Groff, Zentz score as NW girls win D-11 soccer championship
Northwestern’s Bailey Groff battles for the ball against Allentown Central Catholic’s Kaleigh Haas. LINDA ROTHROCK/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
OREFIELD — Things don’t always go as you plan. Sometimes, they turn out even better.
Such was the case for Bailey Groff, who wound up with a goal when all she was trying to do was get the ball into position for one of her teammates to make a play.
Groff’s goal – and another by teammate Kylie Zentz – led Northwestern to a 2-0 win over Allentown Central Catholic in the District 11 Class 2A finals. It also sends Northwestern to the PIAA tournament, which gets underway Tuesday.
Just under six-minutes into the game, Northwestern (21-2-0) was awarded a corner and Bailey Groff inserted the ball, hoping to put it into a spot where someone could make a play and put Northwestern in front. Instead, she got the ball a little off the mark and it twisted itself toward the top of the goal, where Vikettes goalkeeper Katherine Gill made a leaping grab at the ball and had it for a split second before it went through her hands and against the inside of the net to put the Tigers on the board.
“I wasn’t planning it. I meant to just hit it in the box and see what would happen and it went right in; you take what you can get and it went well,” said Groff, who wound up nearly putting another in from the corner late in the first half, and then another early in the second half. The third corner she attempted wound up bouncing off the crossbar. “I wasn’t repeating it. The shots just kept curving on the next couple corners, and I kept getting close. I was just trying to get it in the box for a good service for my teammates.”
Central Catholic had opportunities, but they were all squelched either by the Northwestern defense, or by freshman goalkeeper Naomi Glassberg, who made several stunning plays to keep Central Catholic off the board. Hanna Hoeing fired a shot-on-goal 10 minutes into the game and Glassberg deflected it wide of the net. In the second half, Kelsey Rodowicz fired a shot that Glassberg again stepped in front of to stop.
Zentz looked like she would have a goal late in the game when she had just one defender to beat and cut to the middle to give herself room to shoot. The shot was on-goal, but Gill was able to make a play to keep it a 1-0 game. Less than a minute later, Zentz was back at it, winning a 50-50 ball and then beating Gill to the left side of the goal for her 21st goal of the season and some insurance for Northwestern.
The district championship is the second in three seasons for Northwestern and the seventh for Northwestern teams coached by Kelly Bleam. The Tigers now face Central Columbia at Danville High School on Tuesday in the first round of the state tournament.
“It’s awesome,” Bleam said after the win. “I honestly couldn’t be happier for a group of girls who have worked so hard for it, and worked as a team. We had no choice but to work as a team on both sides of the ball and they’re an outstanding team.”
Bleam admitted that a string of injuries, which varied in severity, made coaching a little tougher and limited some of the moves that she would have liked to have made at some points in the game. Even through the injuries, the team was able to come through with the win, and will look to heal as much as possible before Tuesday’s PIAA opener.
“All in all, all of our players who needed to step up did, even the ones who are battling injuries,” said Bleam. “I didn’t hear a peep out of any of their mouths, and they played a lot of minutes with their injuries; I hope they’re all OK. I don’t think that they would have accepted it any other way.”
MAYBE NEXT YEAR ... Only one team from District 11 qualified for states, ending the season for Central Catholic, which finished the year at 13-8-1. Ironically, later Saturday, the Northwestern football team went on to beat Lehighton, and will now also face Central Catholic in districts Saturday night.
STINGY ... Northwestern allowed just two goals in three games – one of which went to overtime – in districts. It downed Bethlehem Catholic 5-1, Notre Dame Green Pond 2-1 in OT, and then shut out the Vikettes.