Northwestern making amends for 2012 losses
ALLENTOWN - Colonial League title? Check.
District title? Check.
By defeating No. 2 Blue Mountain 4-1 in the District 11 Class AA title game, the top-seeded Northwestern Lehigh girls' soccer team made amends for a successful 2012 season that was overshadowed by losses to Saucon Valley in both the Colonial League and district championship games.
The significance of claiming both titles in the same year is something that is not lost on coach Kelly Bleam.
"It's just awesome," Bleam said.
But for Bleam, the triumph was more about what it meant to her players.
"This is a really fantastic group of girls," she said. "The senior class had not won a championship during their years with Northwestern (girls soccer). And I am so pleased for these seniors that they are able to win not only their league, but also their district and go home with gold medals and have that memory for themselves as they graduate from high school."
The title, which is Northwestern's fourth and first since 2008, was truly a team effort.
"We have a very good team and I just can't emphasize that enough," Bleam said. "There might be attention that's given to one goal scorer, but we can't win a game with an individual. We can't win championships with an individual.
"We have an amazing group of girls that are talented athletes and talented soccer players."
That talent has propelled the Lady Tigers (20-1-1) to new heights this season. Northwestern was ranked first in the final regular season Pennsylvania Soccer Coaches Association Small School poll and will be making yet another appearance in the PIAA tournament, which begins Tuesday.
That skill was also necessary against a Blue Mountain (16-6-1) team that won its fourth consecutive Schuylkill League title and defeated Central Catholic, sixth in the PSCA Small School rankings, to earn a spot in the title game.
"Blue Mountain is a good team and they're very tough," Bleam said. "They made these girls work hard tonight, which is awesome and a great way to win the title."
One of Northwestern's key players throughout the season and again on this night was all-state selection Sabrina Mertz, who gave the Lady Tigers a 1-0 lead early in the first half.
"This is extremely satisfying because we've worked so hard this entire season," said Mertz. "Even though we worked really hard last season, we didn't get the results that we were looking for (against Saucon Valley).
"But to be able to come back this year and win both titles is such an amazing feeling because we know that every single person stepped up and worked extremely hard tonight."
For Mertz and the rest of the Northwestern squad, the focus shifts to another chapter in a storybook season that's set to begin next week.
"States is a totally different environment and the competition definitely steps up," the junior said. "But if we go out there and play some really good games we can definitely come away with a few wins and maybe more."