Tigers improve to 8-1 in summer soccer
The Northwestern boys soccer team entered last fall’s season with a daunting task—replacing the program’s single-season goal-scoring leader in JD Haaf. All Northwestern did was follow up that departure with a 24-1-1 record, league and district titles and a return trip to the state tournament, where the Tigers advanced to the PIAA Class 3A title game.
Now, over eight months later, Northwestern suddenly finds itself in a similar setting during summer league play.
“I’ve been impressed,” said head coach Nate Hunsicker. “I think a lot of people, with the number and caliber of seniors that we lost last year, are kind of writing us off. They think that, not that we’re going to be a below-average team by any means, but we’re definitely not going to be the team we were the past couple of years. I think people are going to be in for a bit of a surprise if that’s what they are expecting from the fall.”
Perhaps it’s time for people to stop underestimating the Tigers. If Hunsicker is judging anything by his team’s play in the Lehigh Valley Summer Soccer League, it’s how well they’ve already moved on from last year’s historic season.
Northwestern defeated Pen Argyl, 3-0, on Monday evening at Lehigh University to improve to 8-1 this summer. The Tigers are currently tied with Central Catholic, another District Class 3A powerhouse whom the Tigers defeated for last year’s district crown, with just one loss in the standings. Northwestern came up short against the Vikings in the season opener.
“They didn’t lose a whole, whole lot from last year,” Hunsicker said of Central Catholic. “They bring back pretty much everybody in the matchup of the district championship game. They’re definitely the team to beat. It’s tough to go by the summer with vacations and stuff like that. You can miss one player that makes a big difference.”
Monday’s win, however, was yet another convincing shutout throughout the humid days of summer. Six times has the Tigers’ defense, which lost plenty of talent from last year’s team (including Lehigh University recruit Jonathan Blaine), has shut out opposing teams.
“Most of them were defenders and almost all of our midfield [is gone],” Hunsicker said. “I think we have more shutouts than we’ve been scored upon this summer. Luke Taylor, he has stepped in and is doing a great job for us.”
If anything was to be a struggle for Northwestern heading into the summer and fall seasons, it figured to be that back unit in front of goal. Blaine has graduated, along with nearly every other starter from last year’s squad in the midfield and defense. Not to mention four-year starter Kyle Bellhorn is no longer in goal.
Instead, Northwestern has allowed just six goals all summer long, four of which came against Central Catholic in that opener.
“[Bellhorn] was a four-year starter,” Hunsicker said. “When you lose a four-year starter, that’s a tough pill to swallow.
“Winning [against Pen Argyl] clinched a playoff spot for us. If we win one of the last two, we will be no worse than the No. 2 seed. And if we win both and if Central were to lose one more, we would jump.”
On the offensive end of the field, the Tigers’ top three goal-scorers all return in Andrew Goodolf, Kenny Gawelko and Sam Seyfried. All have played a big part in helping Northwestern produce on of the top summer showings in Group B.
Playoffs begin next Wednesday, with pairings and times still to be determined on how the remaining two games play out. Results from Wednesday’s game against Pennridge were not available at time of press. The Tigers end the regular season against JAF Comics next Monday at 7:15 p.m.