ALLENTOWN Helen Ross knew what she was getting herself into in Thursday night's Colonial League Girls' Soccer Championship.
The Saucon Valley goalkeeper had already faced the brunt of the Northwestern Tigers' offensive attack once before this season. At that time, Ross and her Panthers had to walk away with what turned out to be their lone league loss.
Thursday night presented a chance for the Panthers to turn the tables and avenge that loss and they did exactly that. Thanks in large part to Ross's play in net, Saucon Valley secured the program's first-ever league title with a 1-0 victory over Northwestern.
"This is the best feeling ever," said Ross, who finished with six saves. "All I told myself before this game was that, 'I can get to every ball. And, if they did go in, they went in because that so happens to be one fantastic offense I am facing.
"But, I tried my best today and that's all that matters."
For Northwestern coach Kelly Bleam and her Tigers, it marked the second straight year that they posted an unbeaten regular season only to fall in the CL title game.
"Saucon is obviously a great team," Bleam stressed. "But, I will tell you who I think is the real champion over there. It was their goalkeeper (Ross) because she took away about six goals from us.
"She played an outstanding game. She was their superstar tonight."
Over the course of the regular season, the Tigers outscored their league opponents 72-9. the majority of Northwestern wins were by three or more goals. The closest anybody got to a win against the Tigers was in a 2-1 win over Palisades and a 4-2 win over Saucon Valley back in September.
But Saucon Valley wasn't too bad itself when it came to dominating league foes. outscoring their CL opponents 68-9.
Despite the two high-powered offenses, the only goal of the game was scored by the Panthers late in the first half.
Saucon Valley freshman Paige Jones sent a beautiful cross in front of the NW posts. With the Tigers' sophomore keeper Laura Hill coming out to defend, the Panthers' Maddie Heenan beat a Tiger defender to the ball to push it to the back of the net.
"When the ball bounced, all I was thinking was, 'Oh, my gosh. This could be it. This could be it,'" Saucon Valley coach Stevie Ochse said. "And, Maddie cool and calm put it in for the game's only goal."
That was all Ross needed as she recorded her ninth shutout this season.
It wasn't easy as the Tigers' Sara Jones got off six shots while teammates Jennifer Hallingstad and Sabrina Mertz got two shots apiece.
Ross' biggest save of the night came with 2:44 left in the game.
With a cluster in front of the net, Jones was able to get her foot on the ball, but Ross dove to prevent any chance of the Tigers' senior sending the game into overtime.
"Their team is not only one player," said Ochse, refering to Northwestern's standout goal-scorer Sarah Segan. "If they only had one good player, we could have stopped their offensive attack easily, but they have so many quality players. And, that's what makes this win so special. We have beaten teams in the past that had one or two All-Stars, and we could do that.
"But, to beat a team where their entire starting lineup could be Colonial League All-Stars, that's special. They're just that good. And, to hold our own against them, and come out with the victory, is the best feeling in the world right now."