Northwestern downs Blue Bombers
Palmerton’s Emma Christman (right) tries to go around Northwestern defender Lauren Schellhamer. RICH GEORGE/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
Leading by just a single goal after the first 30 minutes, Northwestern dominated play in the second half and went on to post a 3-1 Colonial League field hockey victory over Palmerton on Wednesday.
With the outcome still in doubt, Northwestern coach Lisa Opolsky urged her team to keep pushing the pace after the break and the Tigers responded.
“We wanted to continue with our game plan, but also improve our passes and be more patient moving the ball,” Opolsky said.
Northwestern actually began to take control late in the first half as it scored right before intermission to snap a 1-1 tie.
The Tigers pressured the offensive zone for the final six minutes of the opening half and their efforts paid off just 10 seconds before the first-half horn. That’s when Ally Meyers, with an assist from Lauren Schellhamer, found the back of the net to give her team a one-goal edge heading into the second half.
That continued after intermission as the Tigers aggressive play forced three corners in the first three minutes and had Palmerton on its heels. The pressure paid off with 17 minutes to go, as Brynn Balliet took a pass from Reagan Hernandez and batted the ball home for a 3-1 Northwestern lead.
Not until seven minutes remained did Palmerton make a rush, but it failed to get a shot on goal. The Northwestern defense prevented any challenges the rest of the way to secure the victory.
When asked about his team’s play after the game, Bombers’ coach Pat Frank replied, “I have nothing to say.”
Opolsky liked her team’s full-game efforts.
“We played with grit and determination,” she said. “I especially liked how we passed the ball laterally before moving forward.”
She also thought the speed of their attack kept Palmerton off balance most of the contest.
“We have a good team with good talent,” she said. “For a small school, we play really good hockey, which helps make our league more competitive and better all around.”
Northwestern also controlled play early in the first half before a Palmerton flurry eventually evened things up.
The Tigers forced the action, gaining four corners inside of a five-minute block of time with one shot from the left side bouncing off the post.
Then at the 11:40 mark, on a pass from Schellhamer, Tess Ledeboer drilled a shot from about 15 yards out that found its way through a maze of defenders into the net for the first goal of the game.
But the Bombers would soon answer. Off a corner and a scramble in front of the Northwestern net, Jill Frank fired a shot that was tipped in by Abby Everett to knot the score at one apiece with 8:40 to go before the intermission.
It was all Northwestern from that point on, however.
THE NUMBERS ... Northwestern dominated the statistics with 10 corners to one for Palmerton. Shots on goal were overwhelmingly in favor of the Tigers by a count of 17-2. NW’s goalkeeper, Maxine Hoffman, only needed to block one shot, while Palmerton’s Shannon Dougerty registered four kick saves.
IN THE HEAT OF THE GAME ... The game was played under bright sunshine, making it difficult for the home side Palmerton fans to see because of reflecting glare and excessive heat coming off the turf field.
STICK WARS ... One reason why Northwestern was able to gain a statistical edge was its dominance whenever its sticks smacked against Palmerton’s, often leading to control of the ball and quick passes for offensive rushes.