No. Lehigh clinches CL berth
ron gower/times news Northern Lehigh's Lauren Zellner (left) and Catasauqua's Paige Kogelman battle for possession of the ball.
It took the Northern Lehigh field hockey team roughly 15 minutes to record its first shot in its Colonial League match-up with Catasauqua on Tuesday night.
It then took the Lady Bulldogs 53 minutes and 21 seconds to record their first goal of the night, which eventually sent the game into overtime.
However, once the 'Dawgs got into OT, it only took six minutes and 36 seconds for them to score the game-winner and send the crowd home happy.
Jessie Olewine got Northern Lehigh on the board with roughly seven minutes left in regulation to tie the Rough Riders at one. Then, on the Bulldogs' eighth shot and fifth corner of overtime, Casey Gavalla put home the game-winner to help her team to the 2-1 league victory. Northern Lehigh's victory, coupled with a Saucon Valley loss, guarantees the locals a spot in the Colonial League playoffs next week.
"The last time we played (Catty) they were very strong," said Northern Lehigh head coach Jessica Frew. "They weren't going to roll over. They needed this game for the playoffs and I expected a very tough game.
"Catty really came out solid. The girls felt distressed, but they handled the pressure and knew what they had to do. I hate when they wait so long, but in the final moments they dug down deep and did what they had to do."
Catasauqua took the first lead of the game at the 19:52 mark of the first half when Megan Covert scored off of a corner. The Roughies had maintained most of the possession up until that point and seemed poised to upset the Bulldogs.
It wasn't until about midway through the opening half that Northern Lehigh finally got its offense going. The Bulldogs first shot didn't come until the 16-minute mark, but once they took it they reeled off four more in the span of two minutes. They would finish the half with one less shot (7-6) despite the slow start.
"Obviously our goal is to make the playoffs," said Frew. "I told them at halftime that if they didn't pull this game off then their chances of making it would be slim to none. So it was enough motivation that if you have a goal in mind then you are going to do what it takes to accomplish it. That meant beating this team and moving onto the next."
Northern Lehigh took heed to the words of its coach and came out aggressive in the second half. The 'Dawgs out-shot (8-0) and out-cornered (5-1) the Roughies in the second frame and finally had their efforts pay off at the 6:39 mark. Olewine put back a rebound off of a corner and tied the game at one.
The game eventually went into overtime and saw the pace pick up dramatically with both sides down to seven players. Catasauqua had two consecutive corners early on, but failed to score on both attempts.
Northern Lehigh then flipped the pressure back onto Catasauqua and had it translate into Gavalla's game-winner.
"It was pretty crazy," said Gavalla. "We were planning on doing '24' which is a straight out pass and then crossed over for a shot. But it got mixed up so we actually did an accidental corner. It came right out, my player tipped it to me and it just went right in."
Bangor and Southern Lehigh have already laid claim to the top two seeds in the Colonial League playoffs. Which team gets the top seed is yet to be determined. So are the No. 3 and No. 4 seeds. Northern Lehigh has guaranteed itself one, but won't know which it will get until after Thursday's games are complete.
Having lost two close games to Bangor, it seems as if Northern Lehigh would like to have a third crack at beating the Slaters.
"Both games against Bangor we lost in overtime," Frew said. "If that is who we are going to play then I know our girls want a shot at them. Everybody wants their shot at the teams on top."