Boys soccer preps for postseason play
The Northwestern boys soccer team used a matchup against Freedom on Saturday as a gauge on where it is heading toward the postseason.
The result was at 4-2 win for Northwestern in a nonconference game that wrapped up the home portion of the regular season for the Tigers. They finished the regular season Monday playing a scoreless tie with Notre Dame (East Stroudsburg). Northwestern finished the regular season 12-3-3 overall and 9-2-1 in the Colonial League.
The game against Freedom got a little chippy, especially in the second half. Neither team was completely happy with the officiating as it appeared that a number of calls went unmade and the play continued to escalate in intensity.
“The last couple of years we’ve been playing them late in the season and it gives us a good test to see where we are going into the playoffs,” said coach Nate Hunsicker. “It’s sort of a playoff-type situation for us because they’re a good squad and they play hard, so it’s a good result for us to win a game like this.”
The teams traded first-half goals, with Northwestern getting its goal from Luke Bryan and Ty Roemersma coming back with a goal for Freedom. Jason Blaine put the Tigers up 2-1 in the second half and Ryan Baker then followed with a goal to give Northwestern some insurance.
“Collin Coffield got the ball in the middle of the field and played a tremendous ball right up the center,” said Baker. “I managed to track it down and was able to feed it past the keeper and two defenders. I just figured I would run through everyone and put it in and that’s how it happened.”
Baker is feeling positive about the playoff odds for Northwestern. After reaching the state finals two years straight, the Tigers fell short last season and are anxious for another deep run in the postseason this year. He believes that games against physical teams like Freedom helps Northwestern to prepare for playoff season.
“I think our best overall game was against Moravian Academy when we beat them 5-0, but this is really right up there,” Baker said. “We played really well and played at a playoff caliber today. It helps us get used to how our opponents are going to play. They’re physical and play hard and make good plays, so it’s going to help us when we face tougher teams.”
With league playoffs beginning on Saturday, Northwestern will come in seeded either third or fourth, which means that they won’t have a first-round bye in Colonial League play. The Tigers fought through some growing pains early in the season, but have played much better in the second half of the year and are playing some of their best soccer of the season.
“I chop up the season into three segments,” said Hunsicker. “In the first third of this season we had some trouble finding ourselves, but in the second segment I think that we sort of found out a lot about ourselves and were hitting on all cylinders.
“We sort of changed some things around, changed where we had people and what we were doing in the middle part of the season. Now, we’re not always perfect, but for the majority of the games down the stretch we’ve really come into good form and that’s all I can ask for going forward.”
Northwestern will play either Wilson or Notre Dame (Green Pond) in the first round of the Colonial League playoffs on Saturday. Where the game would be played has not yet been determined.