Field hockey keeps season alive
Northwestern field hockey coach Lissa Opolsky was a high school and college goalkeeper, so she knows the pressure that comes in a tight game. She withstood that pressure as a player and seems to have passed that ability down to her players, who came up big when they needed it most to grab a 3-1 win over Northern Lehigh in last week’s season finale. The win clinched a spot in the District 11 Class AA playoffs, which begin next week.
Senior Devon Nothstein gave Northwestern a 1-0 lead when she slipped a shot past goalkeeper Annie McIntyre with 10:24 to play in the first half. It was fitting that it would be a senior player that would get the first goal for the team that was celebrating senior day.
Northern Lehigh (8-6-1 Colonial League, 8-8-1 overall) not only kept the Tigers off the board for the rest of the first half, but the Bulldogs also looked prepared to ruin the celebration when they maintained constant pressure in the second half.
Northwestern goalkeeper Taylor Page turned away the pressure to give her team a chance at opening up a larger lead. Eventually, the Tigers saw their opportunity and took advantage of a corner with 13:04 left to play when Courtney Page took the centering pass and got it past McIntyre to give Northwestern (8-7-1, 8-9-1) a little breathing room at 2-0.
“I played goalkeeper when I was in high school and college,” said Opolsky. “I know how that feels for Taylor being back there and it gives you a little more confidence, maybe not relief, but confidence that you’re moving forward.”
Northwestern’s final goal came on a penalty stroke by Haley Dietrich.
Northern Lehigh cut the deficit when Cheyenne Mazzocca scored with just 6:14 left to play.
The win not only put Northwestern into districts for the first time since 2011, when the Tigers lost their first-round match to Northern Lehigh in a 1-0 game, but it cemented a turnaround for the Tigers against their rivals, who they tied 1-1 earlier in the season.
“Since I’ve been a freshman, we’ve never beaten Northern Lehigh,” said Page. “They really wanted this game because we’ve never beaten them before, so it was just a really big game for us.
“I’ve never been in postseason – none of us have ever been – so it’s just exciting to get there. We’re the last seed, but we’re in. We’re in and on any given day, we can hang with anybody. I think they know that now. They’ve proven that to themselves over the last half of the season, so I’m excited to see what they can do.”
The senior day celebration honored Northwestern’s five senior players – Haley Dietrich, Mikaela Koenig, Devon Nothstein, Erika Thomas and Maria Haddad and their two senior managers – Claira McCabe and Alyssa Majewski.
Neither the Tigers or Bulldogs qualified for this week’s Colonial League playoffs, so they’ll have time to prepare for districts, which begin October 26.