Zellner's OT goal lifts Bulldogs
ron gower/times news Rachel Wagner (8) of Northern Lehigh is boxed in by Northwestern's Caileigh Landigran (3) and Samantha Partington (1). In background is Norlehi's Morgan Farber (34).
Northern Lehigh head coach Jess Frew knew her team's game against Northwestern could wind up being decided in overtime as a matter of fact, she expected it.
So much so that she spent a good portion of practice on Tuesday preparing her Bulldogs for it.
Frew based her feelings on the fact that the regular season contest between the Colonial League rivals went to overtime earlier this month.
While the extra period of play produced a tie in league play, there was no ending in a tie this time around in the opening round of the District 11 Class AA playoffs. There would be a winner decided either in the two overtime periods or in a shootout if needed.
"We played them in overtime last time and we didn't finish," Frew said. "Today, I told the girls, 'We need to find a way to finish our scoring chances."
With 2:34 left in the first 15-minute overtime, Northern Lehigh junior Lauren Zellner stepped into the spotlight and did what was asked of her by her head coach finally finish off on a scoring opportunity. Zellner capitalized on just her second shot of the game to lift her Bulldogs to a 1-0 victory over the Tigers.
Northern Lehigh (11-7-2 overall) will now move on to the semifinals to face another Colonial League foe in Moravian Academy. The game will be at noon on Saturday at Emmaus High School.
"They basically were not ready to end their season," Frew said. "I said to them, 'One of these teams' season is going to end. Do you want it to be your's?'
"Rachel (Wagner) played as though she was not ready to finish her senior year. She showed a lot of heart."
It was Wagner who set up Zellner for the chance to get the job done.
"We have gone into overtime so many times that we're used to this," Wagner said. "We knew all we had to do is push through it and we did it finally. We needed that goal. I did not want to lose. I wasn't quite ready to finish my field hockey career."
Shortly after Wagner got her stick on the ball at midfield, the Bulldog senior raced down the field, outrunning the Tigers' defenders to initiate what turned out to be a one-on-one with goalie Lorraine Feinour. That was until Zellner entered the picture to turn it into a two-on-one.
"They (the defense) were focusing their energy on Rachel and "Z" (Zellner) just snuck in the back door on fresh legs. We had just subbed her in and she had a lot of energy."
With a clear field ahead of her, Zellner zoned in on the goal.
"All I saw was the goal cage and the goalie ahead of me," Zellner said. "We just pushed it ahead and Rachel got off a beautiful pass to me. I was just happy that we could finally capitalize on it."
Up until the game-winning goal, its was goalie Nicole Horn who was the star for her team. The Bulldog keeper had plenty of close calls, but she kept the Tigers off the scoreboard by stopping eight shots.
One of those saves happened just minutes before Zellner won the game when the Tigers' Caileigh Landrigan ripped off a shot that looked as if it was going in, but Horn got her pads on it.
"We came out with fire in our eyes," said Horn. "We were ready to play because this is our biggest rival and this was the district playoffs. We just wanted to keep playing."
Despite the loss, coach Jess Becker was still proud of the effort by the Tigers (11-6-3).
"I'm disappointed for them because they worked so hard and came so far," Becker said. "They played their hearts out there today. Unfortunately, we just didn't put the ball in the net.
"I couldn't be any prouder of this team. They definitely made their mark on Northwestern hockey as I think this is one of the best teams I've coached here."