SALISBURY TOWNSHIP – The Southern Lehigh girls soccer team wasn't planning to fall behind in Wednesday's Colonial League semifinal soccer game at Salisbury High School.
But when Northwestern took a 1-0 lead early in the second half, the Lady Spartans were completely prepared to play from behind. Within minutes they answered the Tigers' goal. With less than two minutes left in the game, they scored again for a 2-1 win and a berth in Friday's championship game.
"Every time we play [Northwestern] they come at us tremendously hard in the beginning," said Spartan head coach Doug Roncolato. "We were ready for it. We just had to match that. They couldn't continue to put the pressure on like that in the second half. It looked like they ran out of legs a little bit."
Northwestern, the No. 2 seed in the tournament, was clearly the more aggressive team in the first half. The Tigers recorded three shots over the first 40 minutes but none found the goal. Their defense was tenacious early in the game, not allowing the Spartans a shot until the final three minutes of the first half.
The second half saw both teams create more chances and Northwestern finally got one past Southern Lehigh keeper Melanie Novak with 33:21 left in the game.
Katie Hughes crossed to Anna Fricchione, who was positioned in front of the goal and hammered the ball home for a 1-0 lead.
Southern Lehigh (15-3-1 overall, 10-2-1 Colonial League) answered five minutes later off a corner play. Emily Cerciello inserted the ball to Melann Amory, who planted it in the goal to tie the game.
Both teams had their chances the rest of the way. Southern Lehigh capitalized with 1:56 left when Amory found Courtney Long in front of Northwestern's goal. Long recieved the ball and sent it past Northwestern keeper Kelly Boyd for the game-winning goal.
Long said her team didn't panic when it fell behind early in the half.
"As a whole we were probably let down," she said. "But we knew we had to keep up the pressure in order to get a goal back, which we did. From there it was anybody's game."
In a meeting earlier this season, Northwestern (12-3-1 overall, 10-2-1 CL) won 4-1 by jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the first 10 minutes. This time the No. 3 seed Spartans felt if they could keep it close they would have a chance to win in the end.
"We really thought it was going to take more than one goal to win the game," Roncolato said. "That's what we kept preaching to the girls. The second goal was going to be a huge goal and it really was and it put us where we needed to be."
The Tigers took a few shots in the final minutes of play trying desperately to tie the game, but they ran out of time.
"I feel like the game was very evenly matched," said Northwestern head coach Kelly Bleam. "I think we both generated some scoring chances. We had a pretty great scoring chance with about 10 seconds to go. Unfortunately we couldn't get that to go.
"I'm pleased with the way they played. I'm pleased with the heart and passion that they showed in the game."
Northwestern will move on to next week's District 11 Tournament.
"The girls are going to lick their wounds and we're going to go back at it and get ourselves ready for the district tournament," Bleam said.