Boys soccer team is reloaded for ‘19
After reaching the PIAA finals in both 2016 and 2017 and the semifinals the year before that, the Northwestern boys soccer team finished 19-2-1 last season, but failed to go to states after a loss in the District 11 championship game.
Once again, they Tigers have reloaded and have a team with returning starters that mix with young players to give them quite an arsenal.
Head coach Nate Hunsicker, who will lead his team on a home field that now features a new turf surface, is excited about the possibilities that the 2019 version of the roster gives him for the season.
“I’m really excited for this year because more so than in previous years, we have more of a blend of experienced players, some varsity type players and some fresh guys coming in with little to no varsity experience, but they’re ready to gain that experience,” said Hunsicker. “The present looks bright and so does the future.”
The large senior class – the roster lists nine seniors – will give the team leadership in key spots.
Even the players, who voted on team captains recently, showed that there is a lot of leadership among the group, resulting in a bunch of ties for captains. Five players will serve as captains this season, including Michael Rebert, Matthew Renner, Riley Shafer, Luke Bryan and Jason Blaine.
As for the younger players, they’ve stepped up looking to fill holes created by graduation. Hunsicker has seen enough of his team to see that there is also a lot of versatility that will allow him to mix-and-match his lineup.
The players have also liked what they’ve seen from the younger players, namely sophomores Colin Coffield, Mason Brensinger and Phil Taylor, who Hunsicker described as “Swiss Army knives” because of their ability to play in different roles.
“We lost some important guys,” said Rebert. “But we’re really excited and we have some sophomores who have been stepping up for us and played in our summer league and they’ve been playing well. We’re excited to see the new faces and see what we can do this year.”
In goal, things appear to be much like they were last season when Zach Rosamalia and Austin Vogwill split time between the posts.
“It’s a luxury to know that we have two competent goalkeepers back there, so if one has a bad day, we can go to the other one and they can easily step in as well,” said Hunsicker.
Hunsicker and the team found out a lot about one another in the summer league and that has given them momentum coming into the season. Reports are that the younger players, although sometimes smaller and definitely more inexperienced, have played well against older competition.
That bodes well for the prospects for this season.
As for the turf, the players are more than happy to give up their former grass field for a chance to play on the new surface at Tiger Stadium. With a number of players who have quickness and good fundamental technical skills, the turf seems to be a benefit to a team like Northwestern Lehigh.
“It can really affect how the ball jumps and rolls,” said Shafer of the difference between grass and turf. “We got used to a field that had a lot of holes and a lot of bad patches and it’s going to be really nice knowing that you can trust that the ball is going to do what you expect it to do.”
Hunsicker added that his players are better suited to play on turf and believes it will help give the team an advantage.
“It’s exciting,” said Hunsicker of the turf field. “With the brand of soccer that we have and the caliber of players we have, it really fits their mold and fits the style of soccer that we like to play. We have a lot of technical players and I think it might make some of those players even better.”