Tiger girls win District 11 title
Northwestern didn’t exactly have things go as planned in the early part of the game Tuesday night in its PIAA District 11 Class 2A final against Palisades at Parkland High School.
It was just a matter of making a halftime adjustment.
In a hard-fought and tight battle from start to finish, the Tigers took the bus ride back home with gold medals around their neck after a 3-2 victory that in large part was due to their second-half reset.
The Tigers (18-3-1) will now advance to the state playoffs Tuesday and meet the fourth-place team from District 2 at a site and time to be determined.
Northwestern took a 1-0 lead early in the opening half when Abby Chisdak found the net with a 20-yard shot from the left corner at the 33:34 mark.
However, the Tigers lost their momentum down the stretch in the opening half as Palisades struck for a pair of goals in the final five minutes and had a 2-1 advantage at intermission.
It was one in a series of spurts by both teams throughout the contest.
“This wasn’t typical for us,” said Northwestern head coach Kelly Bleam. “I honestly think the girls didn’t know what to do with the early goal.
“I told them at halftime that they weren’t playing Northwestern soccer and not playing their game. We needed to come out and attack.”
The Tigers wasted little time heeding to Bleam’s advice.
Maggie Motolese tied the game with her 20th goal of the season when she banged home a shot from the top of the circle off an assist from Jess Williamson with 35:26 left in the game. Williamson assisted on the first Tiger goal as well.
“Jessie (Williamson) hit me with a perfect pass and I just took it one-on-one and hit the far post,’ said Motolese. “We usually come hard in the first 10 minutes. We worked really, really hard for this and it is such a great feeling.”
Less than four minutes later, Sara Hathaway scored her 29th goal off a pivot and high strike that fell off the fingertips of Palisades’ goalkeeper Trinity Williams and into the far side of the net with 31:42 remaining.
“I thought I had a shot and I just took it,” said Hathaway about her goal. “It was amazing.
“We really had to dig deep in ourselves and come out hard in the second half.”
The Tigers regained the momentum and managed to hold off some rushes from Palisades over the final 10 minutes to bring home some district gold.
“The second half was what I expected from our team,” said Bleam. “Maybe there were some nerves in the first half. The Palisades coach used to coach with me here and I have a lot of respect for him and his team.
“We were fortunate to come out with a win. I feel like we are on course. Hopefully, we are peaking at the right time.”
Northwestern gained its first district title since the 2014 season, the second of two consecutive crowns. The Tigers beat Saucon Valley, 1-0, in 2014 and downed Blue Mountain, 4-1, in 2013.
A good-sized Northwestern crowd was rather raucous in their consistent support of the Tigers all night. A large part of the student section dressed in Halloween costumes.
The Tigers begin their state-playoff run Tuesday. If they advance, they will meet a team either from District 3 or 12 in the quarterfinals Saturday.