Field hockey wins districts, returns to states
For Northwestern Lehigh field hockey, it’s all been about adding steps to the success of the program. The team reached states last season, but lost in the first round.
This season the Tigers were looking for a win and a trip to the quarterfinals, but that step wound up being a stumble when Newport High School eliminated the Tigers in a 3-0 game at Emmaus High School Tuesday, finishing the Northwestern season at 17-5-1.
From the opening whistle, Newport (17-5-1) proved to be a tough opponent and played a more physical game than what Northwestern was used to from District 11 opponents. Northwestern managed just one corner and one shot on goal while the Buffaloes had 10 corners and 14 shots on goal.
“We played a really good team with a very different demeanor than District 11 has in that they were far more physical and stronger over the ball,” said Tiger head coach Lissa Opolsky. “We did our best to contain that and we did so for a good 28 minutes heading into the end of the first half. Then they scored off of a corner, which was a breakdown on our part and we could never really regain possession and maintain possession for a long period of time after that.”
With Newport putting pressure on the Northwestern defense and getting so many penalty corners, it was only a matter of time until the Buffaloes connected. Tiger goalkeeper Maxine Hoffman put together a strong game, fending off shots from all angles.
With just over a minute left in the first half, Newport senior Emily Kline slid a shot past Hoffman.
“It didn’t really change the game plan too much,” said Opolsky. “We were trying to contain their goal scorers because they have a few that can score a lot of goals, so we were dropping off on our press and trying to trap them in the corners. That was working for us because they were hitting into us or they didn’t really know what to do with the ball, but once they got into our defensive-25, our luck kind of ran out.”
Midway through the second half, Newport got a goals from Claire Weidenhammer and Rachel Bohn to make it 3-0 with just 37 seconds left to play.
Northwestern features just two seniors — Ally Myers and Mackenzie Mosebach — who Opolsky credits with helping to continue the building of the program and leading by example. The team has a good number of juniors on the roster, giving the Tigers reason to believe they will have a strong team again next season.
Opolsky believes that while Newport dominated much of the play, her returning players drew something from the game about the style of play that they will be likely to face in state tournament games and will give them something to refer to in the future. It also gives the team a continuing goal of just where it wants to be as a program when all is said and done.
“This really fuels them and they want to be back in this position,” said Opolsky of the returning players. “There were a lot of highs in the season, to win a district championship for the first time in 15 years is something that nobody can take away from them.”