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Tigers girls soccer reloads year after year

With a roster chocked full of seniors, the thought that the Northwestern Lehigh girls soccer team is now officially in rebuild mode could pop into one’s mind. While it will not be easy to lose 14 senior players, many of whom contributed to the team over each of the past four seasons, the good news is that there is still plenty of talent remaining and young players ready for expanded roles with the team.

For Northwestern, reloading is something it is accustomed to doing.

There were skeptics about just how good the team would be this past season after the Tigers lost over 50 percent of their scoring to graduation following the COVID-riddled 2020 season. Add to that the fact that they had a new head coach and there were some who were not sure how things would turn out for Northwestern in 2021. The team won gold in both the Colonial League and District 11 tournaments and reached the quarterfinal round of states, finishing with an overall 20-2-1 record.

“We believe that just like we saw this season, we will have players step into roles next season that will help us to keep moving forward,” said head coach Jordan Smith after the team’s loss in states. “We had young players who were prepared to do that for us this season and I think we’ll see the same thing next season because we’ve been able to get playing time for some of the younger players and they’ve fit well with the team.”

Much of the success in 2021 came from the defense, which allowed just three regular season goals and two more in the postseason. The team will have Brook Balliet, Camryn Fitch, Abigail Pomajevich and Sarah Renner all returning to its defensive unit next season and will have highly regarded goaltender Naomi Glassberg to back them up.

“Naomi just keeps getting better and better. She works really hard at her game and has a natural instinct for leadership on the defense,” Smith said.

Looking down this year’s roster, the Lady Tigers will have juniors Samantha Bardonner, Quinn Conrey and Alexis Vennera, along with Glassberg and Renner returning for their senior seasons in 2022. Glassberg earned high marks in her sophomore season, turning in an even better performance as a junior, delivering 14 regular season shutouts. In the postseason, Glassberg allowed just one goal through four games in leagues and districts and a shutout in the first round of states to finish with four more shutouts in playoff rounds.

Conrey had a big goal in a 2-0 win over Blue Mountain in the district semifinals and was consistent throughout the season for the Lady Tigers. Bardonner will anchor the midfield in 2022 and showed an ability to help both offensively and defensively from the midfield position this past season. Renner and Vennera are both ready to step into larger roles with the team next season for their senior year.

Rising juniors for next season will include Katie Brensinger, Jayden Gillette, Fitch and Pomajevich. All contributed during the current season as sophomores, with Fitch playing a starting role with the team. As for freshmen, Brook Balliet and Sydney Wright were both on the roster and are among the young players who will see their job descriptions upgraded next fall. Balliet came up huge with a game winner against Pottsville in the district championship game won by the Tigers 1-0.

“I think the future is bright for us,” said Smith. “It’s difficult to see our season end this way and it’s going to be hard to look around next year and not see a lot of these girls back, but you just move forward and we’re fortunate to have a lot of young players who have been playing soccer through the youth programs and JV and come in ready to work hard and contribute.”

PRESS PHOTO BY NANCY SCHOLZ Brook Balliet is one of several players that will return in the Northwestern backfield next season.
PRESS PHOTO BY RON GOWER Tiger senior Jakayla Holmes (11) and her classmates helped the Tigers rebuild this season to earn league and district titles before reaching the state quarterfinals. Junior Quinn Conrey (left) will help the Tigers rebuild again next fall.