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Tiger summer soccer team makes playoffs

Summer league soccer is about working in new players, schemes and just trying to get better overall for the upcoming fall season that is creeping up now just less than two months away.

The Northwestern boys soccer program has been the class of the Colonial League and its District 11 classifications of 2A (2015) and most recently 3A (2016-present) over the last few seasons. Before falling in the district final to Saucon Valley last season, the Tigers had won 59 consecutive matches against Colonial League competition and three straight district titles while making three trips deep into the state playoffs.

As with almost every year, head coach Nate Hunsicker and his staff have to deal with integrating new and inexperienced players to the varsity level and to get them to grasp the winning mentality of the program. If the 2019 summer league regular season is any indication, Northwestern is in for another strong fall campaign.

The Tigers battled to a 2-2 draw against Upper Perkiomen last Monday evening in their Lehigh Valley Summer Soccer League season finale at Lehigh University’s Stabler campus, but in doing so, finished with an overall record of 6-1-2 and the top seed in next week’s postseason in Group B.

“This is the type of game we wanted to finish the season with,” said Hunsicker. “We always put ourselves in this division because we feel it is the most competitive. There are a lot of EPC teams in here that will help us prepare for the fall.”

Northwestern scored the game’s first two goals, one in each half. It dominated the first half of play, outshooting the Tribe 7-1. But Upper Perk woke up in the second half, scoring both of its goals, one coming with less than five minutes to go to force a five-minute overtime. It also had a good chance at netting the winner on a direct kick from about 20-yards out, but it was cleared away by the Tigers to seal the tie.

Northwestern’s Luke Bryan and Riley Shafer scored the Tigers’ goals in the game.

Despite allowing back-to-back goals in the second half and having to walk off the field without victory, Hunsicker knows the value that the game brought to his team.

“We have a lot of new faces in new places this year,” Hunsicker said. “There’s a lot of inexperience and a lot for us to do to prove ourselves. We need to find more consistency instead of some guys stepping up for a game or two. We need it to be more often. The guys just need to mold into their roles and find that level of consistency to blend that all together with the cohesiveness of all 11 guys beating to the same drum.”

There are 16 teams that make the playoffs (top five teams from the three groups, plus the next best record), which begin on Monday evening. Northwestern has the top record in Group B so the Tigers will most likely end up with a top-four overall seed in the tournament.