Three years ago when he took over as head coach, Northern Lehig's Brian Schell envisioned what his group of promising young players had the potential to accomplish.
That vision is gradually forming into reality for Schell and his veteran core of talented players.
Evidence of that was displayed in the Bulldogs 2-0 shutout of Palisades during the Colonial League Play Day at Patriots Park Saturday afternoon.
With the win, Northern Lehigh (6-2, 5-1) remained deadlocked with Pen Argyl for the top spot in the CL North Division. It was their third consecutive victory since they lost to Pen Argyl on April 9.
Schell believes that position is due mainly to his club's maturation process and mutual respect for one another.
"This has been a team in the making," Schell stated. "We started when they were young and didn't have much varsity experience and now they are juniors and seniors. They are a very, very focused unit, and they are one of the tightest teams I have ever coached.
"It is easy to see how they work well together."
Intensity was in the air as a playoff atmosphere was set in a pitcher's duel between Palisades' Krista Marrone and Northern Lehigh's Julie Wagaman. Three days earlier, Palisades the second place in the Colonial League South erupted for nine runs in the fifth inning for a convincing 15-4 victory over division-leader Saucon Valley.
But Wagaman silenced Palisades' bats limiting them to six hits and striking out five in the complete game effort. Wagaman realized the significance for her and her teammates of the only regular scheduled meeting between the two teams this season.
"We normally play them twice and we won and lost against them in close games last year," said Wagaman, a senior who will attend Misericorida University next year and study physical therapy. "Knowing that we only meet them once, we wanted this and needed it as well.
"They (Palisades) have a great team, and we expect the best from us. The play of our infield and outfield was just incredible."
Junior catcher Erika Bowman, who is hitting .435 in league play and leading off for the Bulldogs, went 2-for-4 with an RBI and junior Tamara Stubits was 2-for-3 with an RBI and a double. Junior Kristi Seiler was 1-for-3 with an RBI as the Bulldogs pushed across runs in the fourth and seventh innings in the role of the visiting team.
"Erika (Bowman) does an exceptional job at calling the game for us," said Schell of his three-year varsity receiver. "She (Bowman) and Julie (Wagaman) both work very hard and have been together for the past three years. They are both very dedicated and know each other well."
Wagaman noted that the familiarity has been a major step toward success for the team that posted 17 wins and a postseason appearance last year.
"I like to consider us like a family," she said. "We're tight on and off the field and we can sense when the mood is good or bad. This team can work out problems and we have been together for a long time."
Staying together for a long time this season should further solidify their unit.
No. Lehigh 000 100 1 - 2 6 0
Palisades 000 000 0 - 0 5 2
Wagaman and Bowman; Marrone and Sadow. W- Wagaman L - Marrone