Girls soccer shut out at Palisades
Northwestern had only been shut out twice prior to Thursday’s Colonial League matchup against Palisades. The only time that happened in Colonial League play was in the second week of the season against unbeaten Saucon Valley, 2-0.
Unfortunately for the Tigers (11-3 overall, 8-2 in Colonial League), that happened once again on Thursday night when the Pirates (11-3-2, 8-2) used two goals just over four minutes apart in the second half to secure a much-needed win at Palisades High School.
With the win, Palisades keeps pace in the Colonial League postseason tournament and jumps Northwestern, now the No. 4 seed, in the standings due to the head-to-head tiebreaker.
“It definitely had a lot to do with Palisades’ team-defending,” head coach Kelly Bleam said. “They do that very well. They put my team under a lot of pressure very quickly, and they weren’t able to create as they normally can.”
After playing to a scoreless tie over the first 40 minutes, Palisades was finally able to connect midway through the second half when Melissa Koch punched in a goal past Northwestern goalie McKenna Amy.
Northwestern, which struggled to develop any rhythm offensively, had its best opportunity on goal shortly after when Sara Hathaway’s left-footed strike hit the football goalpost above the crossbar. And when that shot failed to produce the equalizing goal, Palisades put the game away not even a minute later.
Kayla Reed tracked down a deep Palisades ball in front of the Tigers’ goal and ripped a shot into the right side of the cage for a commanding 2-0 lead with 20:20 left on the clock.
“I think that kind of took the wind out of their sails,” Bleam said. “I think at that point they were kind of done; it’s not a position they are in very often.
“I didn’t really feel like we had any really solid looks on goal. I didn’t feel like we created any opportunities for ourselves to really score, other than that one opportunity.”
Northwestern was held to just two shots on goal on the night. Some of that offensive struggle could be credited to the absence of four regular varsity players, including starting midfielder Maggie Motolese.
“We definitely were very disconnected, and I think that has a lot to do with the pressure,” Bleam said. “When you’re under pressure it’s very hard to play. They have outstanding team speed and we had a real problem with that.
“Our bench was really short tonight. I pulled a couple of players off the JV field and told them they weren’t going to play in the second half of the JV game because I needed them tonight. So we were definitely a little out of sorts.”
Despite the loss, Bleam’s squad has shown the ability to respond from tough times over the years. The Tigers will learn from their mistakes against the Pirates and look to close out the regular season strong and make a run in the league tournament.
“The good news is that playing a team like this shows us where our weaknesses are, and there is time in the season to correct what we can correct,” Bleam said. “It’s not all bad to take a loss from a good team.”