FULTON — From Franklin’s standpoint, the level of dominance Poland displayed Saturday brought with it one positive: Haley Downin got a chance to showcase her many talents on a soccer field.
The Purple Devils senior goalie dived, jumped, darted, anticipated and reacted, and did it all with a flair rarely seen at the Class D level.
In spite of Downin’s efforts, Franklin’s first state playoff game ended with a 4-1 loss in a Class D girls quarterfinal at Fulton High.
Tornadoes freshman Mikayla Blumenstock increased her goal total to 35, scoring three times, and teammate Paige Sullivan contributed one goal.
Those two were the most talented of Poland’s players, but the Tornadoes had many others who played a role in this convincing victory. Not only was this Poland squad fast and aggressive, but it was skilled.
On Fulton High’s artificial turf — a surface that sometimes can make good teams look average — Poland passed with accuracy, controlled hard bounces with ease and dribbled with precision.
At times, it seemed the Tornadoes moved faster with the ball than Franklin’s defenders moved without it.
“They’re very good at receiving, taking the ball back, and if we pressured them, good enough to lay the ball back to someone behind and play it on,” 28th-year Franklin coach J.J. Laing coach said of Poland. “They’re a very solid squad. As I told the girls after the game, sometimes you’re the windshield and sometimes you’re the bug.”
Still, it was Franklin (15-3-1) that scored first.
Junior Jordan Beers set it up with some nifty footwork on the left side of the field. Beers shifted gears several times — going from medium speed to fast — to beat a defender along the end line. Beers then sent a low cross into the middle of the box. Jessie Downin, Haley’s cousin, ran onto the ball and volleyed it into the left side of the goal from 8 yards.