On Tuesday, it wasn’t just a rivalry matchup between the Saucon Valley Panthers and Southern Lehigh Spartans. It was also a lacrosse battle of the unbeaten involving two of the top teams from the Lehigh Valley area. The Spartans are #4 while the Panthers are listed as #1 according to the most recent rankings provided by lehighvalleylive.com. The Spartans made the quick trip into Hellertown with a 6-0 record, while the Panthers aimed to defend their home turf at 5-0. Competition between these two girls lacrosse programs is usually tight and this game was no different.
It was a contest mostly characterized by two patient and probing offenses who skillfully moved the ball versus two tenacious defenses who were intent on playing in-your-face and limiting scoring chances. When the chances did come, then two outstanding goal-keepers were on display who weren’t in very charitable moods. The Panthers Audrey Holland and the Spartans Anya Kehs, repeatedly frustrated their opponents while at the same time entertained spectators with impressive saves. When the final buzzer sounded, it was the Panthers who remained undefeated with a 6-2 victory.
It took a little time, but Southern Lehigh drew first blood. After four or five possession swings, the Lady Spartans scored a little over eleven minutes into the game. With 13:27 remaining in the 1st-half Southern Lehigh led 1-0.
Saucon Valley worked hard to break down the Spartan defense, but goalkeeper Anya Kehs usually seemed to have an answer. However, the Panther grit and grind would eventually pay off. With possession of the ball, “Battle Kat” Naiburg quickly cut to her left and ran her defender into a solid screen set by Brooke Riefenstahl goal-high at the center of the 12-meter arc. Naiburg drove hard around the screen and down the gut of the arc to beat Kehs high. Naiburg found the top of the net for the game equalizer. At the 5:52 mark of the 1st-half the score was tied at 1-1.
Both teams remained patient and both defenses remained stout. The only other score of the 1st-half came at 3:55 when Saucon Valley’s Maria Donahue was awarded a free start due to a foul. Donahue’s restart began 12 o’clock high on the arc. She took a couple of quick strides in toward the Spartan keeper and ripped a shot on goal. Donahue beat Kehs low and left with sharp bouncer. At halftime, Saucon led by a 2-1 score.
The Panthers struck quickly to start the 2nd-half. Megan Kane somehow lost her defender and posted up, front and center, at the face of the Spartan goal. Maria Donahue found Kane and connected with a quick pass. Kane instantly and skillfully redirected a sweet shot from point-blank into the back of the net for a score. With 23:44 remaining in the game Saucon Valley staked claim to a 3-1 lead.
Tough defense overshadowed the methodical offense until the clock ticked down to 11:03. It was then that Camryn Zavacky assisted Maria Donahue for another Saucon Valley goal. The Panthers extended their advantage to a 4-1 lead. Southern Lehigh, perhaps sensing the start of a sinking ship, called timeout presumably to strategize for a final, desperate push.
The Spartan timeout paid off. With 8:49 left on the clock, Southern Lehigh converted a free start and clawed their way back to a 4-2 deficit.
The Panther offense seemed to be finding their stride, but goalkeeper Anya Kehs kept the Spartans in the game. Kehs was able to turn away a slew of quality Panther chances. Unofficially, Kehs had 24 saves for the Spartans.
However, with under three minutes remaining the Panthers would strike again. From the right wing, Brooke Riefenstahl connected with a pass to Kat Naiburg who circled behind the goal and posted up down low. Naiburg quickly caught the pass and immediately wheeled across the goal face and found home with her shot. With 2:37 left in the game Saucon Valley led by a 5-2 score.
The Panthers picked up the final goal of the game with Southern Lehigh extending their defense behind the net trying to create turnovers. Maria Donahue took a feed from Katie Marker and buried her shot into the Spartan goal at the 1:41 mark to make the score a 6-2 final.
Panther Net-Flicks: Sophomore Maria Donahue hit a hat-trick for the Panthers while senior Kat Naiburg got net twice. Megan Kane, a sophomore, added a score for Saucon. Senior Audrey Holland was, once again, solid in goal while Camryn “Quick Draw” Zavacky won her favorable share of draws.
UP NEXT: The Panthers (6-0) continue their pursuit of a District XI 3-Peat championship and travel to Freedom (8-2) for a Thursday night (7 p.m.) fight against the Patriots. This looks to be another great challenge for the Panthers.
Good luck Panthers, the Source is with you!
About This Series: Andrew & Sonya Hughes of Hellertown are sponsoring girls sports coverage on Saucon Source to help recognize the achievements of female high school athletes in Saucon Valley, and in tribute to their own daughters, who were both stand-out student-athletes at their high school, where they played softball, soccer, basketball and field hockey. Between the two of them they earned 14 high school varsity letters. “Female athletics was a big part of our family life for many years, but that journey ended at the high school level six years ago,” Andrew Hughes says. “Through those amazing experiences we also noticed that females don’t seem to have the same level of exposure and support as their male counterparts. So we are very sensitive to situations where we perceive an imbalance of exposure of female student athlete participation in competitive high school sports. We also like to encourage greater involvement of young people in athletics. We would like to help the girls gain more exposure at your news source by adopting some girls high school teams.” Saucon Source thanks Andrew & Sonya Hughes for their generous support of local girls high school athletics.