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Field hockey has large jr. class

The Northwestern Lehigh field hockey team took some teams by surprise last season. The Tigers went 11-10-1 and then went on a big run and reached the district finals where they lost 2-0 to Lehighton.

This season, the Lady Tigers haven’t lost too much through graduation. Like every team, there are always a couple holes and question marks.

A large group of juniors is poised to not only continue the success that the team had last season, but they’re looking to take it beyond just reaching the district championship game.

“We talked on the very first day that there was a ghost in the room because we made it to playoffs and want that to happen again, but it’s something that just doesn’t happen and you can’t bank on that,” said Northwestern head coach Lissa Opolsky. “I’m pretty sure that some of the teams that we beat last year weren’t banking on us to beat them, so now we’re in the opposite position where we expect to be somewhere.

“We talked about what are we going to do to make sure that happens. We’re taking it step-by-step and they’ve been serious, but still having fun, so it’s been good to see.”

Ally Myers and McKenzie Mosebach comprise the small senior group for the upcoming season. Some of the large junior contingent is being looked to as a way of filling in some of the leadership needs for the team. Looking to sophomores and freshmen, both Opolsky and Myers see some young players who can step in to compete and help fill holes.

Perhaps the biggest loss is in goal where the Tigers had a rarity in having two goalies who split time, with both going on to play Division 1 field hockey in college. Other young players are trying to stake a claim on other spots in the lineup.

“We’re going to try out some different things and we’ll wait until the last minute to make our decision,” said Opolsky. “Some players are really trying to step up and there’s a lot of competition there, so I’m excited about that.

“We have a solid freshman class and we’re lucky to have a really large junior class, so we’re relying on the upperclassmen to show the younger kids the way and from there, we could have some starters in the future and solid subs for us. The door is really open and although we’re not set on everything just yet, I’m encouraged by the early practices.”

In addition to the losses at goalie, Northwestern lost two forward starters and will have some inexperienced players taking those spots to start the season. The youth at the forward position will hopefully be countered by experience at other spots throughout the lineup.

“We have a lot of potential and at goalie, we have players who have to get used to the varsity level and a young goalie who is a freshman that has to get used to playing high school field hockey,” said Myers. “Our forward line is doing well in catching up and getting to the varsity level of play.”

The team will be playing its home games on the new Tiger Stadium turf this season. The play figures to be faster, with more truer passes and will benefit players with solid fundamental skills who can handle the ball well. As a senior, Myers sees another benefit to finally having a true home field.

“We’re really looking forward to that,” said Myers. “Especially since senior night can actually be here this year instead of in Allentown. A lot of us play on turf in the offseason, so we’re all looking forward to that. We’re anxious to get on the turf and play.”

The team will play its first home game on turf next Wednesday against Palisades.

PRESS PHOTO BY NANCY SCHOLZThe Lady Tiger field hockey team reached the district title game last year and returns several players who were part of the 2018 team.