Girls win state playoff opener
The Northwestern girls soccer team has learned that one key to success is to not give up more than one goal in a game. Coming into Tuesday night’s PIAA Class 2A first-round game against Central Columbia, the Tigers (19-3-1) had allowed two or more goals just three times on the season and had lost two of those games.
Against the Blue Jays, they survived with a 3-2 win, but coach Kelly Bleam wasn’t happy with some defensive miscues that led to the two Central Columbia goals.
“They’re a good team and we had some organizational issues in the back and we were fortunate to come away with a win,” said Bleam. “They’re things that we can fix. The back four had some major miscommunications and they left some real gaps between themselves defensively. Hopefully, we can fix those moving forward.”
Bleam believes that the mistakes will all be a thing of the past when her team takes on District 3 champion Boiling Springs on Saturday. The Bubblers are 16-5 on the season and cut their way through the district playoffs, winning three games by a combined score of 11-0.
Against Central Columbia, Maggie Motolese and Sarah Hathaway worked their magic. Motolese didn’t wait long to put the Tigers on the board when she hit just over five minutes into the game. Motolese’s shot was a strong one that goalie Allee Swisher was able to get a hand on, but couldn’t control. The ball had just enough momentum left to roll across the goal line and toward the back of the net to give Northwestern a 1-0 lead.
Motolese struck again with 7:44 left in the first half of play off an assist from Jess Williamson to give Northwestern a pretty commanding 2-0 lead going into half-time.
Central Columbia got back into the game on a goal by Lauren Bull with 33:16 left in regulation. The good news for Northwestern was that just 37 seconds later, Motolese set up Hathaway for a goal to stretch the game back to a two-goal lead for the Tigers at 3-1.
“They had her [Hathaway] covered pretty well and had her marked up,” said Motolese. “So I had a lot of space in the middle. We just kept switching on and off and everything worked out pretty well for us. In the second half, they were shifting and left more space open up top, so it was easier for her to get some through balls in.”
It looked like the momentum was going to go back to Central Columbia when they were awarded a free kick with 30:14 left to play. The ball sailed toward the top of the goal and Northwestern’s McKenna Amey was able to tip the shot up and over the crossbar to keep it a 3-1 game.
The momentum did shift some when Central Columbia again pulled within a goal when Delanee George hit a shot much like Motolese’s first goal, with the ball having just enough momentum to roll into the net. Over the final 19-minutes, neither team was able to get much of an opportunity for solid shots on goal.
“It was a tough game, back-and-forth,” said out Motolese. “It was very stressful and it got a little scary at the end, but we pulled through.”
The PIAA hasn’t announced sites or times for Saturday’s quarter-final games, but it’s likely that Northwestern will have to make a longer trip than it did for the opener, which was played at Parkland High School. District 3 stretches from Berks to York counties, with Boiling Spring located in the latter.