Tigers are runner-up in summer league
Coming into the summer, Northwestern head coach Nate Hunsicker had high expectations for the Tiger boys soccer team.
And why wouldn't he? Northwestern lost just three conferences games in the Colonial League last season and finished as district runner-up. Before that, the Tigers had a successful summer in the Lehigh Valley Summer Soccer League. But the biggest sign of optimism is that the Tigers graduated just two senior starters from last year-Brandon Herb and Cody Gangaware.
Anticipating another successful run in the LVSSL this summer is one thing, but Northwestern was able to bring that to fruition just a few weeks ago. New Tripoli Bank FC (6-2-2 in the regular season) earned the No. 3 seed in the playoffs from Group B. Their run lasted all the way to the championship game once again, but unfortunately saw their summer league end in a familiar fashion from a year ago.
"Being runner-up last season and pretty much being the same team, I expected us to at least be in the finals again and hopefully win it this time," Hunsicker said. "[But] unfortunately that didn't happen.
"Obviously would have wanted to win the title but we had a great summer. Certainly something to build off of and hopefully find more success in the fall."
Victories against Central Gold (5-1 on July 20) and Emmaus (2-0 on July 22) set up a meeting with Walnutport Eyecare the following day. But Walnutpor, which lost just one regular season game and tied Northwestern 3-3 days earlier, jumped out to a quick lead the Tigers couldn't recover from.
"We gave up a few lazy goals in the beginning," Hunsicker said. "I don't think we were focused. We fought hard to come back, but it was too little too late."
Like most teams, though, the Tigers had to deal with juggling an inconsistent lineup due to vacations and other obligations. While there was no summer championship for a second straight year, Hunsicker and the Tigers' staff is optimistic with the start of the high school season just weeks away.
"I was very pleased with the results we earned and how we played this summer," Hunsicker said. "Especially since we were always missing a few key pieces, even in the playoffs. We also played hard with what we had at our disposal."
JD Haaf, the Tigers' leading goal-scorer last fall, returns and will be relied upon once again to produce opportunities offensively. But a number of others hold just as important roles across the field, even a group of underclassmen that played well in the summer.
"The younger players were key," Hunsicker said. "They showed a lot of courage and enthusiasm. I also thought we had great teamwork and passion for the game.
"JD is back and will be key. Keegan Coeffield will be our senior leader on defense, and Daniel Halingstad and Brett Scott should help to pace our midfield this year."
Northwestern opens the Colonial League regular season on September 8 at Pen Argyl.