Franklin hopes to make history when it plays top-seeded and league rival Davis in Saturday's Sac-Joaquin Section Division I girls soccer championship game at Cosumnes Oaks High School.
With a victory, the No. 3 Wildcats would become the first Elk Grove Unified School District team to win a D-I girls soccer title since the playoffs started in 1981 and the first area team other than Davis or St. Francis to win a D-I title since Casa Roble in 1997.
Franklin came close last season, losing to St. Mary's of Stockton 2-1 in the title game in Stockton. The Wildcats' Lauren Williams and Aleah Kelley, then freshmen, missed the game to take advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime chance to play in a club tournament in Germany.
After Franklin beat St. Francis for the second consecutive year in Thursday's semifinals, Wildcats' coach Eliseo Lopez thinks his girls' time has come, despite starting six sophomores.
"I don't think my girls were experienced enough to win it all last year," Lopez said. "But we graduated only two seniors off that team. Now they're hungrier, more experienced, and they know better how to manage a game."
He said the Wildcats' 1-0 win over St. Francis showed his team's maturation.
After Williams scored five minutes into the second half, the Wildcats withstood a barrage of shots by St. Francis, which couldn't slip a shot past senior goalkeeper Marcela Young despite two point-blank blasts.
"A great player this is one of the best games she has had," Lopez said. "She was in the right place at the right moment, making some amazing dives, and she stayed really calm."
Franklin's back line of Kelley, Julia Altop, Sophie Spallas and Alex Grant also was tested by St. Francis' talented dribblers and passers.
St. Francis has had one of the top girls soccer programs for the past two decades. The Troubadours have won 12 section titles, including nine of 11 from 2000 to 2010. Davis won section titles in 1998, 1999, 2007 and 2011 (Beyer of Modesto won in 2002).
Franklin (16-3) and Davis (20-4-1) have developed a rivalry since joining the Delta Valley Conference seven years ago, with Davis winning four league titles and Franklin two.
This year, they were co-champions with 9-1 league records and split their two meetings.
The competition extends even to the seeding coin flip, Lopez said. When Franklin lost the toss, it meant the Wildcats had to play a semifinal at St. Francis rather than at home.
"We split with them in league, and they beat us on a coin toss, so we want to see who the real champion is," Lopez said. "It's going to be a great match."
AT COSUMNES OAKS
Division I: No. 1 Davis vs. No. 3 Franklin, 4 p.m.
Division II: No. 1 Bella Vista vs. No. 2 Ponderosa, 2 p.m.
Division III: No. 1 Rio Americano vs. No. 2 Benicia, noon
Division IV: No. 2 Placer vs. No. 4 Colfax, 10 a.m.
AT LINCOLN OF STOCKTON
Division V: No. 1 Liberty Ranch vs. No. 2 Central Catholic, 2 p.m.
Division VI: No. 1 Amador vs. No. 2 Capital Christian, noon
Division VII: No. 1 Bradshaw Christian vs. No. 3 Ripon Christian, 10 a.m.
Call The Bee's Bill Paterson, (916) 326-5506.