Tamaqua’s Brook Zellner went from being questionable, to being probable, to being exceptional.
Zellner’s three-run homer in the third inning jump-started the Blue Raider offense and led to an 11-1 mercy-rule victory over Northwestern in the quarterfinal round of the District 11 Class 4A softball playoffs on Wednesday.
Zellner’s blast not only allowed Tamaqua to dig out of a 1-0 deficit, but it ignited a nine-run explosion that all but sealed the outcome.
Not bad for someone who Tamaqua coach Jill Barron was worried might not even be able to play.
Sara Hathaway knew the expectations — and embraced them.
You can’t play soccer at Northwestern and not be aware of the recent success the program has enjoyed.
Since 2000, the Tigers have an .847 winning percentage, have captured 10 Colonial League Championships, five District 11 Championships, and have appeared in the PIAA state playoffs 12 times.
Hathaway’s desire was to be a part of that tradition.
Her goal was to continue it.
“I definitely followed the high school team when I was growing up,” said Hathaway. “I knew how successful they were.”
Northwestern goalie Taylor Wanamaker has been sensational this season.
He just hasn’t always been very busy.
Despite allowing just three goals in his team’s first 21 games this season, Wanamaker’s contribution to Northwestern’s perfect season has often been overlooked.
Thursday night wasn’t one of those occasions, however.
With the Tigers’ season on the line in the District 11 Class 3A championship game against Allentown Central Catholic, Wanamaker needed to be at his best.
He didn’t disappoint.
Facing adversity for the first time in the District 11 playoffs, and for one of the few times all season, Northwestern girls soccer head coach Kelly Bleam didn’t know how her team would respond.
It turns out, all she had to do was ask some of her seniors.
Because despite facing a 2-1 halftime deficit, the confidence of the Tiger players never wavered.
Their attitude translated into a collective ‘We got this.’
And they did.
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.
Cailyn Joseph didn’t want it to be her final high school softball game.
So when the lone senior on Tamaqua’s roster had a chance to make sure it wasn’t, she wasted no time.
Joseph lined a single up the middle on the first pitch she saw from Northwestern’s Emily Akelaitis in the bottom of the seventh inning to score Courtney Hoffman from third base and give the Raiders a dramatic 4-3 comeback victory in the District 11 Class 4A quarterfinals on Tuesday.
It’s been a rough start to the season for the Northwestern volleyball team.
The Tigers entered last Thursday’s match against Catasauqua with just one win in their first seven matches.
Despite the struggles, however, head coach Gabby Pergosky is excited about her team’s potential for growth.
Northwestern got started in the right direction against the Rough Riders as it breezed to a 25-9, 25-21, 25-5 Colonial League victory.
The reason for Pergosky’s optimism is her belief that the Tigers will benefit from game experience more than most teams.
In a season that has seen its share of heartbreaking defeats, Tuesday's loss to Northern Lehigh has to rank among the most painful for Northwestern.
Playing a team that they had beaten by 23 points earlier this season, the Tigers dug themselves a huge early hole, staged a brilliant comeback, but then stumbled down the stretch.
The result was a 63-57 Colonial League setback.
For the Northwestern girls soccer team, it has been well earned the product of incredible talent and invaluable experience.
So despite shot after shot failing to find the net, the Tigers' confidence remained on target.
Even as minute after minute slipped off the clock, the Tigers' confidence never dwindled.
That's the benefit of having a talented core of senior leaders on the team. That's the result of being in those situations previously and finding a way to win.
Henry Paiste was challenged and he responded like a champion.
Make that a three-time champion!
Paiste, a home-schooled student from the Northwestern School District, won his third striaght District 11 Class AA singles tennis championship on Monday at the Westend Racquet and Fitness Center in Allentown.
But it wasn't easy.
Maybe that's why it felt so good.