N'western beats Saucon for title
SALISBURY The Northwestern Lehigh girls soccer team certainly remembered how last season's league play ended a 2-1 defeat to Saucon Valley in the Colonial League championship game.
A year later, the Tigers found themselves in a similar situation on Thursday night against the Panthers.
Fortunately for the Tigers, they were able to gain a little bit of revenge this time around.
In the midst of a 1-1 game late in the second half of Thursday night's Colonial League championship game, two of the Tigers' leaders came up in a big way. Off a pass from junior midfielder Sabrina Mertz, junior forward Sarah Segan tallied the game-winning goal with 10:08 remaining that gave the Tigers a 2-1 victory and the league championship.
"Everyone remembers it," Segan said of last season's loss. "You can't forget that. It's just that we needed to forget about that, and worry about the future [and] worry about what's happening now."
"Saucon always gives us a great game," Mertz said. "They gave us a great fight. Luckily this year, we were able to come out on top."
Prior to last season's loss in the championship game, the Tigers' last league championship came in 2010.
With the ball approaching the goal line near the Panthers' goal, Mertz heard Segan calling for the ball. After a brief look, Mertz fed Segan in front of the Panthers' goal, and Segan was there to put the ball into the left side of the net.
"Segan made a great run to the near post," Mertz said. "I heard her voice, and I looked up and saw her. She was able to finish the goal. It was a great finish."
"Sabrina [Mertz] made a really great run down the line," Segan said. "That's something we've been working on all season. And the fact that she found me, that's something that's really hard to do."
Although the Tigers dominated the Panthers in terms of shots, finishing with a 15-3 advantage, the teams remained tied at a goal apiece with just over ten minutes to play.
Bleam, however, wanted her team to continue plugging away.
"My mindset at the point, which I believe the girls' was to, was to keep at it," Bleam said. "That's a hard thing to teach, and that's a hard discipline for kids to learn."
The Tigers put the first goal on scoreboard late in the first half. Following a Trista Cunningham throw-in that bounced in front of the Panthers' goal, Megan Landrigan got a foot on the ball and put it in the back of the net with 15:53 to play in the half.
The Tigers wouldn't hold that lead for long.
A minute later, Maddie Heenan's goal for the Panthers tied the game back up 1-1, a score that held for the next 44:45 stretching into the second half.
"It's hard to not fall apart after that, and not breakdown after that," Bleam said.
"That goes hand-in-hand with the persistence."
The Tigers had a number of chances, in both the first and second half, to retake the lead.
With 1:47 remaining in the first half, Segan's shot was saved by a Panther defender just in front of the goal line. A little more than a minute later, Panther goalkeeper Helen Ross saved a shot on goal by Landrigan.
Much of the same was seen in the second half. With 28:22 remaining, Segan made a move inside the 18-yard mark, but her left-footed strike was a few feet above the crossbar.
A minute later, Segan pushed the ball ahead for an opportunity on goal, but a diving Ross saved that shot. Not even a minute later, Angela Motolese had a shot on goal that was too saved.
The Panthers also had an opportunity to take the lead.
Lauren Binn took a deep free kick from over 30 yards out that was on target, but Tiger goalkeeper Laura Hill was able to get a hand on the ball and deflect it over goal.
"I thought we played with persistence and with patience," Bleam said. "It was a very necessary thing for us to play with both of those things because Saucon is obviously very good, very strong defensively, and very organized. It took time for us to solve the problem, and for us to wear them down."