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NWL girls soccer falls to Wyomissing in quarterfinal

The seniors on this year’s Northwestern Lehigh (18-6-1) girls soccer team reached the quarterfinals of the PIAA tournament in every season they were on the team. This season, they hoped to reach the semifinal round, but ran into a tough Wyomissing Spartans (24-1) team that had allowed just 14 goals all season.

The Lady Tigers were unable to get any goals on the board and fell to Wyomissing 1-0 at Emmaus High School on Saturday.

Both teams seemed to be in slow motion early in the game, but Wyomissing put some pressure on senior goalkeeper Naomi Glassberg.

The first challenge came just five minutes into the game when the Spartans’ leading scorer, Sophia Zeppos looked to score her 32nd goal of the season, but saw her shot go off the crossbar and over the net.

Eventually, Northwestern was able to put together an attack and it had a familiar look. In each of the last three games, Brooke Balliet scored the first goal of the game, and she had an open look with 19:11 left in the first half, but goalie E.P. Benedict stopped the shot. The two teams continued to battle, and the game went to halftime scoreless.

The second half of the game had a much more intense look to it. Both teams picked up the energy level and aggressiveness. Zeppos came out looking determined to put her team on the board, but Glassberg stopped a strong shot by the sophomore midfielder with 31:22 left in regulation. Northwestern Lehigh grabbed momentum and put pressure on Benedict, but to no avail.

“In the center of the field, (Zeppos) and (Cadi Hoke) with their height and the way they go to the ball is very tough to take away, and our goal was to take away in the middle,” said Northwestern head coach Jordan Smith. “Our girls did a fantastic job and worked hard, but they just have phenomenal players there.”

Wyomissing put together a flurry of challenges that finally cracked the goal. Zeppos launched a shot at Glassberg, who went high into the air and tipped the shot off her fingertips and into the crossbar. The ball came back into play and another sophomore, Lili Marshall, was able to get a shot on goal from the right side to beat Glassberg with what would be the game’s only goal.

Smith was not convinced that what he saw was a goal.

“What I saw was offsides,” he said. “We cleared the ball out. They sent it back in and the girls were recovering from an offsides position, and it didn’t get called. That was a little unlucky; the ref sees what the ref sees, so you can’t do anything about it.

“There’s nothing to hang our heads about when you get this far. I wish we could have kept the ride going, but I am super proud of these girls.”

The Lady Tigers will lose seven seniors – Miriya Fratrik, Sarah Renner, Alexis Vennera, Kiersten Shupp, Sammy Bardonner, Naomi Glassberg and Quinn Conrey - from this year’s roster, with the biggest losses coming on the offensive side of the ball. The only starting senior on defense from that group is Glassberg, the team’s goalie. The good news is that younger players gained a lot of experience over the season and appear ready to lead the team next season.

Junior Cammy Fitch led the team with 23 goals this season and Bardonner was the team’s assist leader with 13. Sophomore Brooke Balliet finished with 12 goals, five of which came in the postseason. Classmate Paige Bissell also scored five postseason goals and had nine on the year.

PRESS PHOTO BY MARK LINEBERGER Northwestern Lehigh's Jayden Gillette (2) pursues the ball during the Tigers' state playoff match against Wyomissing.
PRESS PHOTO BY MARK LINEBERGER Sarah Renner (6) defends a Wyomissing pass during Northwestern Lehigh's state playoff match against the Spartans.