From a senior who was named a first-team All-State player to a freshman goalkeeper who was thrown into the job unexpectedly, the Lady Tigers have gotten contributions from players with varying degrees of varsity experience. Saturday, they showed their versatility in a win over Allentown Central Catholic that made Northwestern District 11 champions.
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.
Northwestern sent two cross country teams to states for the first time since 2013 after the boys and girls captured district titles two weeks ago.
The Tigers placed 14th in the boys Class 2A team standings Saturday at the PIAA Cross Country Championships, and were led by Matthew Santana’s 130th-place finish (18:09).
“It felt good to get this experience, and to know what it feels like to make it to states,” said Santana. “I thought it was good to experience it, and to be able to do it as a team.”
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.
When Northwestern Lehigh and Southern Lehigh meet in soccer, don’t figure on too many goals being scored. The two teams played to a scoreless tie in their regular season meeting and the District 11 final was no different.
The two teams played 80 minutes of scoreless soccer again, but this time there had to be a winner. In the ninth minute of overtime, Jeff Garcia used a spectacular bicycle kick to break the scoreless tie and send Northwestern to a 1-0 win and back into states for the fourth time in five seasons.
You can’t plan the heroics that Bailey Groff came up with. All she was trying to do was get the ball into position for one of her teammates to make a play, but she ended up scoring a goal.
Groff’s goal – and another by teammate Kylie Zentz – led Northwestern to a 2-0 win over Allentown Central Catholic in the District 11 Class 2A girls soccer finals. It also sends Northwestern to the PIAA tournament.
Northwestern Lehigh reached the PIAA field hockey tournament for the second straight season, this time as district champions. The district gold is the school’s first since 2004 and comes on the heels of being district runners-up last season. While the program is quickly gaining respect and seeing better results in the postseason, it hasn’t come overnight.
Head coach Lissa Opolsky took over the program in 2014 after the team had missed reaching districts in each of the past two seasons. Opolsky didn’t bring any magic potions with her and the Tigers again missed districts in 2014.
Northwestern was a game away from reaching the District 11 Class 4A championship game last season. A tough loss to Saucon Valley ended the Tigers’ run.
A year later, the top-seeded Tigers are back in the same position.
Northwestern scored 47 unanswered points to pull away from No. 8 Lehighton last Saturday night in the quarterfinals, 54-14. The win advanced the Tigers to the semifinals against No. 4 Central Catholic.
If Northwestern had written the script for how last Friday night would play out, the Tigers would have gotten it all right except for one detail. They beat Catasauqua 47-0 to handle their part of the script and then saw Pottsville and Bethlehem Catholic both lose to keep Northwestern on top of the District 11 Class 4A rankings.
The only bad part of the movie was when Southern Lehigh beat Salisbury, forcing the Tigers and Spartans to share – at least officially – the Colonial League championship.
A streak of nine consecutive wins for the Northwestern Lehigh football team sends it to the District 11 Class 4A playoffs as the top-seeded team. The Tigers open their quest for a district championship Saturday night when they host Lehighton (3-7) in the district quarterfinal game at Tiger Stadium.