NW falls in title game
Northwestern's Grace Baker, right, controls the ball in front of a Saucon Valley player during Saturday's District 11 Class AA championship game. Linda Rothrock/Special to the TIMES NEWS
ALLENTOWN - Stevie Ochse is well aware of the history of the Northwestern girls' soccer when it comes to the postseason.
It was nearly two and a half weeks ago that her Saucon Valley team edged Northwestern for the program's first-ever Colonial League title.
So the Panthers' coach knew too well what it would take for her team to spoil the Tigers' chances for another gold medal in Saturday afternoon's District 11 Class 2A championship game.
"I know Northwestern has won championship after championship over the years," said Ochse, of Northwestern, who has eight league titles and two district titles since 2000. "We know if we want to be one of those names mentioned up there that we have to beat the best. And, we were fortunate enough to get the victory today against one quality team."
The secret to success was rather simple for the Panthers. It took three first half goals to get off to a strong start against the Tigers, who had last won a district gold back in 2007. Then, it took the Panthers' defensive unit to continue its solid play straight into the second half to hold off a determined Tigers' offensive attack.
In the end, the Panthers were victorious once again against the Tigers in the postseason with a 3-0 victory and were able to hoist the program's first-ever district championship trophy as well.
"This is a very special season for us," Ochse said. "We know we're going to enjoy this. We're just excited to have two trophies in our trophy case finally."
It took awhile for any offense to get going however, but the Panthers' defender Tori Young showed she not only can play solid defense. She also has the ability to lend a helping hand on the scoring end. Young finished off a Saucon corner with a header into the back-right of the net, for a 1-0 lead.
A little over four minutes later, Saucon Valley was awarded a penalty kick. Callie Protchko drilled a shot at the Tigers' keeper Laura Hill. Hill dove and deflected the ball away, but Protchko followed and poked the ball past her for a quick 2-0 lead.
After Grace Baker got off Northwestern's lone shot of the first half on a header with 2:12 left, Alicia Binn gave the Panthers more of a cushion of a lead with a goal with 21.1 seconds left before intermission.
It seemed possible that the first half may have taken a toll on Northwestern head coach Kelly Bleam's squad. That wasn't the case as the Tigers showed hearts of a warrior and controlled the tempo of the majority of the final 40-minutes of play.
"We played very well in the second half," Bleam said. "I don't know if Saucon had a shot on goal in the second half. I don't know if they had the ball in our defending end of the field much at all in the second half, but the bottom line is we didn't get the ball (on a total of six second half shots) in the net."
After watching the Panthers' keeper Helen Ross steal the show in the league championship game, the Tigers had a hard time creating opportunities or even getting off any nice shots against her in the District final thanks to the work of Rachel Moyer, Tori Young, Annika Sundlof and Kylie Paul the crew in front of Ross this time around. On top of it, Young marked Segan, the Tigers' leading scorer with 36 goals this season, and held her to no shots in the game.
"Our defense forced them to take shots that weren't great shots at all," Ochse said. "We kept them from getting that final pass in that allowed them to put the ball in the back of the net. So, I can't say enough about how well they played tonight."
"Saucon's just that good," Bleam added. "They're very athletic. They played from beginning to the end. There's no letdowns. They're just a good team."