SF girls soccer team focuses on finishing strong

Until Saturday’s 4-2 loss at Mitty, there hadn’t been a stingier girls soccer team in the West Catholic Athletic League than St. Francis High. Posting 10 shutouts over their 15 matches, the Lancers had allowed just 0.53 goals per game on average.

The four goals allowed Saturday were the most St. Francis has surrendered all season, but coach Dawn Hill didn’t seem overly concerned with that. She noted that the Lancers were not at full strength, yet still stayed with the first-place Monarchs most of the way. St. Francis tied the game at 1 early in the second half and trailed 3-2 until Mitty scored an insurance goal with time running out.

“Good battle, like always,” Hill said of the game, the result of which dropped the Lancers into third place at 4-2-2. “Our focus now is to get everyone healthy and end league playing strong heading into the playoffs.”

One player won’t be back for the playoffs, however. Standout defender and co-captain Lauren Beers suffered a season-ending knee injury Jan. 8.

“We lost a great leader, but it’s also been a great motivator,” she said of losing the senior to an ACL tear. “Players have had to take on new roles, and everyone has stepped up.”

Co-captain Kelly Schultz, a junior, has replaced Beers in a back line that also includes sophomore Caroline Kane and juniors Isabella Panaccione and Jillian Tibbils.

“Our four backs have been great this year,” Hill said.

The coach also raved about senior goalie Tierney White, who has eight shutouts.

“She’s been great this season,” Hill said. “She hasn’t given up many goals.”

Up front, the Lancers “have good attackers, but not one flamboyant scorer,” the team’s 16th-year coach noted. Mary Jane Osborne – one of two freshmen on the roster – is the team’s top scorer with six goals, two of which came Saturday.

“MJ’s talented and works hard,” Hill said of the outside midfielder. “She’s fast, creative and keeps working – she’s tenacious.”

Junior forward Kristina Constantine – who assisted on Osborne’s second goal Saturday – has scored three times this season, and so has freshman midfielder Mila Shafie. Junior Skylar Blaise, who has notched two goals and four assists, has been an integral part of the offense as well.

“She’s a great offensive threat at center forward or outside mid,” Hill said. “She’s fast, technical and creates a lot of stuff.”

While the Lancers lean heavily on their underclassmen, the coach noted that the seniors have set the tone this season.

“They instill a ‘let’s go win it all,’ attitude,” Hill said. “This team is very focused and driven and wants to win.”

St. Francis has a 10-2-4 overall record that includes a 2-0 win over Mitty Jan. 15 – the team’s first victory over the Monarchs in five years – and a 1-0 triumph over Mountain View in the Fremont Tournament final Dec. 21.

The Central Coast Section playoffs are two weeks away, and Hill expects the Lancers to make the Open Division (top eight teams, regardless of school size).

“It’s always tough,” she said of the Open. “It will be interesting to see who’s in it this year.”

St. Francis has two league games remaining, starting with 6 p.m. today at home against Sacred Heart Cathedral.

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