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Boy soccer beats Palisades to advance

Coach Nate Hunsicker told his team at halftime that he wanted more goals and better communication in the second half of Tuesday night’s Colonial League wild card game against Palisades. He got everything he asked for as the Tigers erupted for six unanswered goals to beat the Pirates 9-1 and advance to the league semifinals against Moravian Academy.

Palisades had dealt Northwestern a heartbreaking loss during the regular season when Jacob Davis scored the game’s lone goal with under a minute to play in regulation. When the two teams met Tuesday night in the wild card round of the Colonial League playoffs, not only did Northwestern Lehigh (12-4-1) score often, but the Tigers got on the board early, which gave them momentum on their way to the revenge win.

Northwestern, the number-four seed in the tournament, got its first goal of the night when Dylan Moss took a corner from Cayden Fitch just nine minutes into the game and beat goalkeeper Blake Reinhard with a header to open the scoring. Minutes later, Fitch again played a corner ball into perfect position, this time for Josh Zellner, who also headed the ball past Reinhard to make it 2-0 less than seven minutes into the game.

Hunsicker gave credit to assistant coach Derrick Reinert for dialing up big plays on corners that resulted in two goals for Northwestern Lehigh. The Tigers almost had a third, but it went just over the crossbar.

“The last time, we didn’t really have a lot of chances to score, but we felt like we outplayed them the whole game, so it felt good personally to get that goal,” said Moss. “The first 15 minutes were very physical and then we found our game, which is possessing the ball. Once we got that down, we had tons of chances to capitalize this time.”

The physical play led to multiple foul calls and collisions. Palisades’ Gianluca LeBlanc received a yellow card with 1:57 left in the first half and the teams went into the break with the Tigers leading 2-0.

“We had a talk with coach at halftime and we wanted more goals and more goals,” said Matt Johnson, who went on to pick up three second-half goals for the Tigers. “We needed a lot more communication and that helped us a lot in the second half.”

Johnson and Palisades’ Seth Ford traded goals early in the second half, with Ford’s goal being somewhat controversial as Northwestern Lehigh wanted a foul call on the play, but all they got for their efforts with the officials was a yellow card.

Whether that spurred on the Tigers offense, or it was something else, the team responded with six goals in a span of just 14 minutes.

In that streak, Johnson added two more and Colin Coffield, who returned after missing time with an injury, notched a goal off an assist from Zellner.

Domonic Yeakel and Phil Taylor scored goals and just when it looked like time was going to run out, Jacob Van Lierop added another with just 10 seconds left in the game.

Coffield was not the only injured player to return in time for the postseason. Fellow midfielder Mason Brensinger also returned, giving the team the use of two key senior players in their midfield.

“It was good to get them back. We haven’t had our full lineup in a while, so that will help us a lot here in the postseason,” said Hunsicker.

Senior goalkeeper Mason Crocco seemed determined not to allow any goals in the game, making several diving and leaping saves throughout the night. Fords’ goal was controversial and that only made Crocco more determined to not allow any others.

PRESS PHOTO BY LINDA ROTHROCK Jacob Van Lierop's goal with 10 seconds left in Tuesday's Colonial League quarterfinal capped a 9-goal game for the Tigers as they advanced to the semifinal round of the league playoffs.