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Tiger girls lax team improves in each game

With a program as young as the girls lacrosse team at Northwestern Lehigh, the record will eventually catch up to the development that the team shows.

In just their third season of playing, the Lady Tigers are now under the leadership of former Southern Lehigh and St. Joe’s player Bridget Cerciello, who is bringing the things that she learned at those two stops to her team this season. After a win over Bethlehem Catholic in their season opener, Northwestern Lehigh has dropped eight straight contests, but there is a positive aspect to how the team is developing.

“I don’t think our record (1-8) accurately represents the progress that we have made this year as a team,” said Cerciello. “We look at each game as a learning experience and we have been continuously building on what we have seen from each game. We have gotten better and better as the season has gone on. We played our best lacrosse in our most recent game, but I believe we have yet to reach our potential this season.”

That most recent game was a 10-9 loss at Nazareth (3-7 overall, 1-4 EPC), a team that they lost to by five goals earlier in the season.

Cerciello had little concern about her team’s offense coming into the year and they have not disappointed.

The Lady Tigers average over eight goals per game with junior Ava Collins leading the way with 21 goals and 30 points overall. While juniors and seniors have taken strong leadership roles with the team, freshman Olivia Costa has emerged as the team’s second leading scorer with 15 points (13 goals, 2 assists) and senior twin sisters Emilee and Sarah Schultz both have nine points on the season.

“Our attackers and middies have stepped up,” Cerciello noted. “We have been playing smarter and playing to our strengths, so we have been converting on our opportunities. We have a lot of senior and junior leadership on our attacking end, including Emilee Schultz, Sarah Schultz, Ava Collins, Claire Costa, Lexi Vennera and Kiersten Shupp, who have helped us to be successful.”

Vennera (12 points) and Costa both missed a couple of games earlier in the season and have returned to contribute to the offense.

One of the issues to overcome defensively has been a lack of experience. The defensive unit was besieged by losses from graduation and has looked for players to gain some experience simply by being on the field.

It has not helped that senior Olivia Silfies has been out with an injury, but senior Nicole Landes and junior Daniella Lister have taken over leadership roles along with junior goalie Gabby Gober, who is also a leader from that same spot on the soccer team in the fall.

“We have had multiple players step up defensively to fill roles,” said Cerciello. “Landes, Gober and Lister have helped to direct our defense and maintain its cohesiveness. Plus, we have thrown young, inexperienced players in there.”

The team has seen quick development of freshman players who are playing big roles for the team and contributing along the way.

In addition to Costa starting all nine games at midfield, Cara Thomas has started eight games and played in all nine defensively along with Olivia Spatz, who has played in eight of the Northwestern Lehigh games this season on defense. Ella Dangello has joined Costa as a constant at the midfielder position and leads the team in ground balls with 24.

With the team at the midway point of the season, the focus over the final nine games is on improving some core areas of the game and paving the way for bigger and better things to come down the road.

“One of our main focuses moving forward is winning possession on 50-50 balls and in our defensive end to increase the number of opportunities we are giving our offense,” said Cerciello. “Some players like Vennera (21 draw controls, 18 ground balls), Dangello (24 ground balls), Costa (9 draw controls, 23 ground balls), Collins (16 ground balls) and Sarah Schultz (20 ground balls) have done an excellent job in helping us with possessions. In addition to their play, Gober has been relentless in the cage, with 76 saves so far this season.”

Northwestern plays at Pleasant Valley (7-3, 5-2) the top team in the EPC on Friday and then returns home to face Cerciello’s old team, the Southern Lehigh Spartans (7-1) on Monday.

PRESS PHOTO BY LINDA ROTHROCK Northwestern's Nicole Landes helps defend the Tigers' goal during a game against Northampton.
PRESS PHOTO BY LINDA ROTHROCK The Tigers' Daniella Lister (left) and Cara Thomas (right) battle for a ball against a Northampton player.