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Tigers remain unbeaten after tie with SL

After season-opening wins over Lehighton (1-3) and Salisbury (3-1 overall, 2-1 Colonial League), Northwestern Lehigh matched up against perennial powerhouse Southern Lehigh (2-0-1, 2-0-1) and played the Spartans to a 1-1 tie.

The lone Tiger goal came from freshman Carsyn Van Norman late in the first quarter. Through three games, Van Norman is off to a hot start with four goals on the season.

The Lady Spartans were held scoreless until the final minute of regulation when a goal by Reese MacIntosh tied the game and the two teams would go scoreless in overtime.

“We were not happy with our play on the field prior to last night (against Southern Lehigh),” said coach Lissa Opolsky. “Our potential is unlimited and while the season is young, the girls have their own high expectations. We began by playing a little bit stressed and overthinking some of the things we have worked on. Last night was a prime example of our team having fun and staying in the moment. To this point, it was the best hockey we have played.”

Close on Van Norman’s heels for the top of the list in goals for Northwestern Lehigh this season is Dani Lister. The senior has notched three goals, including two in the season opener against Lehighton. Senior Josey Wehr has two goals and classmate Claire Costa has one as do sophomores Cara Thomas and Olivia Costa.

“I am glad the season is so young because we can get much better day after day,” said Opolsky. “We are looking forward to improving our confidence and our game IQ. On the offensive end we will be working on finishing plays in our offensive 25 yards.”

Against Salisbury, the Northwestern Lehigh offense put on a display against an up-and-coming Falcons team that has nearly equaled their win total from last season already. Defensively, goalie Gabrielle Gober and a strong defensive unit in front of her have been strong in the early going.

Northwestern Lehigh saw its quest for a third straight District 11 title fall short last season and the tie against Southern Lehigh is an early gauge for where the Tigers are this season.

The Spartans won their second straight class 2A championship last season and are a favorite to repeat again this year. They are also the top competition to battle The Lady Tigers for the Colonial League title again this season. The two teams have dominated the league with Southern Lehigh winning two of the last three championships and Northwestern Lehigh winning the other.

The Tigers remain in Class A this season and will not face the Spartans in districts.

“Our team is comprised of a lot of returning players who have grown leaps and bounds outside of the fall season,” said Opolsky. “We are blessed with a great group of six seniors who have seen the success of the program, but also battled through the uncertainty of last year.

“They know what it takes on and off the field to truly make the team work. I am impressed with how they have all come together for one common goal. They have helped develop the team chemistry and I look to them to give everyone else opportunities to also lead this team.”

Northwestern and Southern Lehigh meet again on Monday, this time at Southern Lehigh. The schedule has Northwestern Lehigh hosting Palmerton (3-0, 2-0) and Wilson (3-0, 3-0) between now and the rematch with the Spartans. They also have back-to-back games with Catasauqua (0-3, 0-3) and Moravian Academy (2-0, 2-0) to close out a span of three games in four days.

PRESS PHOTO BY NANCY SCHOLZ Northwestern goal keeper Gabby Gober stops a shot during the Tigers' win over Salisbury last week.
PRESS PHOTO BY NANCY SCHOLZ Northwestern's Rylee McGinley tries to steal the ball from Salisbury's Ella DeFazio during last week's win over the Falcons.