Article By: Mike Haines firstname.lastname@example.org
Every high school sports program looks to improve each season. That’s not difficult for some downtrodden programs, but for the more successful teams, it can be nearly impossible.
After going 24-2 in 2015 and reaching the state semifinal game, Northwestern managed to get better in each of its next two seasons, including back-to-back trips to the state final.
“When they look back at their legacy that they’ve left here and the amount of games that they’ve won, not just this season but prior seasons, this is the best season that Northwestern boys soccer has ever had,” said Northwestern head coach Nate Hunsicker, a former Tiger varsity player. “For our only loss to come in the state championship, that’s not too shabby.”
The Tigers followed up that 2015 season, which included Colonial League and District 11 titles, with a 24-1-1- season that saw them repeat in leagues and districts and reach last year’s state title game.
This year, they posted a 26-1 record, with their only loss coming to Lower Dauphin in Saturday’s state title game.
The three-time league and district champs will have a difficult time improving on this year as they have achieved everything short of a state title over the past three years.
“We have a good feeder program,” said Hunsicker. “I think we’re ready to fire away. We have a lot of kids that came in this year with little or no varsity experience, and they stepped up and played huge roles in big games.
“The experience those kids gained this year and the success they got to see, I think success breeds success. We’ll keep it rolling.”
This year’s team had to fill seven starting spots left vacant by graduation. A senior class led by Kenny Gawelko, Noah Meyers and Andrew Goodolf helped maintain the winning tradition.
“On the heels of last season and the class we lost last year, I don’t think a lot of people expected this,” said Hunsicker. “Maybe the league and district, but not the state run. I have to attribute that to just the heart of seniors. They wanted to follow up on last season and have a strong year.”
This year’s team earned the respect of Lower Dauphin’s Jackson Becher, who has put in four of his team’s seven goals in two state title game wins over the Tigers.
“They’re definitely one of the best teams we’ve played this year,” said Becher, who has scored 103 career goals. “They’re very physical. They’re very solid all around and they’re very quick up top. They’re dangerous. We saw that early on when they had a couple good chances. We knew it was going to be a battle right from the start.”
The Tigers will graduate 11 players and six starters from this year’s team.
Junior defender Caleb Danner, one of the team’s four returning starters this season and one of its four captains, will be one of five returning starters next season.
They’ll try to reach the same heights as they’re predecessors, who made lifelong memories over the past three seasons.
“It’s definitely not going to be something I forget,” said Gawelko, who was named the Colonial League Most Valuable Player for 2017. “All these runs we’ve had, I’m going to remember them forever. It’s something I’m going to tell my kids hopefully.”