Northwestern Lehigh girls soccer coach Kelly Bleam breathed a sigh of relief following Tuesday's PIAA Girls Soccer First Round 2A playoff game at Northern Lehigh Stadium.
The District 11 champions went over 70 minutes before they scored what turned about to be the winning goal in a 1-0 win over District 3 No. 3 seed Palmyra.
The Cougars season came to an end with a 12-11 record, but you would never know they were making their first trip in school history into the state tournament.
The Mid-Penn Keystone Division squad dodged quite a few bullets along the way and a lot of it had to do with some great saves by junior Katy McClellan.
It was Sabrina Mertz, who managed to shoot a bullet by her with 7:16 remaining, off a flip shot from the other side of the field from teammate Trista Cunningham for the game-winner.
"That was a great goal," Bleam beamed. "These girls all season have done an amazing job creating goals. Often times it's the build up to their goals that is more impressive than the goal itself. They do that so beautifully and fortunately we were able to finish one of them."
Mertz had nine of her team's 17 shots on goal in the contest, including two that McClellan blocked and one that was high in the second half. The Cougars had 10 shots on goal.
"It could have been a lot bigger margin of victory," Bleam said. "The Palmyra goalkeeper (McClellan) took some goals away. Hats of to her. She really did a nice job back there. Defensively, Palmyra was very well organized and they have some great talent. So I'm pretty thrilled to come away with a win against a quality program. We're going to enjoy it and look forward to Saturday."
Bleam wasn't kidding when she called the Cougars a quality team.
The Tigers shut down forward Maddie Good, who is headed for Stoney Brook next fall after finishing with 19 goals this season and school record 73 career goals. She had just three shots on goal, as did her teammate Erin Kulp.
Six of the losses that the Cougars suffered entering yesterday's contest were to 3A powers Hershey, Lower Dauphin and Mechanicsburg.
The Tigers' goalie Laura Hill had five saves, while McClellan stopped seven between the posts.
Northwestern also had a 5-2 edge in corners.
Angela Motolese had four shots on goal and Sara Segan had three to back up Mertz.
The Tigers (21-1-1) will now take on District 1 champion Villa Joseph Marie (16-2) on Saturday in the PIAA quarterfinal round at a site and time to be determined.