Bulldogs blank Northwestern
nancy scholz/special to the times news Northern Lehigh Jess Olewine (left) tries to get around Northwestern's Kylee Bennett.
For 60 minutes, the Northern Lehigh field hockey team applied relentless pressure against Northwestern en route to a dominating 2-0 win in Colonial League play.
"We just wanted to make sure that we controlled the game and maintained possession," Northern Lehigh coach Jessica Frew said. "And I think they did a nice job possessing the ball and attacking."
The Lady Bulldogs controlled the tempo from the outset, constantly pushing the pace and putting the ball in front of Northwestern (1-2) goaltender Laura Kotula, who faced 16 shots in the contest.
For the first 29 minutes, Kotula was able to turn back Northern Lehigh's offensive onslaught, stopping a number of shots from close range.
But with 12 seconds remaining before halftime, Northern Lehigh (2-1) finally broke through, as Dakota Schweitzer collected the ball in front of the net and fired a shot past Kotula to give the Lady Bulldogs a 1-0 lead before the intermission.
That momentum carried into the second half, as Erika McKay scored after just six minutes to give the Northern Lehigh a commanding two-goal advantage, which proved to be plenty for goaltender Chelsea Harlan, who made 12 saves in recording the shutout.
"I have a lot of trust in my defense," Harlan said. "They always get back well and hustle to make sure the ball doesn't go in the cage and that always helps me out in goal."
After earning a 3-0 win against Colonial League power Bangor on Wednesday, Harlan and the defense have certainly been a strong point for Northern Lehigh early in the year, which is something Frew hopes to build on as the season progresses.
"We really stress team defense, so it does start with the first layer of forwards and I just stress that everyone needs to be recovering to defend," Frew said. "They just do an outstanding job; their knowledge of the game, their skill and just their calm and collectedness under pressure is outstanding. I can't say enough about how well they play off of each other."
Northern Lehigh's defensive pressure limited the Lady Tigers to only four shots on goal and left little room for error.
"I know my forwards were very frustrated with feeling like we couldn't open the game up offensively," Northwestern coach Patty Mengel said. "We couldn't get anything going because they were good in recovering and playing defense as well.
"It's hard to score in this game. When you go up 1-0, then 2-0 seems insurmountable…But my team didn't quit and that was probably the best game we've played so far this season."
Back-to-back wins against two difficult opponents gives Frew and her staff optimism moving forward knowing her team has the toughness and character to once again compete in the Colonial League.
"I think they did a really nice job," Frew said. "They played (against Bangor) yesterday and it's always tough to play back-to-back games; not only physically, but mentally because you've invested in the game and it can be exhausting.
"It's tough, but I think they endured very well and did the best that they could playing in back-to-back games."