Lady Tigers suffer first Colonial League defeat
By most standards, the Northwestern girls soccer team having a very successful season. The Tigers head into this week at 5-1-1 in the Colonial League and 10-1-1 overall, having already clinched a spot in districts.
That doesn’t mean that everything is going perfectly, as pointed out by a 2-1 loss to Salisbury last week on the Tigers’ home field.
It had been a long time, perhaps as long as 15 years, since the Falcons made the trip to New Tripoli and left with a win.
It looked like the two teams would go into overtime, but Salisbury’s Kelly Gardus’ goal with 1:53 left to play gave Salisbury a 2-1 lead that Northwestern didn’t have time to overcome.
“I wish I could explain it. I wish I knew,” said Northwestern coach Kelly Bleam about what went wrong with her team’s performance. “I know that Salisbury stayed in it until the end and their mentality was awesome and they kept at it and we didn’t do the same.”
Northwestern put themselves on the board first when Kayla Bardonner was able to sneak one past goalkeeper Sarah McGee, putting the Tigers up 1-0. Both teams continued to pound on each other in a physical contest for the rest of the half without either side being able to find the net.
As Bleam pointed out, Northwestern controlled the ball for much of the game, but was unable to capitalize when it got good looks at the net.
Salisbury (5-1-0, 7-3-0) also seemed to lose ball control at the most inopportune times, just as it seemed to be putting something together offensively.
In the second half, Salisbury came out with crisper passing and were able to get better shots on goal. With 20:42 left in the game, Olivia Hoeing took a corner kick from Rylee Donaldson and blew it past McKenna Amey to tie the game, until Gardus added her heroics.
With overtime looming, Salisbury got an opening down the middle of the field and Gardus reacted well when Amey came out to challenge the play and worked around her to score what would be the winning goal with 1:53 left to play.
Northwestern scored 17 goals in their first two Colonial League games of the season, but added just 10 in their next five league games.
“Our finishers are, for whatever reason, they’re just not getting the ball in the net right now,” said Bleam. “We’ve been out-shooting and owning possession in all of our games and we have a tie in a game that we out-shot the opponent by 15 shots, so there are obviously some problems there.”
Even before the loss, Bleam was concerned about some things she was seeing on the field that she had hoped would have been corrected by now. The team’s 1-1 tie against Saucon Valley, among others that they’ve played lately, was one of the games that Bleam thought would be an eye opener for her team. Perhaps their first loss will be what sends the message Bleam is hoping her team will receive.
“This wouldn’t be the first one that should have been a wake-up call,” said Bleam. “We’ll see what the result is.”
The Tigers bounced back in their next game to beat Liberty 2-1. Northwestern has seven games left on the schedule, but just one of them is at home. After a trip to Bethlehem to take on Liberty today, the Tigers play at Pen Argyl. The final home game of the season comes up after that when Palisades (5-0-0, 9-0-0) comes to New Tripoli for a key Colonial League showdown.