losing at home to the Falcons on Jan. 8, hadn’t lost a district game in more than three years.
With Saturday’s loss, Lakeshore falls to 11-8-1, while Franklin improved to 15-0-0. The girls’ win also gave Franklin two district soccer titles in two days. The Falcons boys clinched the Division I, District 7 championship Friday with their own 4-1 thumping of Lakeshore.
“We told the girls in the beginning of the game that we’ve got to send a statement, especially for (playoff) seedings,” Franklin coach Jose Ferrand said. “I like the way we’re starting to play.”
As for Lakeshore, the Titans are left to regroup and get ready for the postseason. After consoling his somber team following Saturday’s defeat, Titans coach Wes Leake tried to put things in perspective.
“It’s like any other sport,” Leake said. “You have ebbs and flows.”
Things were certainly flowing for Lakeshore at the start of Saturday’s game. The Titans controlled play early and claimed a 1-0 lead in the 11th minute when sophomore Haylee Atwell found the back of the net to open the scoring.
But the Lakeshore lead didn’t last long. About eight minutes later, Higgison netted the equalizer off an assist from freshman Alex Thomas.
Franklin took the lead — and seemingly broke the Titans’ will — in the 36th minute when Thomas converted a penalty kick after a foul call in the box to give her squad a 2-1 halftime edge.
“The players got down after that second goal,” Leake said. “It kind of deflated us right before halftime.”
While the penalty kick torpedoed Lakeshore’s hopes, it energized the Falcons.
“After (the Titans) scored, I just knew we could come back,” Thomas said. “We had no doubt. I know my team, so I knew we were going to get back.”
Although Lakeshore showed spurts of spirit in the second half, Franklin gradually seized control, a trend that came through in the 54th minute, when Falcons sophomore Eleanor Pratt knocked home a header to give her team a 3-1 lead.
Pratt then helped seal the deal 14 minutes later when she lofted a corner kick into the box, where Thomas headed it into the net.
Saturday’s defeat leaves Lakeshore with one more chance to alter its momentum before playoff seedings are announced Tuesday when it hosts the state’s ninth-ranked team, Pearl River, on Monday. Leake said that if the Titans are going to have any chance of marching to a state crown, they have to do a better job of salting away their scoring chances and gaining cohesion in the defensive third.
Franklin also has one regular-season contest left, a home match against Cabrini on Monday. Thomas said the Falcons don’t want to be satisfied with just a district championship.
“Our main goal is to win states,” Thomas said. “This is nice and all, but we still have a long way to go.”