When Northwestern softball coach Jen Horner thinks about what this year's end-of-season banquet will be like, she can't help getting a bit emotional.
It's not uncommon for coaches to shed a tear when they say goodbye to a class of seniors that have been with their program for four years. But this year, one of the Lady Tigers' seniors is Horner's niece, Lauren.
A four-year starter at shortstop, Lauren's been on her aunt's team since her freshman season. They've both enjoyed being part of each other's careers.
"I really like it," said Lauren. "Sometimes it's a little hard, as you would expect. Sometimes I'll call her Aunt Jen and then I'm like 'Oh, wait. I mean Coach.'
"She has always taught me the harder you work the better you'll be able to play. She taught me to have a love for the game."
Lauren's been one of the team's best players all four years, batting over .400 the past two years while scoring 18 runs each season. As a junior she had a .507 on base percentage.
This season Lauren is batting .360 with three home runs, 11 runs scored and 12 RBIs.
"My whole family is pretty involved in softball," said Lauren Horner. "They got me started at a young age and [Jen] has always been there for me with it."
Jen has watched her niece play since Lauren was in elementary school. She was just one member of the family to have an impact on Lauren's career. The first was her father and Jen's brother, Charlie Horner.
"My brother was a varsity coach at Upper Perkiomen and he also played mens fastpitch softball," said Jen Horner. "He knows a lot about softball and put a lot of time in with her."
Jen credits her brother with reviving the NYAA travel softball program and getting teams back into the Lehigh Valley League.
"He did a coaching clinic where he taught [youth coaches] the right things we should be doing," Jen said. "He really made a difference."
While there have been some good times and some tough times for the Tiger softball program over the past four year's, Jen Horner couldn't be more proud of Lauren for how she performed on and off the field.
"There are situations she's had to overcome with me being the coach," Jen said. "Her maturity and her character shine through and she has been a role model out there on how to conduct yourself on the field."
Lauren will always be Jen's niece, but in a few months their player-coach relationship will end as Lauren graduates and moves on to a college field hockey career.
"At the banquet it will be emotional for me," Jen said.
COMEBACK KIDS ... After starting the season 0-5, the Palmerton baseball team has won four of its last five games heading into Wednesday's action. Interestingly enough, all four have been of the come-from-behind variety.
In the Bombers' first win over Pen Argyl on April 4, they trailed 1-0 heading into the third inning when they scored six runs. They would go on to win 6-5.
Five days later against Catasauqua, Tanner Gutekunst hit a two-RBI triple in the bottom of the fifth to give his team a 6-5 lead. The score would remain the same until the end.
Palmerton came back yet again on April 11, but did so in a much more dramatic fashion. The locals scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh, capped by Lee Kuntz's pinch-hit RBI single with two outs, to beat Northern Lehigh by a 10-9 score.
The Bombers' most recent comeback victory came over Notre Dame of Green Pond on April 16. Trailing 4-0 heading into the third, Bombers scored six runs to take a 6-4 lead. They would add three more in the bottom of the sixth, thanks to RBIs from Tyler Svetik, Ryan Sander and Mike Horvath, to win 9-6.
INDIAN SISTER ACT ... Of the nine goals scored by the Lehighton girls' soccer team, six have been scored by the Andrew sisters.
Senior Kaycie has scored three goals, with two coming against Catasauqua on April 14. Her freshman sibling, Allison, also has three tallies on the season. She recorded two of those goals against East Stroudsburg North on April 4.
SOCCER SCORERS ... Through the first month of the spring soccer season, four local girls have scored at least six goals.
Pleasant Valley currently boasts the top two scorers in the area. Dianna Connor leads all scorers with 10 goals and has recorded two goals in each of the Bears' last three games. Teammate Emily Schlogl has added seven.
Northwestern's Sarah Segan and Anna Fricchione have scored six goals apiece to tie for third in the area.
RULING THE COURT ... The Pleasant Valley boys' tennis team moved to 11-1 on the year with its 4-3 victory over Liberty on Wednesday.
Ironically, it was the only match this season that the Bears have won in which they surrendered more than two points.
The Bears defeated East Stroudsburg North, Nazareth and Pocono Mountain East by identical scores of 5-2. Each of the locals' seven other wins came by a score of 6-1 or greater.