New Tripoli Bank FC caps successful summer
Defense has been a staple for the Northwestern boys’ soccer team over the past couple of seasons. That defense helped anchor the Tigers to Colonial League and District 11 Class 2A championships last fall.
Despite graduating a number of key pieces from that unit, the success on defense has certainly translated into the summer.
Northwestern, known as New Tripoli Bank FC, finished the regular season of the Lehigh Valley Summer Soccer League at an impressive 9-2 mark. Then, the Tigers won two playoff games before falling just a goal short against Liberty (4-3) in the championship game on July 20 at Lehigh University’s Campus Fields.
“We pride ourselves on playing a great team defensive game and the statistics speak for themselves,” Tiger head coach Nate Hunsicker said. “Having Kyle [Bellhorn] and Jon [Blaine] back there obviously helps and is really important, but everyone who has stepped in and played on our back line has done a great job. We will look a little different there this fall season, but I think defensively we may be even stronger this year.”
Bellhorn is a returning goalkeeper for the Tigers who will enter his fourth year starting in net. He, along with a four-year starter in the back in Blaine, led a defense that allowed just six goals in the summer season. That was by far the best of the 24 teams across both divisions.
Emmaus’ Gold team allowed the next lowest amount of goals with 11 in Group B, the division in which Northwestern finished a game out of first place. Allen and Quakertown also allowed 11 in Group A.
“I thought Bellhorn and Blaine played really well anchoring our defense,” Hunsicker said. “We will certainly be counting on them again this year to have great seasons. Both will be four-year starters for us. Dom Mertz and Noah Seng-DeLong did a great job controlling our midfield and making things happen for us for us both offensively and defensively.”
Brad Shafer suited up in a number of positions for the Tigers this summer and provided plenty of flexibility for Hunsicker.
Despite missing four starters during the week of the playoffs, the Tigers pitched shutouts against Quakertown (5-0) in the first round and versus Freedom (1-0) the following day. Their only hiccup came in the championship game when the Tigers allowed three goals, the most of any game this season.
“Our strengths as they have been the past few years were certainly our solid team defense, controlling the ball in the midfield, and the ability to counter and strike quickly,” Hunsicker said.
“I thought we played pretty well all things considered. It’s tough during the summer with kids missing for various family vacations, college visits, and more to really get any sense of consistency.”
Despite missing players on a regular basis, the team didn’t miss a beat. The Tigers pitched a total of 10 shutouts in 14 games. With the fall season scheduled to get underway with practices in less than two weeks, Northwestern expects its defense to be another prominent factor in leading them to the top of the league and district standings.
“The biggest thing I hope to get out of the summer is some positive momentum, which I think we did,” Hunsicker said. “We tried to sort some things out with the team we will have for this season, especially coming off a year where we lost some key seniors.”