One year ago in the District 11 quarterfinals, the Northwestern girls soccer team suffered a heartbreaking penalty kick loss to Saucon Valley to end its season.
On Friday afternoon, the top-seeded Tigers made sure an early exit from the playoffs wasn't about to happen again.
Led by junior forward Katie Hallingstad's four goals, Northwestern dominated ninth-seeded Palisades 7-0 in the district quarterfinals.
The Tigers will now play No. 4 seed Allentown Central Catholic in the semifinals on Tuesday at Emmaus. The Vikings defeated Wilson 4-0 in a quarterfinal round game on Friday.
For coach Kelly Bleam and her team, the disappointing finish to the 2009 season was fresh in their mind on Friday.
"Last year, we lost this game in the quarterfinals and our season ended," Bleam said. "Coming into this game, the girls wanted nothing more to make sure their season continued. I was real pleased and real proud of them to see them achieve that goal and push us into the semifinals next week."
Hallingstad got the scoring going for the Tigers just more than six minutes into the game, driving from the midfield past Palisades' defenders and beating goalkeeper Vicky Glascott. The Tigers standout junior would add another goal less than five minutes later when she scored off a long pass from sophomore Emily Iobst to give Northwestern a 2-0 lead.
Hallingstad would add two more unassisted goals to lead the Tigers into the semifinals.
"We were definitely ready for this game. We were pumped," Hallingstad said. "We got knocked out in this round last year so we were ready to bring it back and do our thing."
Haylee Kubat would give the Tigers a 5-0 advantage when she scored off a well-executed corner kick by Iobst with 35:31 remaining in the second half.
Katie Hughes finished off the scoring for the Tigers when she delivered an unassisted goal with 2:56 left in the contest. It was the second goal of the game for the junior midfielder, who made the game 3-0 in the first half when she gathered a loose ball in front of the Palisades' net and put the ball passed the goalkeeper.
After capturing the Colonial League championship last week and dominating its first district contest, Hughes believes her squad is playing some of its best soccer of the season.
"We had really good practices leading up to this game," Hughes said. "We're building on everything that we learned throughout the season and we're just progressing really good right now."
The Tigers controlled play throughout, outshooting Palisades 28-5 on the afternoon. Kelly Boyd and Chelsea Ritter combined for three saves to record the shutout for Northwestern.
Northwestern will now take on an Allentown Central Catholic team that beat the Tigers 2-1 in their season opener. But Bleam knows her team is much different than it was in the first game of the year.
"It is an expectation that I have as a coach and it's an expectation that the girls have of themselves to be a better team at the end of the season than the beginning of the season," Bleam said. "We are a better team now than we were then."
Hallingstad agrees that the Tigers are peaking at the most opportune time.
"We're definitely working better as a team now. We were doing it all season but now we are really clicking," Hallingstad said.