In a battle between two favorites for this year's Colonial League girls soccer title, Saucon Valley took an early lead and protected it for nearly 35 minutes to beat Northwestern 2-0 Monday in New Tripoli.

The Panthers scored their first goal less than two minutes into the game and added the second 5:05 into the contest.

"I was very happy with our first 20 minutes," said Saucon Valley head coach Stevie Ochse. "I think we played well. We put a lot of pressure on them. We possessed the ball well. We got both our goals in the first 20 minutes."

With the wind at their back, the Panthers controlled possession most of the first half but couldn't add to their lead after the early goals.

In the second half, Northwestern used the wind to keep pressure on Saucon Valley, including earning three corners. But Panther defenders made it difficult for the Tigers to get off clean shots on Saucon keeper, Kelly Shoenberger, who made most of her nine saves in the second half.

Northwestern head coach Kelly Bleam was pleased with her team's effort after the early lapse.

"I believe that my team came out very flat, mentally not prepared to play," she said. "I believe Saucon Valley capitalized on that as good teams do. They put two away very early and then I think the Northwestern Tigers woke up a little bit."

Saucon Valley's Faith Appolloni scored the first goal, assisted by Alicia Binn. Returning All-League First Team forward Quanie Lightner scored the second goal, assisted by Katie Burns.

Bleam expects her team to use the loss as a learning experience.

"It's always good for a team to realize that there is good competition out there and that we always need to be prepared to play," she said.

The Panthers (2-0 overall, 1-0 Colonial League) were district runners up last year and played their way to the state semifinals. They return many of last year's line up and have started this season with shut out wins over Freedom and Northwestern.

The Tigers (2-1, 0-1) have now played two teams from last year's state final four. They won their season opener last Friday, 1-0 over Central Catholic. After they take on Southern Lehigh on Wednesday, they will have faced all three teams that represented District 11 in states last year.

"I like to see very strong competition early," said Bleam. "It gives us an idea of where we need to get to."

Northwestern, the defending Colonial League champ, placed fourth in the district last year after losing a semifinal to Central and then falling to Southern Lehigh in the consolation game.