Tigers win battle of unbeatens
With 1:32 remaining in the overtime session, Northwestern senior Michaela Lacek was in the right spot at the right time. Lacek took advantage of that to score the game-winning goal as the Lady Tigers edged Palisades, 2-1, in a battle Colonial League powers..
With the win, Northwestern remains undefeated on the season at 8-0. The Pirates fall to 7-1.
Northwestern head coach Kelly Bleam said that Lacek's being in the right spot wasn't all based on luck.
"That last goal, Lacek was perfectly placed at the right time for that goal," Bleam mentioned. "But that takes some knowledge on their part to be there and Michaela, a senior, knows how to read the field. Technically, it was a perfect kick. It was just how it needed to be and that's why she scored."
Palisades' goalie, Amberli D'Emilio could do nothing but watch as the soccer ball hit twine.
"Northwestern kept battling and they ended up taking advantage of some scoring opportunities, like that last goal," Palisades head coach Joy Wolf said. "In the second half of the game, it seemed that (NW) had a few more chances than we did. Defensively, we've been fantastic, but today, late in the game, we had a few breakdowns and Northwestern took full advantage."
In the early going, the Pirates and Tigers went at it evenly. Palisades actually took a 1-0 lead when Sarah Nolen scored off a Karla Keler assist at the 24:22 mark.
As the remainder of the first half ensued, the teams continued to battle in the middle of the field.
At the intermission, Bleam reviewed the importance of battling for balls out of the air. "I reminded them the importance to position themselves to win the ball out of the air," the successful coach recalled. "In the second half, I saw some incredible individual efforts from our girls to do what I asked them to do and when we won the ball out of the air, we could do good things."
The second half was dominated by the Tigers, as they consistently challenged the Pirates' defense, penetrating deep into their opponents' territory time and time again.
Eventually, Sara Jones beat her defender and Sabrina Mertz relayed the ball to Anna Fricchione on the left side of the goal. Fricchione steadied the ball and fired a shot to the far right corner of the goal to tie things up with 34 minutes left.
"I think Sabrina Mertz, in the middle of the field, stepped up to the level of play that she needed to today," Bleam said. "Her efforts today, I thought, was such a huge advantage for us."
The score remained knotted for the rest of the half, and the final buzzer of regulation signaled the ten-minute overtime period.
Eventually, it was Lacek, who found enough room to deliver the winner, after a scuffle occurred in front of the Palisades net.
"Palisades, by far, was the most physical team we have seen thus far this season," Bleam said. "Their presence overwhelmed us and it was an even match for the entire game."
With the big win under its belt, Northwestern wants to continue to improve.
"There are definitely things we need to improve on," Bleam said. "We're doing well on the scoreboard, but there are some things that I think we are going to need to improve upon in order to be where I want us to be."