Northwestern Press

Thursday, December 14, 2017
PRESS PHOTO BY CHUCK HIXSONNorthwestern goal keeper Taylor Wannamaker makes a leaping save during Monday’s win over Notre Dame. PRESS PHOTO BY CHUCK HIXSONNorthwestern goal keeper Taylor Wannamaker makes a leaping save during Monday’s win over Notre Dame.
PRESS PHOTO BY CHUCK HIXSONNorthwestern’s Jeff Garcia (12) has a knack for scoring the first goal a game. PRESS PHOTO BY CHUCK HIXSONNorthwestern’s Jeff Garcia (12) has a knack for scoring the first goal a game.

Tigers hand ND first loss

Thursday, October 5, 2017 by CHUCK HIXSON Special to the Press in Sports

Goals from a freshman and a senior paced Northwestern to a 2-0 win over Notre Dame (Green Pond) on Monday, leaving the Tigers as the only undefeated boys soccer team in the Colonial League. Freshman Jeff Garcia and senior Noah Myers scored the goals for the Tigers to put them at 10-0 in the Colonial League and 14-0 overall this season.

Northwestern wasn’t sharp early in the game. Notre Dame controlled the pace and kept pressure on the Tigers, but wasn’t able to find the net. With 16:12 left in the first half, Garcia nailed a shot from directly in front of the goal, helping to pull Northwestern out of its early funk

“Jeff Garcia has done a fantastic job,” Northwestern head coach Nathan Hunsicker said. “That was his fifth or sixth goal this year and every one of his goals, I believe, except for one, was the first goal in the game and ultimately wound up being the game-winning goal. He’s been a blessing for us and has great composure for a freshman. I’m looking forward to having him for a few more years.”

Garcia has played a number of positions for Northwestern in his first season and has handled them all well. Hunsicker has been impressed with how quickly and how well Garcia fit into the lineup.

“He’s been a blessing, he’s kind of like a Swiss army knife for us; he fits in at inside-mid, outside-mid, up top every now and then and has great composure for a freshman,” said Hunsicker. “He does a fantastic job and I’m looking forward to having him for the next few years.”

Garcia has embraced his role with the team and has adapted well to playing a number of positions, and in fact, enjoys being able to move around the field to fill various roles.

“There are times when I feel tired at one position, but when I move, it gives me time to regain some energy and kind of regroup a little, so I like moving around,” said Garcia, who he also likes finding the goal that kick-starts his team. “It’s always good to get that early start and I’m happy when I can be the one to get that. Everyone is looking for that, because it’s good to have an early start, so I guess you could say that I am looking for that quick goal.”

Notre Dame had some early opportunities, but was unable to capitalize on them thanks in part to goalie Taylor Wanamaker, who made a number of big stops for the Tigers. Before too long, Northwestern started to find more of a controlled passing game and were able to put the pressure back on Notre Dame.

In the second half, Myers gave the Tigers some insurance when he scored with 27:01 left in the game to make it 2-0 for Northwestern. Myers had a couple of solid shots earlier in the game that were either blocked or wound up just missing the net, but he was able to get one past goalkeeper Alex Ficcara.

The win puts the Tigers in good position for both the league and District 11 playoffs.

“They were the only other undefeated team, this puts us in a safe spot at the top,” said Garcia.

Hunsicker isn’t worried about the early slow start and attributed it to a little bit of nerves and just settling in for a big game. Gaining the experience against another undefeated team with a high talent level should give Northwestern some confidence in the postseason. Hunsicker was not looking for excuses, but he also noted that with the grass field getting so much wear and tear.

“The field for our style of play is pretty burned out, pretty rock hard at this point in the season,” said Hunsicker. “It doesn’t really play into our possession game the greatest.”

The Tigers have long clinched a spot in the District 11 playoffs, but the win should pretty well cement their spot as the top seed in the Class 3A rankings. With four games left, Northwestern is ahead of Allentown Central Catholic (10-4) for the top spot in the class. Notre Dame remains on top of the 2A rankings, with Wilson and Pen Argyl hanging around in second and third.

“It’s a big win and it should solidify our spot at the top of the league table,” said Hunsicker. “We have a couple league matches coming up that I think we should win, not that we’re going to take anybody lightly, but definitely put ourselves into a position moving forward where we want to be and want to end up.”