SANFORD — Tom Brady, David Ortiz and Bill Russell all stepped up their game when the “second season” rolled around.

The Winthrop Ramblers have their own clutch playoff performer on the roster, senior forward Gia Francis. The Ramblers have won the Mountain Valley Conference all four seasons and have reached at least the regional final round with Francis on the roster.

In six regional final and state championship game, she has scored in both state games in 2017 and 2018, and she helped lift the Ramblers to their third straight state game with a goal against St. Dom’s Wednesday night in the Class C South regional final.

Winthrop will face Foxcroft Academy Saturday at  noon at Messalonskee High School in Oakland in the Class C Championship game.

“It’s like my brain turns off and my field hockey brain turns on,” Francis said. “It’s just kind of I am where I need to be and when I need to be there. It always just clicks.”

Francis just likes to strike out of nowhere.

“She’s a silent assassin for us, that doesn’t get the recognition,” Winthrop coach Jessica Merrill said. “She’s kind of the glue that holds us together on the front line.”

Francis’ goal Wednesday night gave the Ramblers a 3-0 lead heading into halftime. It was a key goal when the team needed it  to get a comfortable lead.

“It’s constant with her, I don’t want to call her an unsung hero because she’s always there (for us),” Merrill said. “She’s not necessarily on the scoreboard, but when we need a big play it’s Gia stepping up to do it. She’s our only senior. It was good for her today.”

The offense doesn’t run through Francis, as sophomore Maddie Perkins leads the team with 22 goals and 11 assists and freshman Hannah Duley has 14 goals and 12 assists, Francis has been that secondary option for the Ramblers as she’s tied for third on the team in points with 13 goals while adding two assists. Brooklyn Gaghan has 11 goals and four assists.

With seven freshmen and three sophomores on the team, Francis’ biggest asset is her experience. She is a captain, and has brought those young players up to speed for a Winthrop team that has been a contender since she has entered high school.

“She has been a role model to everybody, especially the incoming freshmen,” said Maddy Perkins, a sophomore. “She has shown them, even being by herself (as a senior), she definitely isn’t, because we all work together. But being the lone senior, she showed the freshmen that she doesn’t take (her responsibilities lightly). She brings the intensity every game. She’s always there for us.”

Among the things Francis has preached to the younger players is to play with composure and poise, move the ball and sharpen stick skills.

Francis is not the only one being a teacher. She’s also learning from the younger players as well.

“Now it’s just me (as a senior), I am looking up to my other teammates,” Francis said. “They make me (feel) young, but they are still teaching me stuff.”

Merrill also sees what Perkins sees in Francis.

“She has just owned it,” Merrill said. “You wouldn’t have known it as she’s the only senior on this team. She has blended in so well with the underclassmen. Everybody on this team gets along. They listen to her and she leads by example. She gets the job done on the field. I can’t ask anymore from her; she’s going to be a tough one to lose.”


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