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N’western falls to Bloomsburg

Bloomsburg’s field hockey team kept revving up the pressure Saturday afternoon in its opening round match of the PIAA Class 3A tournament.

Northwestern just never could seem to find its balance, or keep up with the speed of the game.

The Tigers were often back-pedalling – not that they didn’t have fight – but the Panthers put the pedal-to-the-metal until you crack.

Northwestern did buckle a few times, but never totally broke down, before ending up on the short-side of a terrific matchup of skill, courage and heart, dropping a 2-1 decision to Bloomsburg that ended a season of firsts for the program in a long time.

Where this team had issues was the lack of offensive firepower. Even after senior midfielder Lauren Schellhamer fired in the lone goal of the game for the Tigers with 13:36 to play off an assist from Charlotte Horn to lift the teams’ flickering spirits, there would be no more scoring.

The speedy Panthers rallied for their scoring in the first two periods on the strength of maybe their best player, Gracie Brosious. She blasted in the first score with 3:22 to play in the opening period off a rebound shot that hit the post and landed in perfect position for the 1-0 lead.

The relentless offensive surge Bloomsburg kept asserting on the Northwestern defenders showed by the end of two periods; Bloomsburg had 11 shots on goal, eight of those in the first period alone.

“They’re really quick around the ball,” Northwestern head coach Lissa Opolsky offered. “(But) we didn’t capitalize on our opportunities. They have some great athletes, obviously.”

If this were a sprint car race, the Panthers were trying to fly to the finish line. In terms of ball possession, Bloomsburg dominated, especially through the opening half.

Charlie Baker, the winning head coach, had concerns coming into the game with the Tigers.

“They’re quality, they play in the tough District 11, and we had to play smart and put pressure on their defense,” he said.

Certainly the respect for the Tigers was in the forefront. With all of their opportunities, the Panthers didn’t punch home the second score until the third period.

Again, Brosious knocked in the goal off an assist from Cassie Slusser with 6:57 to play in the period.

“I’ve done a lot of research on them and knew that 4 (Schellhamer) and 13 (Greenleigh McGehee) were very quality players,” Baker continued. “They have a stout goalie (Maxine Hoffman), so we had our work cut out for us.”

With time winding down, the Tigers kept forging ahead and upped the tempo on the offensive side of the attack. After Schellhamer’s score, Northwestern seemed rejuvenated and kept pressing the Panthers.

However, the winners stayed the course, fending off Northwestern down the stretch, and hung on to advance to the state semifinals, where they will face Wyoming Seminary.

The Tigers had one of the best seasons in memory. They won the Colonial League championship for the first time since 2002 and have won their second straight district championship.

Bloom had 16 shots on goal and 13 corners. Hoffman was a busy gal in net for Northwestern, she turned away 7 shots. Northwestern, according to Bloom stat ladies, had only 4 shots on goal.

A total of 10 seniors played their final game for Northwestern: McGehee, Schellhamer, Hoffman, Reagan Hernandez, Alexandra Lister, Sara Ledeboer, Karleigh Hobel, Jalissa Molina, Charlotte Horn and Morgan Werley.

Opolsky on her seniors: “They’re a great group. They all contributed,” she said.

PRESS PHOTO BY LINDA ROTHROCK Sara Ledeboer is one of 10 Northwestern field hockey seniors who were part of back-to-back district championship teams.
PRESS PHOTO BY NANCY SCHOLZ Northwestern senior Lauren Schellhamer has been one of the top scoring threats in the Colonial League for the past few seasons.
PRESS PHOTO BY NANCY SCHOLZ Northwestern's Daniella Lister battles for a ball during a recent game.