Northwestern’s road to the District 11 boys soccer championship didn’t start this season. It began last year with a young team that improved throughout the season and played its best in late fall.
This year’s team, with most of last year’s roster still intact, picked up right where last year’s team left off. Then went one step further.
The Tigers earned their first district boys soccer title since 2004 when they topped Salisbury, 2-0 last Thursday at Whitehall High School.
Coming into the season with nine of last year’s starters returning from a team that reached the league playoffs and district final last season, the goals were clear this season for Northwestern’s boys soccer team and they included league and district titles.
The Tigers achieved the first of those last Thursday, outlasting Moravian 1-0 in the Colonial League title game.
The Tigers capitalized on a corner play early in the first half and then got an outstanding effort from goal keeper Kyle Bellhorn.
When Northwestern suffered its first loss of the season last week, 1-0 to Salisbury, the team had to choose a path.
It could let the loss pull it downward or use it as learning experience and motivation.
The Tigers did the latter. They headed into Monday’s rescheduled contest against Moravian Academy, the only other unbeaten team in the Colonial League ready to erase the loss from their memory.
The did just that, beating the Lions 3-0 to remain the only undefeated team in the league. The loss to Salisbury was a nonleague game between the two league rivals.
Success can’t always by measures by wins and losses.
Sometimes it comes in the form of a tie.
Northwestern’s 1-1 tie against Northern Lehigh last week was a victory of the Tiger field hockey program.
“I think it could be a turning point for our season since they know what they can do and what kind of heart they could put into playing every game,” said Northwestern head coach Lissa Opolsky. “It could lead us to good things and good success in the end.
With three runners missing from the varsity line up, the Northwestern girls cross country team had to readjust its goals heading into the annual early-season DeSales Invitational.
Most years the Lady Tigers are looking to win it. This year, with two seniors taking SATs the day of the race and another senior resting an injury, the goal was a top-five finish Saturday in Center Valley.
Northern Valley isn't the kind of team that likes to make things easy.
Heading into their final four games of the season, the Chargers felt they needed at least two wins to secure a postseason berth. That remaining schedule included the league's last place team as well as three of the Lehigh Valley League's top four teams.
If there's one thing Len Smith wants to be remembered for, it's that the program has always been about the players. While he was at the helm for more than three decades, the team was always at the forefront.
That's why Smith kept it to himself all season. He had serious thoughts about retiring from coaching early in preseason, but he didn't share those thoughts until well after the season.
"This isn't about me," he said. "This is about the kids. I didn't want the focus during the season to be on me. I wanted the focus to be on the kids."
It wasn't long ago that Northwestern looked like a team that would get a bye right into the Colonial League baseball semifinals.
The Tigers had a two-game lead in the division with two weeks left in the season. That lead slipped away and they dropped to the No. 3 seed, which meant they would have to play a quartefinal game.
The spring high school sports season went by quickly after cold and ice forced a late start. While the regular season went quickly, Northwetsern's girls softball team is hoping for a long run in the postseason.
The Lady Tigers won three games over four days from Friday to Monday, including Saturday's nonleague win over Lehighton that clinched a District 11 playoff berth.
"We're not done," said Northwestern head coach Josh Zimmerman. "We're keeping the pedal to the medal. You want to play you best softball at the end of the season and I think we're doing that right now."
Competitive swimming is all about dropping time. When swimmers are not getting faster, they feel like they're standing still.
Northwestern senior Trey Shackleton kept getting faster through three years of high school swimming, culminating this season when he finished his career with a second-place finish at states.
He might have been hoping to go a little bit faster in his final high school swim, but his second-place finish last month in the PIAA 500-yard freestyle championship was one place higher than he finished in his first two trips to states.