SALISBURY TOWNSHIP Northern Lehigh did its best to control Bangor's star player, Emily Howell, in Tuesday's Colonial League semifinal matchup.
Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, their best just wasn't good enough.
Howell, a unanimous First Team CL selection, set up her team's first goal in the first half and, more importantly, fired in the game-winner with 6:18 remaining on the clock to lift the Slaters to a 2-1 victory and a berth in Thursday's championship game.
"That's their go-to player," said Nolehi head coach Jess Frew. "She's a really good player and you definitely want to control her ... We really did our best to control her but unfortunately when you're down in numbers you can only do so much to control the situation."
With the score 1-1 late in the second half, Howell took a feed on a penalty corner and used a move to free herself up in the circle. She then delivered a perfect shot to the corner of the cage to give her team a lead it wouldn't relinquish.
"She's a big-time player," said Slater mentor Liza Kienzle, whose team will play Moravian Academy Thursday for the title. "It was big to get that corner. She knew that she had to pull the flier, and with that she could get that shot off. It was a beautiful shot right to the corner.
"We were really stressing that we needed to take direct shots, and if it doesn't go in be ready off the pads. I thought Northern Lehigh's goalie does a great job and I didn't think playing around with it was going to work out for us so we needed to take those direct shots. That's what Emily kept doing and it worked out in the end."
While Bulldog goalie Nicole Horn couldn't come up with the save on Howell's perfectly-placed shot, she made numerous stops to keep her team in the game. Horn turned aside blasts from just inside the circle and also was strong in close.
"She's very assertive and very strong," said Frew. "She's not afraid to make the plays. She's not afraid to come out. She's confident in her abilities and we're confident in her too. We're proud of the way she played."
Frew was also proud of the way her team came back after giving up the game's opening goal.
A blast from Emily Boyle, off a feed from Howell, gave second-seeded Bangor a 1-0 start 8:19 into the contest. But the Bulldogs took control after that and three minutes later got the equalizer.
Casey Gavalla got off a low shot and Kayla Brensinger, sitting on the post, deflected the ball past the Slaters' Casey Kiefer.
"That definitely kept us motivated," said Frew, whose team dropped their third one-goal decision to Bangor this season. "When you can tie the game and get back in it there's a hope that you can do this. It gave us a spark.
"Some teams when they get down they can't really fight back but ... we were able to get back on the board and keep fighting. They didn't stop fighting the whole game. It just didn't go our way in the end."
Northern Lehigh, seeded third, played with a man advantage over the final 2:35 when a Slater player was given a yellow card but the Bulldogs never really threatened during that stretch.
Now, Frew and her team must look forward to the district playoffs.
"A loss is never easy to get over, especially when you're playing for an opportunity to go to the championship game," said Frew. "But if you dwell on it you won't really be prepared for districts. That's where we're headed now and that's what we want to be prepared for."