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Tigers reach district championship game

EMMAUS - Marcus Janda can still recall the early days.

They weren’t that long ago.

But the early history of Northwestern’s boys lacrosse says a lot about how far the program has come.

And where the Tigers are headed.

Northwestern secured its spot in the District 11 Class 2A final for the second year in a row with an 11-5 win over Southern Lehigh on Tuesday.

They might be the new kids on the block, but Janda’s top-seeded Tigers have established themselves as leaders of the pack.

“I’m just ecstatic,” said the team’s head coach. “We’re again the youngest program in District 11, to come from ... I still remember, 2019, coming out, rolling the ball, eight guys showed up to our first practice. We could barely pass and catch. And here we are, going to back-to-back district championships. And we’re not going just as a participant. We’re going to win the thing.

“It’s been a huge step forward. I’m extremely proud of these guys. There was a huge contingent of alumni on the field here tonight. I told those guys after our first season or two, ‘Hey, you’re not going to be on this team when we’re competing for championships. But I’ll never forgot you guys, and the foundation they built.’ They take so much pride in these guys, and essentially the torch that we’re continuing to carry. It’s that family atmosphere that this program has that’s special.”

Northwestern (13-6) presented a unified front Tuesday, cashing in on offense and turning back several Spartan scoring opportunities.

Senior Austin Sosnovik scored four of his six goals in the first period to help Northwestern build a 5-2 lead.

Junior goalie Bailen Smargiassi was vital in the victory, as Southern Lehigh outshot the Tigers 21-17 in the contest.

“The defensive front really does it all,” said Smargiassi. “If they’re not there, making me see the shots I want to see, it’s a lot harder in net. Most of those saves I made all falls back to the defense, and midfielders coming back to help. Without them, it’s not the same game. Without them, it’s a different game.”

Northwestern led 6-3 at halftime and pushed its advantage to 8-3 after goals by Austin Sosnovik and Cade Christopher in the third period. A score from Stone Sosnovik early in the third made it 9-3.

But the Spartans chipped away, getting the deficit down to four. Jack Steckel scored with 7:24 remaining, and Cole Mack added a goal with 4:37 to play to make it 9-5.

Smargiassi and the Tigers’ defense locked in, with the junior making a save on a shot by Ethan Hoang with 3:50 to play before Stone Sosnovik added his second goal of the period to push the lead to 10-5.

Southern Lehigh (4-15) had another chance in front of the net with 3:00 to play but was denied, and Christopher fed Devon Hildebrand for a goal with 1:51 left to make it 11-5.

“We’re a really gritty team, and we’re ready to fight and battle every single game,” said Austin Sosnovik. “Even when they are getting on a run, we know we’re just going to outwork them. Our goal is to want it more than them every single game, and get to win the GB (ground ball) battle. If you win the GB battle, you’re most likely going to win the game. We always try to do that.”

Austin Sosnovik opened the scoring in the first period for Northwestern and assisted on the second goal by Blaine Snyder to give the Tigers a 2-1 lead. Hildebrand assisted on Sosnovik’s second goal of the period to make it 3-1.

After a score by Hoang cut it to 3-2, Sosnovik found the back of the net 20 seconds later, and added another score on an assist from Cody Hallock to push the lead to 5-2 with 1:16 left in the first period.

Sosnovik’s fifth goal of the first half gave Northwestern a 6-2 lead with 8:24 left in the second period.


... The Tigers face a familiar foe in Central Catholic in Thursday’s championship game (at Lehigh University, 5 p.m.). The Vikings topped Northwestern in last year’s final. “Central Catholic has six district championships in their existence. We have four seasons of existence,” said Janda. “No one expects us to beat that team, and that is the chip that’s been on our shoulder all year long. I believe in these guys. They are confident, and we’re trying to do something that, outside of Freedom (winning the 3A title) last year really turning some heads, we’re trying to be that next program to kind of emerge as a team that’s ready to compete.”

PRESS PHOTO BY NANCY SCHOLZ Carter Zentz winds up to unleash a pass during the Tigers' win over Moravian Academy in the District 11 semifinal.