Tigers hand Palmerton its first loss
Palmerton felt the disappointment, as excruciating as it was.
Northwestern Lehigh felt the exhilaration, as jubilant as it was.
Relying on a sturdy, quick and aggressive offense and an airtight defense, the Tigers put the skids to the Blue Bombers’ unbeaten start to the season on Wednesday.
Northwestern got off to a fast start and never let up as it captured the showdown between the two Colonial League powerhouses, 4-0.
The momentum was felt right from the get-go by the home club when Samantha Bardonner booted home a beauty of an unassisted goal from 18 yards. The score with 37:34 remaining in the opening half, was the first of the two goals the eventual winners scored during the opening half.
While the Tigers’ offense was strong, it was the defensive side of the ledger where Northwestern Lehigh head coach Jordan Smith probably gained the most satisfaction
“We were giving up far too many goals at the beginning of the season,” Smith said. “But we have basically a new bunch of players – having graduated 12 seniors – and it took some time, but you can see the confidence growing.”
Indeed, the Tigers (9-2) were whipping it up without the ball. They allowed but one shot on goal the entire game, that coming in the first half. Despite the Tigers’ dominance, there was nearly a swing of momentum with 32:15 left on the first- half clock when Palmerton goalkeeper Nataly Walters - the team’s normal offensive leader who was making her first start of the season in goal - made a spectacular save on a dead-on shot attempt.
However, the Blue Bombers (9-1) never did get in sync to build on any momentum the save might have generated.
“Nataly made a great save … and we had some moments of momentum,” said Palmerton head coach Dave O’Brien. “But obviously, we didn’t capitalize on it. We weren’t able to overcome some things, and Northwestern played a great game.”
With 30:44 remaining in the opening half, the Tigers upped the count to 2-0. This time, Katie Brensinger got the goal thanks to an assist by teammate Camryn Fitch.
“I thought we did a very good job of passing the ball, and seeing things,” Smith said. “We were distributing the ball very well.”
Northwestern only took three shots in the second half, but made them count, scoring two more goals.
Only eight minutes ticked off the clock when Fitch buried a shot in the back of the net for a 3-0 lead. Then with 17:58 remaining, Bardonner booted in the final - her second of the evening.
‘We were missing a few starters, and we had to move some girls around,” said O’Brien. “We gave up that early goal, and things just snowballed.”
Meanwhile, Smith said he had a talk with his players after a crushing 1-0 loss to Moravian Academy last week.
“After that talk, we could see the fire in their eyes,” said Smith.
It was a fire that Palmerton saw last night.
It was a big advantage for the Tigers in the numbers department. Northwestern had an 11-1 advantage in shots on goal - eight of which came in the opening half. It also produced 5-1 advantage in corner kicks.
Northwestern goalkeeper Naomi Glassberg picked up the win, making one save. Walters made seven saves in the Bombers’ net - six of them in the opening half.