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Northwestern boys soccer clinches D-11 playoff spot

The Northwestern Lehigh boys soccer team has spent much of the season at less than full strength. The Tigers are slowly getting players back from injury and the team is starting to hit somewhat of a stride as it closes in on the end of the season. The defense was also hit by injuries but was able to remain a little more consistent and had allowed more than one goal just once this season when the Tigers fell to Southern Lehigh in a 2-1 loss.

In its last three games, Northwestern (7-1 Colonial, 9-2 Overall) has been able to find the net 21 times, while scoring just seven goals in the four games leading up to the recent stretch of offensive success. Things started to get better when Jeff Garcia returned to the lineup and Pen Argyl (1-3, 1-3) made its own mistakes that gave Garcia two penalty kicks. As expected, he nailed both to get himself back into scoring mode, but the Tigers beat Pen Argyl by just a 2-1 score.

“It’s nice to have Jeff back for those situations,” said Northwestern head coach Nate Hunsicker after the win over the Green Knights. “We have other guys who have stepped up and could have taken those kicks for us, but Jeff seems to have a way of burying penalty shots.

“We really haven’t had a game where we had our full team on the field this season. Today was the closest that we’ve been but we still have three defensemen who are out and it makes it difficult to find that consistency.”

Against the Green Knights, the Tigers made their share of mistakes as well, including allowing Pen Argyl to get a direct kick with 13:07 left in the game. Luke Maggipinto placed his kick over the wall of defenders from 30 yards out, depositing it to Vogwill’s left near the top corner of the net. Maggipinto’s goal tied the game, but it also seemed to energize the Northwestern players, who started to put more pressure on Green Knight goalkeeper Graham Rose.

A tripping penalty in the box was called against the Knights with 8:51 left to play and Garcia fired a shot much like his first penalty kick that scorched its way past Rose for the go-ahead goal.

Since then, the Tigers have added a 7-1 win over Wilson, an 8-1 win over Northern Lehigh (0-5, 0-5) and a 6-0 shutout against Salisbury (1-2, 3-3).

During their current scoring binge, Northwestern has gotten multi-goal games from Seth Brady (two against Wilson) and Josh Zellner (two against Northern Lehigh), while Colin Coffield and Mason Brensinger each scored two goals in the win over Salisbury

In their last three games, the Tigers have gotten goals from Coffield (4), Brady (3), Cayden Fitch (3), Zellner (3), Brensinger (2) and Garcia, Matt Johnson, Christian Sikora, Aidan Bissell and Phil Taylor have all scored one goal each for Northwestern.

On the season, Coffield holds the team lead with nine goals while Brady is just behind him with eight goals. Overall, eight different players have scored more than one goal on the year as Northwestern Lehigh has been able to find scoring from different sources when needed.

“We’ve had a lot of guys play well for us this season,” said Hunsicker. “We’re working our way through the schedule and should be in pretty good shape going into the postseason.”

The season schedule has just three more games remaining with games at Palmerton (0-4, 0-6) on Saturday and Moravian Academy (4-1, 4-1) on Tuesday.

The regular season finale will be at Tiger Stadium on Wednesday when Northwestern hosts Catasauqua (3-3, 3-3). Northwestern Lehigh has already clinched a spot in the District 11 tournament.

PRESS PHOTO BY CHUCK HIXSON Northwestern goal keeper Austin Vogwill makes a leaping save against Pen Argyl.
PRESS PHOTO BY NANCY SCHOLZ Colin Coffield heads a ball during a game against Salisbury. Coffield leads the Tigers in goal scoring this year.