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Franklin Regional girls soccer dealing with adversity

Doug Gulasy | Murrysville Star
Franklin Regional senior Cassidy LeDonne attempts to fend off two Gateway defenders during a game Aug. 31, 2013, at Franklin Regional High School.

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What: Belle Vernon (1-3) at Franklin Regional (3-1)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Where: Franklin Regional Stadium

The skinny: Franklin Regional takes a break from conference play with a home game against the Leopards, whom the Panthers beat, 35-7, last season.

Top high school sports
Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Franklin Regional girls soccer coach Rich Garland tried to instill a message to his team during the first half of the season: “The strongest swords go through the hottest fires.”

Then again, his players probably know that more than most.

The Panthers (3-6-1, 2-3-1) stood in fifth place in Section 1-AAA after Monday's game, behind Latrobe (2-2-1) and Kiski (2-2). The top three teams from each section advance to the playoffs.

After a first half full of injuries and other adversity, however, Franklin Regional is hoping for a better finish to the season.

“When you're confronted with adverse situations, you've got a choice to make,” Garland said. “You can either pack it up and go home, take your lumps, or you can try to overcome. These girls have taken on that challenge.”

Much of Franklin Regional's problems during the first half of the season came about because of injury. Goalkeeper Amanda Thomas suffered a severe elbow injury during a preseason game, forcing Garland to move midfielder Dana Altman to the position — one she hadn't played since eighth grade.

“I give her all the credit in the world because if somebody asked me, I'd be like, ‘I'm sorry, I'm a defender,' ” senior Cassidy LeDonne said. “She stepped up to the plate when we needed her the most, and I can't thank her enough for it.”

In addition to Thomas, whom the team expects to return in early October, four Franklin Regional players suffered concussions during the first half of the season.

“It's definitely made it difficult because we had a lot of good players out,” senior Gionna Fonseca said. “But people are coming back.”

With several of Franklin Regional's key players out, Garland said the team's confidence took a hit early in the season.

He said that contributed to a 4-0 loss against Penn-Trafford on Sept. 11.

“We were still kind of fumbling in the back, trying to figure out how to defend (and) deny shots,” Garland said. “So it was an aberration, I think, more than representative of how we play. I thought the possession was fine; we just couldn't block any shots. But we've corrected that.”

The Panthers' improvement showed in a 2-1 loss last week to Class AAA No. 1 Norwin. Though Franklin Regional lost, the Panthers held the lead in the second half.

“Norwin's ranked No. 1 in the area,” LeDonne said. “If that's saying anything, I'm pretty sure we can keep up with anyone.”

Franklin Regional lost to Hampton, 3-0, in a nonsection game Monday and was scheduled to open the second half of section play at Latrobe on Wednesday. The Panthers will host Connellsville at 6 p.m. Thursday.

During the second half of the season, Franklin Regional likely will find itself competing with teams like Hempfield, Latrobe and Kiski for the section's third playoff spot. Norwin and Penn-Trafford entered the week atop the section with zero losses.

“We'll still have some growing pains, but we want to take it one game at a time so we don't get ahead of ourselves,” Garland said. “Hopefully, we have success each game and develop from that.”

Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-388-5830, via email at or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.

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