Falcons fall in semifinal
When Salisbury and Northwestern met early in the regular season, the two teams battled with the Tigers coming away with a 2-1 win. At that time, both coaches talked about the game – even though it came very early in the season – having a playoff atmosphere and both predicted the two teams would meet again in a true playoff situation.
The predictions came true last week when Salisbury and Northwestern met in the Colonial League semifinals. Unfortunately for the Falcons, the outcome was exactly the same, with Northwestern advancing to the league championship with a 2-1 win.
Northwestern put early pressure on the Falcons’ defense and broke through with the first goal of the game in the sixth minute when Hallie Bleam put a shot on goal that was blocked by Salisbury goalkeeper Lilly Schimeneck. The ball bounced off of Schimeneck and a Salisbury defender turned to clear the ball. It bounced sharply off Sophia Motolese and past Schimeneck to give the Lady Tigers a 1-0 lead.
Less than 10 minutes after they fell behind, Salisbury got right back in the game as Aaliyah M’Bai fed a perfect ball to Quinn Wittman, who didn’t miss the opportunity and put her shot past Naomi Glassberg to tie the game 1-1.
Northwestern kept increasing the pressure, but the Salisbury defense played well, with Olivia Hoeing making a nice save to clear a ball from the mouth of the goal. Just a few minutes later, the defense kept Olivia Motolese from getting a clean look and her shot went over the crossbar.
The first half ended in a 1-1 tie.
The second half started much like most of the first half played out, with both teams putting pressure on the opposing goalkeeper. Schimeneck went down making a save that bounced off of her, but the rebound was played wide right of the goal by Northwestern. Salisbury responded quickly and got the ball to Hoeing, who fired a shot, but put it over the crossbar.
With 26:28 left in regulation, the Salisbury defense came out to make a play on Kayla Bardonner, who passed off to Kylie Zentz. With Schimeneck pulled out of position, Zentz beat her to the goal and scored the go-ahead goal for the Tigers.
The goal turned out to be the game-winner for Northwestern as its defense shut down Salisbury’s attack the rest of the way.
“We had our chances and we had some great defensive plays, saving balls off the line,” said Falcon head coach Rick Babyak. “Our keeper had a great game and the first goal was a little unlucky for us, but we were a little loose on that second one and we just didn’t have the depth.
“I thought we played pretty flawlessly defensively. Our connectivity from defense to the next level maybe could use some work, but we can patch that up.”
The game stats make the it seem more lopsided than it was. Northwestern put 11 shots on goal, while the Falcons had just three shots on goal in the game.
A big difference was the play of Schimeneck, who made one athletic save after another and was aided by her defensive players, who also came up with defensive saves and kept Northwestern from being able to get multiple shots on a trip down.
“I’m proud of the way the girls played,” said Babyak. “They worked their butts off out there. We worked hard and pushed, but we probably gave up the ball a little too quickly a couple of times, putting the ball out of play rather than controlling the ball. Give them all the credit in the world for putting that pressure on us once we did lose the ball.”
Both coaches believe that a third meeting could be in the offing. Northwestern is the top seed in districts, while Salisbury comes in as the number-three seed. It’s not out of the question that the two teams could find their third meeting being for a district championship. For Salisbury, it all begins with a quarterfinal game against sixth-seeded Jim Thorpe on Thursday.