WHITEHALL - The phrase on the back of Lehighton's warm-up shirts says it all.
'New Year. New Team. Same Dream.'
Last year's PIAA AA state champs moved one step closer to defending their title, as the Lady Indians blanked Upper Perkiomen in their opening-round contest, 3-0. Rachel Werley scored twice for Lehighton and helped her team advance to the quarterfinals this Saturday.
"We started better tonight than we have started before," said Lehighton head coach Shawn Hindy. "We had some good corners. I thought we had a goal right away, but their goalie made a nice save on the line.
"We just kept pressuring and working it. We knew eventually that we would get one of our corners in or get a field goal."
Although Lehighton did not score until seconds before halftime, it pretty much dominated play throughout the course of the night. The Indians drastically out-shot (13-1) and out-cornered (7-1) Upper Perkiomen for the first thirty minutes of play and kept it going from there.
Werley got the locals on the board with 45 seconds left to play in the first half. Echo Bretz took the corner pass, side-stepped a defender, and ripped off a shot. Werley was in the right place at the right time and deflected the ball in for the goal.
The same thing happened late in the second half when she scored her second goal of the night. Sarah Keer slightly fanned on a shot from the point and topped the ball into the circle. After Jordyn Homyak gained possession and put the ball on net, Werley once again got her stick on it and tipped it home.
"I was in the right place at the right time," admitted Werley. "That was pretty much all it was. Coach Hindy called a timeout and got us focused and it worked.
"It's really exciting (to be back in states) because we know what lies ahead of us. We know we have to take it one game at a time and we know that we can do it again."
Oddly enough, Hindy called a timeout before both of the corners that Werley scored on. He said it wasn't so much as to draw up a new play, but to calm the girls down and get them re-focused on the task at hand.
"It's funny because for whatever reason, with this team and a few others that I have coached, when you call a timeout and get them re-focused they actually execute what I ask," said Hindy. "After it worked in the first half, I waited and figured that I would do it again. Obviously it worked and that was good to see."
Bretz added a third goal a minute after Werley's second tally to put the game out of reach.
Lehighton's defense once again led the way. The Indians held Upper Perkiomen to four corners and three shots for the entire game. It was their 10th shutout of the season.
"Individually we are all very good tacklers and we play defense as a team," Hindy said. "I think that's what helps. Some teams might play six deep and three just float around. For us, everyone plays defense.
Lehighton (20-3) advances to play the Selinsgrove, a 2-0 winner over Fleetwood, this Saturday in the AA quarterfinals at Hershey High School at 1 p.m.
The Indians defeated the Seals 2-1 earlier this year and beat them twice last year by 1-0 scores with the latter being for the state championship.