Tigers ride bicylce kick to title
After nearly 170 minutes of scoreless soccer in two games, someone was going to need that one special play to break the invisible barrier on the front of the net and win the game. For Northwestern Lehigh, it came in the form of a bicycle kick delivered by Jeff Garcia. The goal, which made ESPN’s Top 10 Highlights, featured a key component that even the Northwestern coach wasn’t aware of until after the game.
Officially, Ryan Baker, who delivered a long throw-in for the Tigers, was credited with an assist. But another Northwestern player also had a hand — or at least a voice — in the play.
Baker delivered a strong, accurate throw that bounced a couple of times before it reached Garcia.
“I just wanted to throw it as far as possible and hope that someone got a foot or something on it,” said Baker. “Luckily, Jeff Garcia did with a brilliant bicycle kick.”
Garcia had a split second to contemplate how to play the ball. He was thinking along the lines of a bicycle kick when he heard a loud voice say “bike it!”
The words came from senior teammate Luke Bryan, who saw the play developing and knew it was the best chance that Northwestern had to break the scoreless tie.
“I saw it coming,” said Bryan. “We practice that every day in training and to see it happen, it was unbelievable. I’m at a loss for words. It was an amazing strike.”
Garcia executed the difficult play and did it with a defender closing in on him. He made the move and hit the ball squarely, placing it perfectly and just out of reach of Southern Lehigh goalkeeper Jack Cyr, who had seemingly knocked down everything else that the Tigers had kicked and headed his way.
Tiger head coach Nate Hunsicker had told his players after regulation that if they saw a chance, go for it. That advice was still in Garcia’s head when the play was developing.
“It’s like a dream,” said Garcia. “I still haven’t processed it. It’s amazing. I saw it bouncing and Luke Bryan screamed ‘bike it.’ As he screamed, I thought ‘I’m going for it.’ I knew it had to happen.”
Hunsicker saw the play, but didn’t know that Bryan had played a part in helping it to come about.
“Luke has great soccer savvy out there, as does Jeff and it was an incredibly well finished goal and an incredibly struck ball,” said Hunsicker.
The win helps to erase the memory of a 1-0 loss to Saucon Valley in last year’s district final, a loss that Garcia called “tragic.” That loss ended the season for Northwestern Lehigh as they sought to get back to the state finals to go for gold instead of the two silver medals they had won in 2016 and 2017.
“We came here and did what we needed to do and we’ve been taking it one game at a time,” said Bryan. “I think we overlooked Saucon last year and we came up short. But this year, we took one game at a time and we’re on our way for another state run, so I’m excited.”