Tigers roll into D-11 final
Sara Hathaway has no trouble scoring goals.
Even a switch in Northwestern’s normal formation wasn’t going to slow her down.
But on a night when the Tigers’ leading scorer added two more goals to her season total, it might have been a first-half assist that was her most important contribution.
Behind the offensive play of Hathaway and Maggie Motolese, and another superb defensive showing, Northwestern rolled to a 5-0 victory over Pine Grove in the District 11 Class 2A girls soccer semifinals on Thursday at Lehighton.
But as comfortable as the lopsided final score makes the victory seem, late in the first half it was still anyone’s game.
Northwestern (17-2-1) had dominated play early and led 1-0 on a Motolese goal less than eight minutes into the game.
But Pine Grove (14-6) began to gain some ball possession, and thanks to several huge saves by Sierra Blough, was still trailing by just that one goal late in the half.
That’s when Hathaway combined with Jessica Williamson to deliver a dagger that the Cardinals never recovered from. Williamson’s goal made it 2-0 with just :32 left in the half.
“I thought the goal right before halftime was really important,” said Northwestern coach Kelly Bleam. “It gave us some breathing room, and then we were able to build on that in the second half.”
Bleam said the Tigers went with a new formation in the game because of their respect for Pine Grove’s offensive weapons.
“Sara (Hathaway) was our lone forward tonight so she really had to work hard,” explained Bleam. “On the goal late in the first half, she made a great play getting to the ball and keeping possession until we could get some girls forward. She then made a perfect pass. It was a great play of her part.”
Hathaway’s night was just getting started. She made it 3-0 with 31:02 left in the game and also added the final Tiger tally off a great pass from Hallie Bleam with just over five minutes remaining.
“We normally play with a pair of forwards up top, but tonight I was up there by myself,” said Hathaway. “It kept me moving because I had to go sideline-to-sideline.
“But our midfielders did a great job of getting up and supporting me offensively. They also did a nice job of getting me the ball in positions where I could score.”
Motolese was one of those midfielders that Hathaway was referring to as she consistently created chances in the offensive end.
Motolese also displayed a powerful right leg as she accounted for the fourth Tiger goal, and her second of the night, on a booming 30-yard free kick with just over 14 minutes left.
“This was a really nice win for us,” said Motolese. ‘Pine Grove is a good team and they battled us hard in the first half. But the goal right before halftime gave us a big lift and then we were able to break things open in the second half.
“This is the first time we’ve reached the district finals since 2014, so I’ve never played for a championship in my career. I’m really looking forward to it.”
TITLE TIME … Northwestern will face Palisades for the D-11 2A championship on Tuesday at a site and time TBA.
IN CONTROL … The Tigers finished with a commanding 27-5 advantage in shots.
BACK-TO-BACK … Thursday’s win was the second straight 5-0 victory in the district playoffs for Northwestern, which beat Tamaqua by that same score on Tuesday. Yesterday’s defensive performance was even more impressive considering that the Cardinals scored six goals in their quarterfinal win and feature offensive dynamo Rachel Edge, who has over 100 career goals.