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Field hockey team gained experience, grew up during season

A team with very little varsity experience grew up right before our eyes this fall when the Northwestern Lehigh field hockey team made it through some early season struggles and wound up as district champions.

The Lady Tigers made it to the state playoffs before falling to West Perry in the first round. Northwestern head coach Lissa Opolsky had promised that her team would be a much better group of players late in the season than it was at the beginning.

“We hit some lows early in the season in September and then we climbed back from those and gained a lot of ground as far as field hockey and leadership,” said Opolsky. “In those moments, we really became a better team. We grew as much as we could grow as a team, and we are proud of that.”

Northwestern finished last season with a 10-9-1 record and improved that to 18-6-1 this season on the way to states. Sophomore Cara Thomas edged senior Brinley Rex 22-21 for the team lead in goals, while Rex ran away with the team assists title, picking up 11 on the year.

The mix of scoring between a senior and sophomore told part of the story for the team this season as a successful group of seniors head to college after carrying on a winning tradition for Northwestern field hockey.

The team loses seniors Claire Costa, Dani Lister, Josie Wehr, Brinley Rex, Brooke Page and Gabby Gober. As of now, three of the players – Lister (Adelphi), Rex (Kutztown) and Page (Central Michigan) – will be playing field hockey at the college level and Opolsky expects that a couple of the others may be continuing their careers as well.

“We call them (the seniors) the little sister group,” she said, “because many of them are little sisters of players that have been through the program, so they had the little sister mentality of someone else is going to do it and they had to grow up and figure that out and they did a really good job of that. They came around and stepped out of their comfort zones and either became vocal or tried different things. It’s definitely a good group there.”

“I am definitely proud of us,” said senior Dani Lister. “We had points during the season where we would have our lows and where we lost to Wilson or Southern Lehigh and we could have given up in those moments, but we really turned it on and played our hardest for the rest of the season. We got the district championship, and we bounced back from the loss in the Colonial League finals. All of this will just make the team stronger next year.”

On the flip side of that are the younger players who also figured out some things this season to help lead the team to not only a successful season in 2022 but give hope for good things to come in following seasons.

“We are loaded with talent below the senior level and on other teams, some of those girls would have been playing already. That’s nice to have and we want to stay competitive in the Colonial League and in District 11 and then continue to keep building,” Opolsky said.

PRESS PHOTO BY NANCY SCHOLZ Northwestern goal keeper Gabby Gober is one of six seniors who helped this year's Tiger field hockey team win a district title.