Special regular season for Bulldogs
NANCY SCHOLZ/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS Northern Lehigh coach Dave Oertner yells out instructions to his players during a recent game. The perfect regular season that the Bulldogs put together is a very rare accomplishment.
When he first looked at this year's schedule, Northern Lehigh girls' basketball coach Dave Oertner expected the unexpected.
The fourth-year Bulldogs' mentor truly believed that his team had a fair shot of accomplishing something rarely done in high school basketball an undefeated regular season.
That's a bit unusual to hear from any coach even before his team has taken the court.
"We talked at the beginning of the year," Oertner said. "I said to the kids, 'I think we can win every game on our schedule. I expect to win every night. That being said, we're not going to win every night.'
"We felt we were good enough to win every game on the schedule, but you never expect to win them all because sooner or later you're going to have a bad night. Things aren't going to always go your way."
At first, Oertner felt like he had jinxed his team in a way by saying that. He expected some losses to come along the way.
But things kept going in the Bulldogs' favor over the course of the season.
By season's end, his Bulldogs proved Oertner was right on the button. His squad completed the season last week at 22-0 overall and 16-0 in the Colonial League.
This year's starting five of Lauren and Aimee Ortner, Tina Bastardi, Sonya Josephson and Maggie LeVan all got significant playing time last year, most were starters for the entire seeason.
The Lady Bulldogs, who earned the Colonial League North Division crown, became a part of Northern Lehigh High School basketball history. They were the second team ever in school's basketball history to have an undefeated regular season record.
The last time it was done was back in 1985 when Glenn Rissmiller's boys' team went 24-0.
This year's Lady Bulldogs earned the No. 1 seed for the league playoffs, but were upset in the first round by Wilson Tuesday, 41-24 and will await their District 11 Class AAA seeding. They are likely to earn one of the top two seeds, but the Class AAA title goes through Central Catholic.
"Even if we don't come out of here with a championship, we did something that most teams haven't done," Oertner said. "It's harder to do what we did than it is to win a championship. You just don't get through a season without a loss too easily because of so many extrenuous factors. Whether it be foul trouble, illness, injury, whatever the reason, you just don't get through seasons like that without some challenges."
The Bulldogs also became the first undefeated girls' program in the TIMES NEWS coverage area since the Palmerton girls back in 1996-1997.
Oertner now wants his team to put the loss and the undefeated season in the past and regroup for what lies ahead.
Beyond this season is a bright future for Northern Lehigh. LeVan is the only senior in the starting five. The rest will be back for another run.
"This is a great sign for next year but we're still in this year," Oertner said. "We want to try and validate our regular season. We had a great regular season. I think the pressure got to us a little bit. But, we want to validate it by getting something on the end. You want a championship on the end if you can get it.
"That doesn't take anything away from our regular season, but we're going to try and validate it by winning the league or districts. Unfortunately, the league didn't work out. So, we're going to move onto districts and hopefully we do something well there."