Franklin-Elk Grove girls soccer shed it’s past of near-misses by winning its first SJS title.
By JIM McCUE | Senior Contributor
The postgame screams and hugs were unrehearsed and filled with pure joy and a hint of relief.
The penalty kicks that earned the Franklin Wildcats the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I Girls Soccer Championship over top-seeded Davis, on the other hand, were the result of extensive practice and repetition.
“We started practicing PKs as soon as we got into the playoffs because so many games can come down to 0-0, and last year we had a game go to penalty kicks (a second-round win over Vintage-Napa),” said Franklin head coach Eliseo Lopez.
In 80 minutes of play in regulation and 20 more in overtime, neither Franklin nor Davis could capitalize on the few opportunities that were presented to the two teams that were defensive stalwarts all season long, allowing a combined 19 goals in 43 games. Both goalkeepers maintained clean sheets like they had so many times during the season to force penalty kicks to determine the section champion.
When the shootout became a reality, Lopez allowed his players to determine the five shooters and hoped that the Wildcats would win the coin toss to force the Blue Devils to shoot first. Franklin had previously lost a coin toss with Davis to determine the higher playoff seed after the teams finished with identical 9-1 Delta Valley Conference records, but made the right call at midfield to set the stage for senior goalkeeper Marcela Young.
Young calmly made a diving save of Kalani Ratnasiri’s attempt to the left side on the first penalty kick to open the door for the Wildcats to seize control of the shootout.
“It was huge to get that first save, and I think it relaxed the shooters,” Young said of the stop.
Senior Julia Alltop and sophomore Lauren Williams buried their shots in the back of the net to start Franklin’s round of five shots, and the Wildcats never trailed in the penalty kick shootout. Davis would get three successful shots on goal to finally set up the climactic finish for senior Christiana Atteberry.
After Atteberry sent a hard shot past Davis goalkeeper Maddy Purves, the celebration was on for the Wildcats, who ran to Atteberry and Young at the top of the penalty box for a dogpile that was a familiar sight at the section championships, but foreign to the Franklin players.
The section title was the first for a program that has consistently competed at the highest level in recent years, but never broken
the stranglehold that Davis and St. Francis have had on the championship for the last 15 years.
The Troubadours and Blue Devils have won 13 of the last 15 SJS Division I titles, and Franklin lost in the final last year to Lincoln-Stockton in their lone trip to the championship match. The victory was also the first girls’ soccer section win for a school from the Elk Grove Unified School District.
“It’s amazing for us,” Young said of the historic win. “There is a lot of school pride, and it made it even sweeter to beat our rivals that we have battled so many times.”
Franklin (17-3-0) is hopeful that the young talent returning next year can continue the new tradition of success that began at nearby Cosumnes Oaks High in front of a large crowd that looked more like a turnout for a Wildcats’ football game.
“We made history with a young team,” Lopez said. “We have 13 seniors, but we also have a lot of young players who contributed a lot for us. Last year we were a little immature, but this year these girls were hungry, and wanted to come out of here with the win, especially with this crowd.”
At least the next time that Franklin earns an SJS banner on the soccer field, the Wildcats will be familiar with the postgame celebration.
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