NW field hockey advances to CL semis
Northwestern goalie Maxine Hoffman waits for the start of a penalty corner along with her Tiger defenders. For a photo gallery go to www.tnonline.com. NANCY SCHOLZ/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
SALSBURY TOWNSHIP – Saturday’s Colonial League quarterfinal playoff contest between Northwestern and Saucon Valley was nearly a duplicate of the first meeting between the two field hockey teams.
Northwestern posted a 3-0 win in the regular season contest; and when it scored another 3-0 victory over the weekend, it showed the Tigers weren’t entering this first step toward a possible league crowning overconfident.
The lone stumbling block for Northwestern was a late start in trying to figure out the Panthers defensive scheme.
Tiger head coach Lissa Opolsky admitted it took some time to come up with the right offensive approach.
“Saucon came in with a different (defensive) strategy; they knew that we like to transfer the ball,” said Opolsky. “We did a good job of staying poised, and as the game went on, we figured it out.”
Much to Saucon’s credit, it kept forcing the play on the offensive end at the outset, but Northwestern wasn’t giving in. And that’s where the Tigers patience would eventually pay off.
The key was Northwestern converted when it had chances. The first goal was unassisted with 6:34 to go in the opening half off the stick of Lauren Schellhamer. The standout player also added her team’s third goal.
“We really stepped it up,” said Schellhamer, who also had an assist in the contest. “We played very well today.”
Brynn Balliet, who finished with a goal and an assist for the winners, was also pleased with the team’s effort.
“It was a very big win,” said Balliet, a sophomore. “We had to come in and play real hard … we couldn’t let them (dictate).”
Shellhammer thought Saucon’s defense was big, but said, “We had to keep the pressure on them and get it to the open space and try to (score).”
A lot of the angst seemed to go away for the Tigers when they fired in an early second-half goal to take a 2-0 lead. Balliet picked up the goal with Schellhamer assisting.
Northwestern put the game out of reach with 8:45 to play when Schellhamer poked in her second goal of the contest. Balliet added the assist.
“Playoffs are always a key win, and you want to go as far as you can in playoffs,” said Opolsky. “This is the first time that our team has had a target on their back … this is the first time that we are the favorite and being able to shine in that moment.”
The Tigers will now meet Southern Lehigh today in the semifinals. The contest is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. at Palisades.
“We played them twice, and lost twice by close scores,” said Opolsky. “But we feel comfortable going up against them. We’ll go in and play with a lot of confidence and let things happen.”
QUOTABLE … “Sometimes we get too anxious and want to score in a hurry,” said Balliet.
THIRD TIME … Will it be a charm for the Tigers today against SL? Both games were close with the first meeting at NW a 2-1 loss, and the second a 3-2 defeat in overtime.
THE NUMBERS … Both teams had eight shots on goal, while Saucon held an 8-5 advantage in penalty corners.