HELLERTOWN Northwestern started strong but couldn't maintain its momentum as Saucon Valley rallied for an 18-25, 25-16, 26-24, 25-6 victory in the qualifying round of the District 11 Class AA volleyball tournament on Thursday.

The ninth-seeded Tigers came out of the gates with a ton of energy. Northwestern never trailed as it rolled to the first set victory.

The young Tiger squad seemed as if they were knocking on the door of upsetting eight-seeded Saucon Valley heading into the second set.

After falling to the Panthers, 3-0, during the regular season as it appeared that Northwestern did its homework and may have initially caught Saucon on its heels in the first set.

"I really didn't tell them anything different than usual," said Saucon Valley head coach Christa Paul. "I think we froze a little bit after being down a set, but we bounced back well."

Saucon seemed to once again figure out the Tigers after the first set. Northwestern's youth showed as they made some unforced errors in the second set. These mistakes helped out Saucon immensely as they evened the game up at one set apiece.

Northwestern battled hard all night. The Tigers lead late in the third set. However, the veteran Panther team stormed back late to take a controlling 2-1 lead in the match.

"We've been practicing hard since the regular season ended," said Northwestern Lehigh head coach Amilee Schillinger. "The girls were very focused. They showed what they could do tonight even though they came up on the short end."

Momentum was completely on Saucon Valley's side after the exciting third set. The Panthers were impressive in the fourth set as they won by 19 points.

"Our plan was to exhibit ball control, keep our serves good, and put the ball away when we could," Paul said. "We had to keep our energy up throughout the match."

Paul praised her team's balance.

"Everyone played as a team tonight," she said. "Everyone did something extraordinary.

"The girls did a good job of implementing the things we worked on in practice."

Jenny VonHolt and Mariana Valencia were the only two seniors on the Tigers' squad this season.

"Jenny and Mariana were both outstanding leaders for us this year," said Northwestern's Schillinger.

Northwestern will have a great core of experienced players coming back for another season.

"Next year will be our third year as a team so we have some high expectations," Schillinger said.

As for Saucon Valley, it will travel to Allentown Central Catholic today to try and advance further along in the district playoffs.

Paul said, "Northwestern was a tough test. Not only do they have a great group of girls, they have a great coaching staff as well.

"Hopefully we can carry this momentum over to tomorrow and earn another win."