Girls oust CL top seed
The Northwestern and Saucon Valley girls soccer teams are familiar with each other when it comes to postseason play, as the two Colonial League foes have met in the league championship the past three seasons. This year, however, the two squared off in the semifinals Tuesday evening at Northern Lehigh High School.
The Lady Tigers extended their league playoff win streak over the Panthers to three games with a 1-0 win to advance to Thursday’s title game against Southern Lehigh at 5 p.m. in Slatington.
Senior defender Haley Hebelka’s first-half score off a rebound was the only goal Northwestern needed.
“I really wanted to crash the net and follow in, because that’s what we’ve been working on in practice, and it just happened,” Hebelka said. “Saucon Valley is one of the best teams right now and to beat them in the semifinals is just crazy and an amazing feeling.”
The only other time that the two opponents met this season was on September 18, when the Lady Panthers prevailed, 2-0 at their own field. However, the Panthers’ leading goal-scorer Lauren Binn (31 goals) and top defender Ashleigh Nagy sat out this time around with injuries.
“Unfortunately, for us, we had two injuries in the last week, so it was more trying to shift around our lineup,” said Saucon Valley head coach Stevie Osche. “So we had people in positions that they weren’t used to. But we knew from playing against Northwestern so many times at this time of the year, we knew what we were going to get.”
In their last three league playoff meetings, Northwestern was the No. 2 seed in 2014 and beat the top-seeded Panthers 2-1. In 2013, the Tigers held the top seed and beat the second-seeded Panthers 2-1. In 2012, Saucon was the No. 2 seed and came away with a 1-0 win over Northwestern, which was the No. 1 seed that year.
This year, the Tigers (13-4 overall, 9-3 Colonial League) earned the No. 4 seed while the Panthers (15-2, 11-0-1) came in as the No. 1 seed.
Northwestern burst out of the gate to maintain the possession throughout the first half, and eventually the entire game.
“Prior to tonight, I don’t think we had really found ourselves out there,” Northwestern head coach Kelly Bleam said. “We ended the regular season with quite the struggle and two losses in the league. We were able to return some of our injured players to the lineup tonight, and the girls really wanted it and really bought into the strategy that we put together. Despite the slump we had, all evidence says this team has identified themselves and has decided that they want to play.”
Hebelka’s goal came in the first half and teammate Maggie Motolese was credited with the assist. Goalkeeper McKenna Amey was strong in net, as she prevented the undefeated Panthers from scoring, stopping five shots on goal for the shutout. The winners held edges in shots (9-2) and penalty corners (6-1).