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Young players bolster girls soccer team

The last thing opponents of the Lady Tigers wanted to see was firepower from the youngest members of Northwestern Lehigh’s roster. It’s difficult enough having to defend against the likes of senior Cammy Fitch and junior Brook Balliet, but when the youngest members of the team are scoring goals, look out.

Freshman Sophia Schaffer leads Northwestern with six goals in the early going and has six assists to go with the goal tally. There are four players with five goals on the team as the Tigers look to spread the wealth when it comes to scoring.

The result has been a 28-4 advantage in goals scored this season for a team that is one of just two teams – Palisades being the other – that are undefeated in the Colonial League, with both having 3-0-0 league records.

“The young players are doing great,” said Tiger head coach Jordan Smith. “Sophia (Schaffer) is the leading scorer and others are getting a lot of playing time, including Sophia Czonstka and Dylan Ritter, who are both defenders. The defense has done their job and offensively, we are putting a lot of goals on the board.”

In their Tuesday night game against Northern Lehigh (2-1-0 Colonial, 2-1-0 overall), the Lady Tigers were up 2-0 before the Bulldogs rallied to tie the game with a pair of goals coming about a minute apart. Northwestern won 3-2 with Schaffer joining Balliet and senior Katie Brensinger as goal scorers.

“We had some defensive breakdowns there and let them back into the game,” said Smith. “We were able to get it corrected and get a win, but they played a tough game against us.”

After a win over defending 2A state champion Central Columbia, Northwestern (3-0-0, 6-0-0) had tough battles against Blue Mountain (2-0-0 Schuylkill, 2-1-0 overall) and Notre Dame (1-1-0, 1-1-0), but weathered the schedule by getting two more wins, both of which came in tight games.

“I think early in the season we were playing well, but we were forcing some shots,” said Smith. “When we get in the habit of doing that, we tend to give up some plays in transition and it made it tough for us. We have worked on being more selective offensively and that has helped us.”

Northwestern is going to be seeing some good teams lining up against them on the other side of the field in the near future. The Tigers face the Pirates of Palisades (3-0-0, 4-1-0) and after a quick trip to Salisbury (0-3-0, 0-3-0), face league foes Moravian Academy (1-2-0, 1-3-0) and Southern Lehigh (1-1-0, 3-2-0) in back-to-back games. The Lady Lions have had a tough schedule to open the season and have losses to EPC opponent Northampton (3-0-0, 2-0-0) and league rival Palmerton (2-1-0, 5-1-0), but knocked off Southern Lehigh when the two teams met in the second game of the season.

“That’s kind of a gauntlet that we have to run through,” said Smith. “There are some tough games that we have to face with no real break between them.”