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Haaf's OT goal lifts Tigers over Liberty

Even without nearly half of his team's starters in last week's summer game, one thing remained constant from last fall's squad-leading goal-scorer JD Haff.

Against an Eastern Pennsylvania Conference (EPC) team in Liberty last Wednesday, Haaf was one of just a handful of Northwestern starters from last season that were in uniform. But that didn't stop the Tigers from pulling out a gritty overtime victory after allowing a late equalizing goal in the final minutes.

After Liberty tied the game 1-1 late in regulation, sending action into a five-minute overtime session, Haaf and the Tigers wasted little time in regaining the lead. Haaf fired a right-footed shot from the left side of Liberty's goal to keep New Tripoli Bank FC undefeated with a 2-1 win in Group B of the Lehigh Valley Summer Soccer League (LVSSL) last Wednesday.

"We were missing a bunch of our starters, probably half of them," Haaf said. "The kids that were here actually really stepped up, brought their game and did pretty well.

"We haven't really had our full team yet, but the kids are really stepping up."

While Northwestern was able to generate five shots on goal in the opening half, the Tigers were held scoreless despite those numerous threats.

But the second half was a different story.

Haaf got the scoring started early in the second half when he split two Allen defenders, juked the Canaries' goalkeeper, and positioned his shot into the back of the net to break the scoreless match.

"I was just trying to really hold my own against those two," Haaf said. "The goalie came out too aggressive, and I just tapped it around him and put it in."

That goal held up until the final minutes when Liberty tied it up just before the regulation whistle. But needing a boost in momentum after that heartbreaking Hurricanes goal, the Tigers' leading-scorer from the fall came through once again in overtime.

Cody Gangaware graduated from last year's team, a senior who had a big impact on the Tigers' scoring as well. But with his departure leaves a bit of a void in the scoring department, and a number of Tigers are getting their opportunity to shine. Kenny Gawelko and Noah Seng-DeLong are two Tigers that have helped in that area in the summer.

"All of those kids that really never had the time to shine are stepping up now," Haaf said. "They're going to have their time."

For Haaf, he understands he'll be relied upon even more after posting a team-high 24 goals last fall. He's been working hard on numerous aspects of his game in the offseason to get to that level.

"I've been playing with my club team [Lehigh Valley United], and doing offensive plays and shooting a lot," Haaf said.

As a team, Northwestern is looking to find its niche after losing three starters from last year.

"We're kind of just getting to know each other," Haaf said. "We're getting to know our style of play, fitness and touches. Really all of it."

Results from the Tigers' games on Tuesday and Wednesday were not available at time of press. New Tripoli Bank FC faces Bears United on Monday at 7:15 p.m. at Lehigh University's Campus Fields.

PRESS PHOTO BY NANCY SCHOLZ Noah Meyers (right) battles for the ball during last week's game against Liberty. The New Tripoli Bank Tigers beat the Hurricanes, 2-1 to stay unbeaten.