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Four straight shoutouts

The Lady Tiger soccer team has allowed just six goals all season, so it’s easy to think that working on defense in practice might be a waste of time.

That’s not true for Northwestern coach Kelly Bleam, who knows that the competition is going to get tougher and tougher as her team rolls into playoffs. Northwestern now has four shutouts in a row and six in its last seven games with the latest coming in a 3-0 win over Catasauqua on Tuesday.

Last Saturday, the Tigers (7-0-0 Colonial League, 12-2-1 overall) blanked Palmerton 3-0 in the midst of their shutout streak and Bleam was glad to see how her defense was playing.

“We worked on defense a lot this week and the whole focus this week at practice was defending together as a team from the front of the field to the back of the field and I am incredibly proud of the way the girls defended today,” said Bleam after the win over Palmerton.

The only game that the Tigers allowed any goals in the past two weeks was against Whitehall (3-2-1 EPC, 4-2-1 overall) when they suffered a 2-0 loss in a nonleague game.

Since then they have shutdown Northern Lehigh (3-3-1, 4-3-2), Salisbury (3-2-1, 4-2-2), Palmerton (5-1-1, 5-3-1) and Catasauqua (1-5-1, 1-6-1). They came into the game against Whitehall with two straight shutouts against Pen Argyl (4-5-0, 4-5-0) and Wilson (0-6-1, 1-6-1).

The offense has played well enough to help the team to collect eight wins in its last nine games, but they’ve had some inconsistencies along the way. Bleam is working to correct those issues as well and is seeing better play as the season winds down.

“We’re seeing tiny improvements here and there,” said Bleam of the team’s offense. “I’m just really pleased with the way things are going along. We have a lot of personality and a lot of skill and bringing it together in one cohesive group is our focus. It’s certainly not that we don’t have great players, we’ve just worked this season on trying to get us to all have the same objective.”

In 14 games this season, Northwestern has outscored opponents by a 54-9 margin.

After playing an abbreviated regular season schedule, Northwestern appears to be in good shape for the Colonial League and District 11 playoffs. The Tigers currently stand as the top seed in the Colonial League and number-two seed behind Pottsville (10-0-0 Schuylkill League,10-1-0 overall) in District 11 Class 3A and are the only girls team without a loss or tie on their league record. Bleam believes that with the defense playing as a cohesive unit and the offense starting to play better, her team is in a good spot to do some damage in the postseason.

“I think we’re in a physically good place and I think we’re developmentally in a good place,” Bleam said. “We finally had a little bit of a rest with so many games in a week, so I feel like we’re able to practice a little bit more and we’re able to physically prepare our bodies a little better, so I’m pleased with that and hope we can peek at the right time.”

PRESS PHOTO BY LINDA ROTHROCK Northwestern's Emilia Blechschmidt battles for a ball during a recent game against Whitehall.