Heading into Tuesday night's Colonial League showdown with visiting Notre Dame of Green Pond, both squads were in desperate need of a victory. Northern Lehigh dropped a 3-2 decision to Saucon Valley and the Crusaders picked up their first loss to Bangor, 3-0. With the high amounts of concerns on both head coaches' minds, there was a ton of pressure riding on this match-up's outcome.
When the final whistle blew, it was Notre Dame notching the 3-2, come-from-behind win.
"I was very concerned with the kids because they seemed to be playing with complacency lately," Notre Dame head coach Mike Buskirk admitted. "We have scored a lot of goals early and then the kids seem to relax on the field and take little breaks. So, I wanted to see how well they would react coming into tonight's game."
Early on, the complacency was noted, but moreso, it was the aggression of the Bulldogs, as the hosts took command, challenged frequently, and charged to a 2-0 halftime lead.
However, instead of remaining lax, the Crusaders retaliated in the second half, notching three goals and pulled out the victory.
In a game that seemed to be 'a tale of two halves,' it was the locals starting out tremendously, constantly pressuring Notre Dame's goal, maintaining possession and forcing the issue, straining their opponents' defense.
The first goal came about midway through the first half, as Northern Lehigh's freshman Zeb Shiffert booted a pass that a Crusader defender went to clear, but mistakingly converted a goal on his own net. That gave Nolehi the early lead and perhaps caused some concern in the eyes of Buskirk.
"Northern Lehigh has greatly improved in the past couple of seasons," Buskirk commended. "They're climbing up the ladder of teams in the league and the first half deficit is a tribute to how well they brought it to us."
The lead actuallly ballooned a little later on in the first, as Zeb Shiffert continued his assistance, finding a streaking teammate, Ryan Perkowski on the right side of the net, about 10 yards out, who one-timed the bounce and pounded a shot into the back of the left side of the net for a 2-0 lead.
That's where the score remained up through the intermission, and Notre Dame's huddle included plenty of motivation and a sense of urgency.
Whatever was mentioned seemed to work, as the winners came out and immediately went to work on the job at hand.
Gio Mowrey assisted Zach O'Toole on the initial goal of the second, cutting the deficit in half.
Shortly afterwards, the tide continued to change and swayed more heavily in favor of Notre Dame, as Adam Cretella fed Mowrey on the left side of the field, at about the thirty. Mowrey unleashed power on the ball, as it sped towards Nolehi goalie, Sean Mulcahey. The sphere ricocheted off Mulcahey and found twine in the lower corner of the net to tie the game at 2-2.
Springing forward to a little less than ten minutes remaining on the game clock, the visitors recorded the winning goal, as Cam Pierzga fed Nick Aquilina for the deciding goal.
The remainder of the game was as exciting as one can get, as the Bulldogs challenged repeatedly, coming up just short in their attempts to tie it up.
In the game, Notre Dame outshot the Bulldogs, 14-11, with Crusader goalie Mike Glueckstien saving eight.
For NL, the tandem of Mulcahey and Allan Sipos teamed up for five saves.
"In the last two weeks, we've faced many of these upper echelon teams in the league and I'm so happy that we've been very competitive with them all," NL's Buskirk reiterated. "Talent-wise, we've been right there with them, but I think a part of the problem is that we need to learn how to win, and how to close out games."
With the win, NDGP improves to 7-1 overall and 5-1 in the league. Northern Lehigh drops to 3-5.
"I think we need to address the idea of playing an entire eighty minutes of soccer and to rid ourselves of these mental lapses."