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Zellner scores twice in win over Moravian

The Northwestern Lehigh boys soccer team faces a tough early season schedule, and will have to do it without two starting players, who are out with injuries.

When Mason Brensinger went down with an injury early against Moravian Academy on Tuesday, head coach Nate Hunsicker’s head started to scramble for solutions.

Fortunately for Hunsicker, Brensinger is a tough kid and after having the injury checked out and wrapped, he returned to the game to contribute to a 3-1 win over the Lions.

“I told the kids before the game that everybody has got to step up,” said Hunsicker. “It’s a cliché, but it’s that next-man-up mentality for us right now.

“He [Brensinger] does a lot for us in the middle and already missing two guys in the middle, that would have been a big loss for us. It’s to his credit that he battled and finished the game.”

The Tigers got their first goal just under 10 minutes into the game when they were awarded a free kick. Josh Zellner took the kick and was disappointed by the result but didn’t stop there. The ball bounced off goalie Vinny Lamberti and Zellner reacted quickly to put a shot past Lamberti for the first goal of the game.

“I was just going in and I’m not really sure what I was thinking, but I reacted and made a shot,” said Zellner. “It just wasn’t a good shot, but I followed it up and got a goal out of it. My second penalty shot was much better, I was happy with that one.”

The second penalty shot wrapped up the scoring in the game when Lamberti was unable to deflect a shot that made him dive to his left.

The score came with 11:51 left to play and just about 10 minutes after Moravian’s Gennaro Mazzella had made it a 2-1 game.

Zellner’s second goal – his third of the season overall - provided the insurance that Northwestern Lehigh (1-0 Colonial League, 2-0 overall) needed and seemed to quiet the Lions offense, which was looking for a tying goal.

Hunsicker’s hope of seeing players step up came early in the second half when two younger players hooked up to give the Tigers a 2-0 lead. Freshman Jack Mauro fed sophomore Matt Johnson with a perfect crossing pass as Johnson beat a defender to the ball and fired a shot past Lamberti.

“I was joking with my staff that this was the youngest starting lineup I have ever had in 11 years,” said Hunsicker. “We started two freshmen and two sophomores, and I thought all four of those kids played really well for how minimal varsity experience they have.”

As expected, the game with Moravian (0-1, 0-1) was a physical one.

Northwestern was able to stay levelheaded throughout the game and not create any penalties that hurt them. The physical play may have helped prepare the team for their showdown with the rival Spartans, which will be played at Southern Lehigh (1-0-0, 2-0-1).

“We know Southern Lehigh is a very physical team,” said Zellner of the upcoming game. “It’s going to be a dogfight and we are prepared for it. Those games are always physical and very competitive.”

After a season opening win over Whitehall (0-1 EPC, 0-1 overall) in a nonleague game, the schedule has three Colonial League title contenders in a row with Moravian Academy, Southern Lehigh and Notre Dame (Green Pond).

It’s a difficult start to the season, especially with two starters already out.

“Nobody’s going to feel bad for you and the games still have to get played,” said Hunsicker. “I tell the kids that we still have to go out there and battle for 80 minutes no matter who is on the field, because nobody is going to cut us a break because we have a couple of guys out.”

PRESS PHOTO BY LINDA ROTHROCK Josh Zellner scored a pair of goals in the Tigers' win over Moravian Academy Tuesday.