Northwestern girls reclaim Colonial League gold
The Northwestern girls soccer team poses with their Colonial League championship trophy after defeating Southern Lehigh Thursday night in the title game. NANCY SCHOLZ/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
Northwestern's Hallie Bleam kicks the ball while being pressured by Jenna Groeber of Southern Lehigh. NANCY SCHOLZ/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
ALLENTOWN – Northwestern head coach Kelly Bleam could see the nerves in freshman goalie Naomi Glassberg during pregame warmups.
But once she stepped on the field, Glassberg looked like a seasoned veteran.
Glassberg pitched a shutout and recorded seven saves as the top-seeded Tigers held off No. 2 Southern Lehigh 1-0 for the Colonial League girls soccer championship on Thursday night at Salisbury High School. The win ended a four-year run for the Spartans as league champions.
“She’s very composed for a freshman,” Bleam said. “Before the game she was very nervous about the wind…Then she got out there and looked like a senior playing. I’m so happy for her to have a game like this.”
Glassberg came up with numerous game-altering saves in the first half to keep the Spartans off the board. In the 31st minute, Natalie Morgan had a clear opportunity on goal, but Glassberg was there for the two-handed save that kept the teams deadlocked at 0-0.
Then the offense came through in the second half after some adjustments. Lexi Bleam played a perfect through ball to Kayla Bardonner, who punched in the game’s only goal in the 63rd minute that gave Northwestern a 1-0 lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
“In the second half, we changed our formation to (be) more defensive-shaped,” Bardonner said. “I think that really slowed down their center mid, and made them compact in the middle of the field, and that allowed us to play through balls and get to them.
“I just knew I had to get there and get it in the net. The time was counting down and I just had to get it in.”
The Tigers had plenty of opportunities before that as well to get on the scoreboard in the opening 10 minutes of the second half. Kylie Zentz had two prominent looks on goal, but could not put the ball by Spartan goalie Jozlyn Minnema.
Then, Bleam found herself with a clear view on goal, but Minnema was there for another of her three saves. Eventually, however, the formation shift at halftime paid dividends.
“That was part of the shift that we made at halftime,” Kelly Bleam said. “Lexi grabbed that ball from the wide part of the field and played a perfect ball over top to Kayla, and she ended up finishing it. Together, Lexi and Kayla have combined for a lot of goals this season…They are a formidable combination.”
Southern Lehigh’s best chance in the second half came in the 81st minute. Bella Touzeau gathered a ball close to the Tigers’ 18’, turned, and fired a shot just wide right of goal.
“We wanted to play wide better and take away their wide options, as well as their through balls that they were playing,” Glassberg said. “That was a pretty big adjustment for us.”
HISTORY OF SUCCESS…The Tigers and Spartans own 16 of the last 20 Colonial titles. Northwestern won Colonial League gold each year from 1999-2004, as well as 2007, ’09, ’13 and ’14. Southern Lehigh won the league title in 2008, 2010 and four straight from 2015-2018.
DISTRICT DRAWS…Both teams will move on to the District 11 playoffs. Northwestern had already secured a top seed in Class 2A and will likely take on the winner of a pigtail game between Bethlehem Catholic and Pen Argyl. The Spartans are the No. 2 seed in Class 3A, where just four teams qualify for districts. They will take on Colonial League foe Saucon Valley, which is third in the district rankings.