Laing added that if he decides to mark Poland’s high-scoring duo, the responsibilities will fall on eighth-grader Paige Fairchilds and freshman Mariah McNeilly.
Franklin’s longtime coach said Poland also has a pair of talented midfielders in Paige Sullivan and Alyssa Lepper.
To score against the Purple Devils, opposing offenses have had to beat senior goalie Haley Downin. Earlier this season, Laing said Downin was the best at her position in this area.
“I feel more confident with her than any other goalkeeper I’ve had,” Laing said of Downin, who has 14 shutouts this season. “The amount she’s improved over the past year to the keeper she is this year — technically, she’s real sound — she’s just improved over the year. She’s physically tougher this year.”
Offensively, Franklin has relied heavily on junior Jordan Beers and sophomore Jessie Downin, who is Haley’s cousin.
Beers has 24 goals and six assists this season, which ranks third among area girls. Her most recent goal came in the sectional final against Morris. Jessie Downin, who has 13 goals and six assists, set up Beers’ goal in the final.
“With Jordan, she has a way, and she is usually heavily marked, even against a good team like Morris, of getting loose,” said Laing, whose team is 11-0-1 since suffering back-to-back losses to Tri-Valley League rivals Cherry Valley-Springfield and Morris in late September. “She can hit it with her left or right foot and on set pieces, she’s good at servicing balls.”
Of Jessie Downin, Laing said: “She’s a little one — a small kid — but she seems to just be all around the field. I call her our cleaner. When there’s a loose ball, she’s usually the first one to it.”
Rob Centorani can be reached at email@example.com or 607-432-1000, ext. 209.