Women’s tennis undefeated; football and soccer battle injuries

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Dan Finnerty

With autumn officially in full swing, Franklin High School sports are nearing completion of regular season play.

The football varsity Panthers got off to a rocky start (0-3) in August but Coach Josh Brooks has guided them to a 2-5 (2-2 conference) record after seven games. They are currently ranked fourth in the 3A Mountain Seven Conference (M7C).

The junior varsity (JV) team has fared better, with a 5-1 start. Coach Brooks admitted back in June that he expected some bumps in the road for the varsity squad due to a graduating class that depleted them of valuable experience.

In looking at the regular season road encountered thus far, he offered, “I’m super proud of our kids after the 0-3 start. To fight back, to win two in a row at home was gratifying. You want a chance to compete; you want a chance to win. You want to know you have a chance when you walk out of the locker room.”

Coach Brooks added that when his team took the field for the inaugural game of the season (against Murphy in August), 19 of his 22 starters were playing their first varsity football game. “It’s been a challenge; we’ve played without our starting tailback since week two (junior Braydon Hervey suffered a broken collarbone).”

The team has had other injuries as well, which taken together with inexperience compounds their challenges. The coach finished with a comment that summed up his approach to teaching his student athletes and which seems to resonate throughout FHS sports: “You can lose every game and not be a loser.”

He continues to approach his coaching job focusing on the greater goal of helping make his players good citizens and building strong character, which he stressed will always trump scoreboard results and win/loss numbers.

Women’s tennis

Coaches Heather Bell and Andrea Bosio have the FHS women’s tennis program experiencing
yet another highly successful season.

With an overall 15-match winning streak, the 11-member team is 11-0 overall and in first place at 10-0 in conference. Junior Kate Phillips, again excelling in her role as one of the team’s star players and number-one seed, was recently named FHS Athlete of the Month for September by the Franklin Panthers Sports Network.

Before the Franklin High School Varsity Women’s Tennis team took to the courts
Sept. 27, they gathered for a pre-match prayer, which was led by junior Caroline Deal.

This year’s team is made up of three seniors, five juniors, two sophomores, and one freshman. The coaches expressed satisfaction with what has transpired so far this year and are anticipating another run into regional and possibly state tournaments.

Said Bell, who is in her 10th year coaching tennis at FHS, “This is the first time we’ve had this
many juniors and seniors [eight total] proportionally on the team.”

Juniors Abigail Angel and Maci Stork also returned this year at second and third seeds, respectively. Seniors Logan Guynn and twins Laura and Lydia Holland round out the top six
seeds. Generally, the top six are the players who compete in most singles and doubles matches.

The team was also undefeated in the regular season last year, not suffering its first and only loss until the regional tournament.

“What I’m most surprised by this year is how convincingly we’ve been able to win in some of the conference matches,” Bell offered. “The main thing going forward is trying to do well in the post-season tournaments and playoffs. With so many seniors, I want them to have a good year so I think there is different pressure as a coach – having three seniors (Laura and Lydia Holland and Logan Guynn) and wanting it to go well for them.”

Last year, the team sent two individual players to the North Carolina State Tournament (Phillips and 2022-23 senior Alyssa Smith) while also making it to the semi-finals as a team in the regional tournament. As the team took to the courts Sept. 27 and gathered for a pre-match prayer led by junior Caroline Deal, their dedication was on display. The team then defeated the Lady Knights of North Henderson, 8-0, to remain undefeated on the season before winning at Smoky Mountain, 9-0, and then defeating their nearest conference competition, West Henderson, 8-1.

That match closed out the Lady Panthers tennis team’s second straight undefeated regular season. Bell, Bosio, and their assistant coaches have their sights set on some lofty but, they believe, achievable goals this year. The M7C tournament will be held Oct. 12 at a location to be determined.

Men’s soccer

FHS men’s soccer entered the second week of October in fourth place for the M7C. With a 7-6 (3-4) record, Coach Matt Kolodzik has his team poised for a winning campaign. As reigning conference Coach of the Year, he understands what it takes to have a successful season and teach student athletes as well.

“Your goal as a coach is to help these guys that want to go to the next level – to progress; he lp them get to the next level,” he said, adding, “We have six more conference matches; we hit everybody once and went 3-3. We went 3-0 at home and 0-3 on the road.”

Coach Kolodzik noted that he tries to keep winning and losing in perspective; ultimately, it is what his young men learn while competing that matters most to him. “I told the guys you are owed nothing this year; you won conference last year but you don’t carry that with you … what has happened is the target on your back is as big as a soccer field [after winning the conference last year].”

His team has been somewhat plagued by injuries and sickness so far this season. Considering the challenges faced already, Coach Kolodzik is confident the team will approach the second half of the season with the right frame of mind and sincere effort. They have six more games (five in conference) to prove it. With back-to-back conference losses against West and East Henderson, respectively, Coach Kolodzik acknowledged that the team has their work cut out for them.