Stef Ulmer typically plays halfback. Wednesday, for the first time all season, she didn't.
It made a world of difference in the Franklin Towne Charter girls' soccer team handing Public League kingpin Central its first league defeat in nine years.
Coyotes coach Brianna O'Donnell shifted Ulmer, a sophomore, to attacking midfielder with the hopes of utilizing her speed on offense. The tactical move proved to be a game changer as Ulmer scored a goal and assisted on another in Franklin Towne's 2-1 victory over the Lancers at American Legion Field.
Central (9-1-1 Public)) had won 117 consecutive games in the Public League before the loss. It beat Franklin Town (11-4 overall, 11-2 Public) in the last three league championships and took the teams' other regular-season encounter, winning, 5-3, on April 16.
After the final whistle, the Central sideline went listless. A few players covered their mouths in shock. Franklin Towne players remained composed while exchanging handshakes then ran to the middle of the field, huddling together in celebration. Some players were seen crying.
"This is a big step that we took," O'Donnell said. "We have a young group - 18 freshman and sophomores. Our goal all season long is to make it to the city championship, so this is just a step in doing that. They're a fantastic team. I think it gives my team confidence against what I would consider the powerhouse of soccer in Philadelphia."
Ulmer ignited things from the start, nailing the post with a shot 15 seconds in to get the sidelines pulsing. She gave Franklin Towne a lead in the 34th minute when she slotted the ball past Central goalie Samantha Cavalli after receiving a pass from Rachel Gilborges.
That 1-0 lead stood at halftime. The Coyotes went up by 2-0 two minutes into the second half when Ulmer looped a cross into the box and to the foot of Kaylah Dougherty, who poked it over Cavalli's head and into the net.
Central responded three minutes later as Kiara Cannady scored to cut the deficit to 2-1.
Ulmer subbed out of the game twice. She was afforded little rest. O'Donnell handed her water and told her to get ready to go back in without taking a seat.
"I just wanted to work hard for the team and then win for them," Ulmer said. "Just work hard for them."
Added O'Donnell: "When she comes out and I put her back in, my team gets a lift because she's coming on the field."
Both sides had their looks at additional goals. Each fired 10 shots overall, but it was Central in particular that squandered at least a half dozen prime-time scoring chances, sailing open shots high and wide and dribbling directly into the defense.
"It's always frustrating when the girls don't finish when they have the opportunity," Central coach Jacquelyn Nevius said "It's our first loss in a long time, but it was going to happen sooner or later."
Central had outscored opponents by 48-9 prior to Wednesday. Franklin Towne has won five in row. The Public League playoffs begin Monday. Wednesday was likely a championship preview.
"It's making me hype for the playoffs," Ulmer said. "It makes me really happy."
Central 0 1 – 1
Franklin Towne Charter 1 1 – 2
Goals: C–Kiara Cannady; FTC–Stef Ulmer; Kaylah Dougherty. Saves: C–Samantha Cavalli 4; FTC–Alivia Dietsch 3.