Mertz leads Tigers past So. Lehigh
bob ford/times news Southern Lehigh's Erin Donnelly (left) and Sarah Segan of Northwestern (9) try to gain control of the ball.
Northwestern's Sabrina Mertz worked with coach Kelly Bleam at practice the last two days on taking early shots outside the 18-yard box.
Mertz netted two of those types of shots Tuesday night to help the Tigers defeat Southern Lehigh, 3-1, in the District 11 Class AA girls soccer semifinals.
Mertz talked about seeing her hard work come to fruition on such a grand stage.
"It feels good," she said. "We worked on that in practice so much. I had the chance so I figured why not try one and it went in."
The junior midfielder was a factor in all three scores for Northwestern as she assisted classmate Sarah Segan on the team's final goal.
"I must commend Sabrina tremendously," said Bleam. "She worked on those outside shots and she made two of them tonight. She did it perfectly. I couldn't be prouder of her."
Mertz's first goal came with 19:44 left in the first half from about 20 yards out that maneuvered through the Spartan defense and found the net. The second score traveled 30 yards and went over the head of Southern Lehigh's goalkeeper Laura Hill.
"It definitely felt good," Mertz said of scoring twice in the semifinal. "My team gave me some really great passes. I couldn't have done it without them. We played some really good defense as well. it was a great team effort tonight."
Southern Lehigh's Kaitlynn Kaseel got the Colonial League South Division champions on the board with 38:40 left in the game with a header off a corner kick right in the center of the goal.
The Spartans (13-4-1), who beat Saucon Valley in the district quarterfinal, won the shots on goal battle, 14-10, but the Tigers had more that found the net.
In the first match-up between the two, they tied 1-1 making the Spartans were the only team not to lose to Bleam's bunch. She knew this was going to be a tough semifinal battle.
"We knew that in terms of match-up that Southern Lehigh was our toughest matchup in the league," said Bleam. "They are well organized and they are very talented. We certainly realized that we needed to come in to this game with our strengths and put those strengths in places where we could minimize their abilities."
Segan's goal iced the win for the Tigers with 11:05 left in the game and advanced them to the District 11 final on Thursday and guaranteed them a spot in the PIAA tournament.
Northwestern (16-0-1) will face Blue Mountain in the championship game. The Blue Eagles defeated Central Catholic 2-1 in their semifinal.
"Taking a team to a district final is exciting," said Bleam. "It's what the girls worked for all season. They will be excited to put their talent out there."
Mertz and the Tigers will be working hard to make their outside shots to give them a close shot at the district title.