The Morning Call (Sunday)
Pitching a shutout
Parkland girls blank District 4 champ Williamsport; Northwestern Lehigh loses to powerful Villa Joseph Marie Academy
The Parkland girls soccer program has won a lot of championships and enjoyed plenty of success over the past two decades, at both the conference and district levels.
But it had been 17 seasons since the Trojans advanced to the state semifinals.
That streak is officially over as Parkland stymied District 4 champion Williamsport, 3-0, in Saturday’s PIAA Class 4A quarterfinal-round contest played at Parkland High School.
In Class 3A, Northwestern Lehigh’s championship season came to an end with a 4-0 defeat to District 1 champ Villa Joseph Marie Academy in the state quarterfinals.
Parkland senior standout Alex Marsteller scored twice and promising freshman Aristea Gougoustamos added one in coach Al Haddad’s return to the sideline.
The Trojans, now 14-0 overall, move into Tuesday’s state semifinal at District 1 champ Pennridge at a time to be determined.
“It’s been a truly amazing experience,” Marsteller said of the team’s postseason run. “My sophomore year  we lost to Pennridge in PKs. I think we want a little bit of revenge, so we’ll be ready for that game.”
Certainly, Parkland was ready for Saturday’s showdown.
The District 11 champs were on the attack from the start, with Marsteller working herself free for a goal in the opening eight minutes of game action. She accepted a fine pass from classmate EmmaSchock and launched from about 20 yards away.
“Alex and Emma Schock work really well together,” said defensive standout Maeve Leonzi, who admired their work from the other end of the field. “We call them sisters; they have that telepathy.”
Parkland continued to press the offense and the Trojans again cashed in in the final five minutes before halftime.
Gougoustamos, a reserve who is a key contributor, tallied her third of the year.
Marsteller struck again with 17:18 remaining, beating Williamsport goalkeeper Adelia Engel in a one-on-one for her 10th of the season and third in two games. Marsteller also has compiled a team-high 12 assists.
“Both passes to me were very good,” she said. “I was able to get past the defenders and get a closer shot.”
“Alex is just a remarkable young lady,” said Haddad, in his 14th season. “She has a great technical skill-set but what’s beautiful about her is her understanding of the game.”
The stat that best illustrates Parkland’s dominance over Williamsport is shots on goal. The Trojans fired off 12. The Millionaires failed to get one shot on frame. (Parkland has totaled 63 goals this season and allowed just three.)
Now it’s onto the state semifinals and that rematch against Pennridge. The Rams reached the PIAA final in 2018, the year they knocked off Parkland 3-2 in penalty kicks.
Tigers fall in 3A quarter
Northwestern’s Kelly Bleam offered up an honest assessment of her Tigers’ 4-0 setback to Villa Marie Joseph in Saturday’s PIAA 3A quarterfinal at Tiger Stadium:
“Villa is exactly what they presented today,” said Bleam, who is retiring after 23 highly successful seasons as head coach of the school’s girls soccer program.
“It’s a team that’s definitely bigger than us, faster than us and stronger than us. They’re just a tremendous opponent and definitely one that’s better than we are. They showed that today.”
Villa Joseph Marie, an all-girls academy and scholastic sports power located in Holland, Bucks County, advances to Tuesday’s state semifinals against District 4 champion Selinsgrove.
Northwestern concluded its season as the Colonial League and District 11 champion with a 17-3-1 record.
Historical information and scouting intelligence told Bleam that the Jems would pose a major challenge to her Tigers even before the teams took to the turf.
Villa is an 11-time state champion and the Jems knocked off Northwestern, 3-0, in the 2014 semifinals en route to one of those PIAA titles. They entered with a 13-0 record, their closest call in a 2-1 penalty-kicks victory over Gwynedd Mercy Academy in Tuesday’s district final.
They looked the part of state power against Northwestern, taking a 1-0 lead at intermission then opening up in the second half.
“Villa was the best opponent we played this year,” said Northwestern senior Kylie Zentz, who led the Tigers with 19 goals and six assists. “They’re good at combinations, finishing and they’re a really good all-around team.”
Madison Crozier, Kennedy Kilchrist, Katherine Sullivan and Margaret Hensel all scored for Villa.
Northwestern played 21 times during this COVID-19 shortened season, more games than any other team in the Lehigh Valley. That included its two championship wins and two state playoff contests.
The Tigers will graduate six seniors in the spring, including standouts Zentz, Lexi Bleam and Kayla Bardonner.
“It’s been a great season,” said Kelly Bleam, who won 429 games, 12 Colonial League crowns and seven District 11 titles at Northwestern. “Were we even going to be able to play? That was a big question at the start. We got some games in, got some more in and before we knew it we were in the playoffs. So, we’re very fortunate.
“The girls were able to put together some great play this season and come away with a two-championship season. This was a special year.”