SALISBURY TOWNSHIP Palisades senior forward Elisabeth Berdini used to fear penalty kicks. Her opinion surely has changed after Friday night's game-winner in the Colonial League title game.
Berdini got fouled inside the box with 3:15 left in the first half and converted the penalty kick. Despite Northwestern's best efforts, the goal stood up for a 1-0 win and the league title.
"I'm really afraid of penalty kicks," said Berdini. "I had a really bad one on my club team. When I do miss, I hit it over. So I didn't even look at the goalie. I was just thinking keep it low and don't miss the goal."
Berdini went low and left against Northwestern keeper Loraine Feinour, who got a hand on it but couldn't deflect it enough.
Feinour played a good game, stopping all nine Pirate shots during play.
"She played fantastic," said Northwestern head coach Kelly Bleam. "She did a lot to keep the Palisades team scoreless in the flow of play."
As well as Feinour played, Palisades keeper Amberli D'Emilio was even better. She only saw three shots in the first half, but stopped a barrage as Northwestern put 12 shots on goal in the second half.
The Tigers finally started to consistently attack the Palisades goal in the final 20 minutes. D'Emilio saved a Sara Jones header off a corner kick with 17:44 left, which could have been her most impressive stop of the game.
"Amberli came up big," said Pirate head coach Joy Wolf. "Everybody on our team fought. That header from Sara Jones could have easily tied the game and she made a huge save."
Northwestern (16-1) had several more chances over the final 15 minutes. Some shots sailed just high or wide. Anything close to the goal got stopped by D'Emilio.
"She's a great goal keeper," said Berdini. "I don't think any goal keeper could play better than she did today. I was so impressed. So thankful, too."
Northwestern, which battled through injuries and played without would-be starters all season long, had forward Sarah Segan playing through obvious pain in the game. The Tiger freshman still made several quality shots, but no one could solve E'Emilio. Her coach said it was the senior's best performance of the season. Her second best was the 2-1 overtime loss the Pirates (19-1) suffered to Northwestern back on April 13.
"Obviously a team like Northwestern puts more pressure on us than we've seen throughout the season," said Wolf.
Their only loss of the season motivated the Pirates.
"I'm happy we lost the game," said Berdini. "Losing that game showed us we needed to work on some things and work hard and hustle throughout the game."
The Tigers will look for that same motivation as they head into the District 11 tournament, most likely as the No. 4 seed.
Despite the loss, Bleam was happy with the way her team played and looks forward to the remainder of the postseason.
"I'm happy with the way the girls played," she said. "I feel like we got a lot of opportunities to score and unfortunately we didn't capitalize on them. The Palisades goal keeper stole a lot of goals. She really was outstanding. She denied us."