Only one game into the season, Northern Lehigh soccer coach Jason Reinhard already likes the improvement his team is showing.
On Saturday, the Bulldogs and Palmerton opened the season by battling to a 1-1 non-league tie.
Reinhard remembers watching the contest between the same two teams late last April when he was a Northern Lehigh assistant coach. Now the Bulldogs' head coach, Reinhard saw a tremendous difference on Saturday.
"I'm really happy with the way we played," Reinhard said. "We have come a long way in a year. We came up here last year and lost 8-1.
"I'm proud of the girls. I'm pleased with where we are now compared to where we were a year ago."
After a scoreless first half, things got a bit a little bit interesting with 13 minutes left in the regulation.
The Bulldogs' Brooke Wagner took a direct kick from about 25 yards out and teammate Emily Bevans was able to get her head on the ball and flick it on net. The Bombers' seasoned keeper Kelsey Eaton tipped the ball in the air and immediately grabbed it. But, in the action she was bumped by a Bulldog player and dropped the ball behind the goal line. After originally being called a goal, the referees took away the score and continued play.
Nearly two minutes later, the Bulldogs cashed in on an opportunity. Brooke Wagner sent a corner kick in and Morgan Kravetz put the finishing touches on the shot. The Bulldog junior beat Eaton to give her team a 1-0 lead with 11:01 left.
With 6:05 remaining in regulation, a call by the referees set up another opportunity. This time a penalty kick was awarded to the Bombers. Palmerton coach Barry Hahn put the ball in front of Morgan Myers and she didn't disappoint as her shot to the lower left side of the net beat diving Bulldog keeper Kaylee Owens .
After that, the only real attempt to avoid overtime was a shot by the Bulldogs' Rachel Wagner, but a diving Eaton diminished those hopes when she grabbed the ball with 1:17 left in the game.
In the first overtime, the Bombers earned another penalty kick. However, Kylee Turko couldn't match her classmate's effort as the ball trickled just outside the far post.
"She's been hitting a 100-percent in practice and she only missed it by two, three inches," Hahn said. "It happens to the best of us. It was right on the post, but on the wrong side.
"It was the right tactic that she took by looking into the corner, but unfortunately her aim was a smidge off."
In the second overtime, the same result happened on a number of Bomber shots close, but not close enough.
The Bombers outshot the Bulldogs 19-9 over the course of the game. The Bulldogs' Owens finished with nine saves while Eaton had five saves for Palmerton.
It may not have been the way Hahn wouldn't have liked to see the Bombers start the season, but he'll take the overall effort.
"I think we both played a very strong game," Hahn said. "All in all, I'm pleased with the results. Obviously, I would like to see the result a little more in our favor, but it's the first game of the season and we have to work some ruts out.
"But I'm still looking forward to a great season."
For Reinhard, the play he saw against the Bombers is a step in the right direction.
"It starts the building process with learning how to play in close games, learning to keep your composure with things get tough and the odds are stacked up against you a little bit," Reinhard said. "We're playing hard, and that's all you can ask of the kids."