Girls soccer falls in state semifinal
Northwestern girls soccer head coach Kelly Bleam couldn’t have been prouder of her Northwestern girls soccer team.
She offered a heartfelt sentiment after the Tigers fell 1-0 to St. Basil in the PIAA Class 2A semifinals Tuesday at Upper Perkiomen High School.
“I certainly can’t say enough about the girls’ effort. I’m really proud of them,” Bleam said. “They certainly didn’t walk away saying I didn’t give it my best.
“We’ve had a great season. And right now I know we’re disappointed. But I’m really proud of them, and I think they’ll realize their accomplishment in a day or two.”
After winning the District 11 Class 2A title, Northwestern matched the longest run in program history by reaching the state semifinals.
While she wasn’t ready to see the season come to an end, Bleam was anything but anything but dissatisfied in the Tigers’ play.
“It’s disappointing right now, and there’s really nothing I’m going to be able to say to them, or really nothing I’m gonna be able to say...to make it sound like we’re not disappointed,” she said. “But I can certainly say that I’m proud of my team. They worked hard tonight.”
Lauren Baldo scored less than seven minutes into the second half for the District 1 champion Eagles. Baldo was able to steady a cross from Erin Gilsenan to net the game-winner.
“It looked like it was going out, and it was good hustle by Erin to keep it in,” Baldo said. “She crossed it, and I just read off her cross. It was like in between my body. I couldn’t hit it with my head. I couldn’t bring my leg up to hit like a volley in. I just thought I had to hit anything on my body, so I hit it with my shoulder and it went in.
“I tapped it off my shoulder because I had no other choice.”
St. Basil head coach Bob Opalko was confident the play would work. He just wan’t sure how it would unfold.
“At halftime, we told them to get the ball down to the byline,” Opalko said. “And Erin (Gilsenan) got down there, and I’m still trying to figure out how she got that ball through, but she did. And Lauren always crashes from that left side, and I knew once Lauren was there, that ball was in the net.”
The Eagles defense kept Northwestern from creating many opportunities — or cashing in on the ones they had.
Sara Hathaway had an early scoring opportunity for Northwestern in the first half. But the junior’s straight-on attempt was stopped by St. Basil goalie Brooke Shissler to keep the game scoreless.
Hathaway had another shot go wide of the net less than two minutes into the second half.
“I think we had two really good looks, and I think they had one really good look,” said Bleam. “And they finished theirs, and we didn’t finish either of ours. That’s the way it goes.”
This season might be over for the Tigers.
But Bleam is hoping this year’s successes serve as a catalyst for the team’s underclassmen in the future.
“There’s certainly a lot of experience gained from a postseason run like this when you have so many underclassmen who do participate on the varsity team,” Bleam said. “That’s invaluable moving forward, and in terms of building a program, that’s invaluable. So that’s a good thing. That’s always a good thing.”
As for her departing seniors, Bleam had nothing but praise for a group that helped the program reach and maintain an extraordinarily high level of play.
“Every senior group is special,” Bleam said. “They go away holding their heads high, I certainly hope. They have absolutely nothing to be ashamed or sad about.”
St. Basil will play District 10 champion Mercyhurst Prep for the Class 2A title on Friday at 11 a.m. at Hersheypark Stadium. Mercyhurst defeated Bedford 1-0 in the other semifinal on Tuesday.