On Wednesday at DeSales University, the Saucon Valley Panthers (16-1) and Southern Lehigh Spartans (12-4) squared off against each other for the third time this season. The first game was a defensive struggle where the hometown Panthers held off the Spartans for a 6-2 victory. It took a couple of days to decide the second meeting that resulted in a 10-6 win in favor of the Panthers. With the stakes much higher this time these two quality opponents went at it again. The Panthers were playing for a 3-Peat performance as District XI champs. Southern Lehigh was trying to finally get past the Panthers to earn a title of their own. The winner of this contest will enter the PIAA tournament and be only four wins away from a PIAA state title. The loser’s season comes to an abrupt end.
Southern Lehigh hopped onto the scoreboard first about three minutes into the game. The Panthers evened things up three minutes later when Katie Marker passed the ball to Maria Donahue who turned and hit the upper-right-90 for a score. The Spartans reclaimed the lead after taking advantage of a Panther turnover and quickly transitioning back the other way for a goal. With 15:14 left to play in the first half, Southern Lehigh led 2-1.
Saucon Valley’s continued hard work and hustle paid off at 11:37 when Maria Donahue found the back of the Spartan net following a free-start. Donahue had a repeat performance at 8:33 off another free-start that gave the Panthers their first lead of the evening. Perhaps sensing that the Lady Panthers were building a little momentum, Southern Lehigh burned a timeout to try and slow Saucon down.
The Spartan timeout appeared to have worked as they were able to manufacture back to back goals and take a 4-3 lead with 6:35 left in the half.
Saucon countered the Spartan challenge with a three-goal run. First, at 3:34, ‘Battle-Kat’ Naiburg created space for herself off Saucon Valley’s motion offense. With the Spartans trying to keep up, Naiburg took advantage of a seam in the Southern Lehigh defense and knifed through for a score.
Then, about :45 seconds later, the Panthers capitalized on their high-flying transition game and quickly went the length of the field. Naiburg found Megan Kane who beat the Spartan goalkeeper for a score.
Finally, with less than a minute remaining, Naiburg once again assisted on another Megan Kane goal. The Panthers took a 6-4 advantage into the halftime break.
Saucon Valley built on their trio of goals to start the 2nd half and extended their lead to 7-4 with a Katie Marker score at 21:12. From behind the net, Kiele Riefenstahl was able to lace a precision pass to Marker who was crashing the goal.
At 18:35 Maria Donahue took advantage of the Spartans being yellow-carded for a foul. Donahue earned a free-start while Southern Lehigh was competing a player down. Only a sophomore, Donahue did not disappoint and gave the Panthers an 8-4 lead. It was Donahue’s 100th career goal.
Thirty seconds later Saucon struck again. Katie Marker took a Maria Donahue feed and, in a blink, got net. ‘Quick-Draw’ Katie gave the Panthers a 9-4 edge with 18:06 left to play. Marker’s goal also led to another Southern Lehigh timeout.
Southern Lehigh came out of their timeout in desperation. The Spartans cranked up their offensive pressure on the Panthers. Saucon was penalized with a couple of yellow-cards allowing the Spartans a timely advantage. Panther goalkeeper, Audrey Holland, however stepped up and shut the door on the Southern Lehigh advantage. Holland logged four of her seven saves just when her team needed her most. The Spartans were finally able to break through at the 7:12 mark to make it a 9-5 game. Following the Southern Lehigh goal the Saucon Valley coaching staff called time-out to make sure the Panthers kept their focus for the stretch run.
One minute after Saucon Valley’s timeout Katherine Naiburg assisted on a Camryn Zavacky score which allowed the Panthers to reclaim their five-goal margin. Southern Lehigh quickly answered :18 seconds later on a breakaway that made the score 10-6. The Spartans did manage one more shot on goal that the ‘Great Wall of Aud’ turned away. But, Saucon Valley held onto possession for most of the time down the stretch. When the game clock finally expired, Saucon Valley defeated Southern Lehigh 10-6. It was the third time this season the Panthers were able to defeat the Spartans. This time, though, the Panther victory led directly to the 2019 District XI championship. This victory over Southern Lehigh gave the Panthers a third consecutive District XI title.
Panther Net-Flicks: Maria Donahue led Saucon Valley with four goals. Megan Kane and Katie Marker each added two goals. Katherine Naiburg and Camryn Zavacky each provided a point for the Panthers. Audrey Holland registered seven saves, five of which came in the 2nd half.
UP NEXT: D XI #1 Saucon Valley (17-1) will play D1 #2 Springfield Delco (13-6) who lost a heartbreaker by a 9-8 score to D1 #1 Villa Maria (18-1) in the District 1 Championship on Thursday. The teams will face off in the first round of the 2019 PIAA State Championships on Tuesday, May 28 at a site that is TBD.
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.