Girls soccer falls in D-11 semifinal
Defending District 11 titlist Northwestern showed it still had the fight of a champion.
But upstart Notre Dame proved the heart of an underdog can be even more powerful.
The Crusaders stunned top-seeded Northwestern, 5-4, in a Class 2A quarterfinal round game on Thursday at Northern Lehigh High School.
“We didn’t look at them like an eighth seed,” said Northwestern coach Kelly Bleam. “We knew they were a good team, and we knew we were in for a battle.
“So it wasn’t a case of us taking them lightly. “
If Northwestern was looking past Notre Dame, it got a quick wake-up call as the Crusaders’ Ava Santorelli scored less than seven minutes into the game.
The Tigers answered with a Sara Hathaway goal less than a minute later.
It was a pattern that repeated itself throughout the contest.
Notre Dame kept taking leads, and Northwestern kept battling back.
“We were confident we could play with them,” said Notre Dame coach Eric Lefurgy. “We took them to overtime before losing on penalty kicks during the regular season.
“I think that game gave us confidence. Northwestern has an incredible program and a great team. But our girls believed they could win.”
Santori scored the second and third Notre Dame goals, and when Julene Crespo added a score with 31:57 remaining in the second half, the Crusaders had an improbable 4-2 lead.
But two players who had huge roles in Northwestern’s run to the Class 2A state semifinals a year ago, weren’t about to let their team bow out gently.
Hathaway scored on a penalty kick with 27:53 left to make it 4-3. Maggie Motolese then tied it with just over 10 minutes remaining when she took a cross and banged it home.
“I was pleased with how we kept fighting back,” said Bleam. “Obviously, you don’t want to keep digging yourself holes like we did tonight. But I liked the fight we showed when we fell behind.”
The tie didn’t last long, however, as Notre Dame answered right back.
Crespo got the game-winner on a quick counter attack with 8:46 remaining.
“We have had some major issues defensively this entire season,” said Bleam. “It’s something we’ve been working on fixing, but as you saw tonight, we’re still not there.
“Give Notre Dame credit for taking advantage of the defensive breakdowns we had tonight.”
Trailing 2-1 late in the first half, the Tigers tied it when Bailey Groff took a corner kick and curved it directly into the net.
Northwestern ends its season with a 16-4 record.
The Tigers had seven seniors on the roster – Hathaway, Motolese, Allyson Hinks, Madison Hosler, Jaymi Smith, Kelsey Gillette and Alesha White. “I feel bad for our seniors,” said Bleam. “Unfortunately, we weren’t able to repeat the postseason success we enjoyed last year.”