ALLENTOWN During Thursday's District 11 girls' soccer championship, Blue Mountain did a solid job defensively on Northwestern forward Sarah Segan for the first half and much of the second.
But the Eagles weren't able to contain the Tigers' leading goal-scorer until the final whistle.
With the Tigers up 2-1 late in the second half and the Blue Eagles in need of a goal, Segan rose to the occasion in putting the stamp on the game. She scored two goals in the span of 3:53 late in the game, and the Tigers went on to earn the District 11 Class AA girls soccer championship on Thursday at J. Birney Crum Stadium with their 4-1 victory over the Eagles.
"Their one player who was marking me the whole game had to move up forward," Segan said. "She's a really great player. She was on me really well the whole game. So the fact that when they moved up, we were able to create more opportunities, but also had to watch her back there."
It was a long time coming for the Tigers, who lost in last season's district championship game to Saucon Valley. The Tigers also lost in the Colonial League title game last season. But now, a year later, the Tigers have added a district title to go with the league championship they won two weeks ago.
"Last year was a heartbreaker, definitely, because we worked so hard for it" said Sabrina Mertz. "To come back this year, I think we were ever stronger and more prepared."
While Segan assisted the Tigers' second goal that put them ahead 2-1 in the first half, she didn't have many chances on goal until the final minutes.
After leaving the game briefly with 21 minutes to play after accidentally heading a Blue Mountain player, Segan returned to the field after a few minutes on the bench. It wasn't long after that Segan was able to score her first goal of the game, putting the Tigers ahead by two goals.
Approaching the Eagles' goal line, Segan made a move around a few Blue Mountain defenders and fired a shot to the top of the goal. Her shot ricocheted off the top crossbar and bounced into the Lions' goal, giving the Tigers a 3-1 lead with 7:20 to play.
"I knew I had two defenders I had to beat through," Segan said.
"The fact that I was able to get a shot off was a goal of mine."
Not even four minutes later, the Tigers struck again. Angela Motolese found Segan near the Lions' goal, and her score with 3:27 remaining gave the Tigers a comfortable 4-1 lead.
Tied at a goal apiece late in the first half, Segan possessed the ball near the Lions' goal line and spotted Alexis Gawelko in the middle of the field. After getting a foot on the ball, Gawelko fired a shot into the right side of the net to put the Tigers ahead 2-1 with 12:57 to play in the half.
"We've been working on finishing off the end-line cross all season," Gawelko said. "It was a great ball to Segan, and Segan had a great cross. I was just the one there to finish it."
Mertz broke a scoreless tie relatively early, after her left-footed strike from roughly 20 yards out put the Tigers on the board with 30:56 to play.
The Lions responded nearly nine minutes later after Abigail Fanelli's shot hit the post and rolled into goal.
"I definitely think it helps us a lot when we score first," Mertz said. "If you see in the games where we scored first, I think it gives us a lot of confidence and momentum."
While they have moved past last season's title game losses, those defeats have certainly motivated the Tigers this year.
"In practice when we were getting a little lazy," Gawelko said. "We would try to remind ourselves that we have to work hard. We have to be mentally tough the whole time. We just really had to focus on winning."
The Tigers defeated Notre Dame (Green Pond) in the quarterfinals, 6-0, and Southern Lehigh in the semifinals, 3-1, in advancing to the championship game.