Ben Franklin girls take on soccer power Vandebilt

NEW ORLEANS — It doesn’t take a math major to determine a favorite in the LHSAA Division II girls state soccer championship, though the Ben Franklin Falcons might have taken a slide rule to calculate the probability of winning.

Fact: No. 1-seeded Vandebilt Catholic (26-2-1) is making its sixth consecutive trip to the state finals, winning in 2008 and ‘09 and losing the past three years.

Coach Philip Amedee starts nine seniors with tons of big-game experience, including the duo of Kimberly Grasso and Makelle Pena, each of whom scored three goals in a 7-1 semifinal victory against Lutcher.

Fact: The No. 3-seed Falcons (19-0-0) will be playing in their first state championship since winning in 2004. Coach Jose Ferrand starts five freshmen, including striker Alex Thomas, who has scored a school-record 43 goals.

Conclusion: Come rain or shine at 11 a.m. Saturday at Tad Gormley Stadium, the numbers all add up for the Lady Terriers to emerge victorious.

But that’s why they play the game.

“I’m sure some people are looking at us and saying that we didn’t play in any (in-season) tournaments, and we don’t deserve to be ranked No. 3,’’ said Falcons senior defender Audrey Peterson, who, along with freshman defender Amalia Scalos, serve as co-captains. “And I must admit it wasn’t a conscience thing that I thought we’d be playing for a state championship this season.

“When we first came together, we were all separate players with our own skills from all walks of life. But we’ve found ways to integrate our five club players (four freshmen, one sophomore) with the other players to make a team. We’ve become more than a team now. We’ve gotten real close. We’ve become a family.’’

That was never more evident than in their semifinal game at defending state champion Teurlings Catholic when the Falcons trailed 2-0 with 30 minutes remaining, their largest deficit of the season. But they found the resolve to advance 3-2, thanks to two goals in regulation by senior winger Jenny Kjellgren and the winning goal in the second overtime by sophomore middle Eleanor Pratt.

“Even when we were down 2-0, we believed we could come back,’’ Peterson said.

Though annually regarded as one of the nation’s best public high schools in the nation, Ben Franklin occasionally makes its mark on the athletic fields, particularly in volleyball, soccer, swimming and tennis.

“We definitely have a soccer tradition here at Franklin,’’ Ferrand said. “It’s taken us three our four years to built it back up after Katrina but we’re getting there.

“It’s taken us a while to come together this season to integrate our incoming soccer-club players with our other soccer players on the team. But we’re getting there. So yeah, the No. 3 ranking was definitely a slight but what matters is how we play this last game.’’

Division II boys

ST. LOUIS (19-5-6) vs. BEAU CHENE (20-3-5): Led by senior middle Alex Kjellsten and keeper Marcus McNamara, the Saints will be going for their fourth consecutive state championship at 1:30 p.m. at Gormley Stadium.

The Gators, who hope to have junior forward Brock Hollier in the lineup after injuring a knee against Ben Franklin in the semifinals, will be playing in the school’s first boys state championship game.

Senior forward Cole Olivier, sophomore defender Gavin Stelly and senior keeper Jeremy Meche are other players to watch for Beau Chene.