KINTNERSVILLE – It was Southern Lehigh's loss to Northwestern two months ago that put the Spartans in position to beat the Tigers in a more meaningful game last night.
Southern Lehigh's Will Demmel scored the game-winning goal in double overtime to beat Northwestern 2-1 in a Colonial League boys soccer semifinal at Palisades.
Demmel's shot from 25 yards out just got over the head of Northwestern keeper Kyle Snyder to end the game and propel his team into Wednesday's final.
"Ben Hangey just played me a pass," said Demmel of his sixth goal this season. "I took a touch and saw that I was open and could take a shot. I hit it and it went in."
The No. 3 seed Spartans will meet No. 4 Salisbury in the title game at Palisades. Salisbury beat top-seeded Saucon Valley, 3-0, in last night's second game.
The Tigers and Spartans looked like they were headed to penalty kicks. Northwestern, the No. 2 seed, had one golden opportunity in the first overtime, when Christopher Rice found Kyle Willis open in front of the goal. But Southern Lehigh keeper Josh Gildea (14 saves) smothered it in front of the left post.
When Demmel got the ball with no one around him early in the second overtime, he was just trying to get off a quality shot and it happened to float just over Snyder's reach.
"All I've been preaching before this match was to put the ball on frame," said Southern Lehigh head coach Mark Evans. "I don't need them to rip the ball, just to put it on frame. He was about 25 yards out. He just laid a ball on frame and it happened to elude the keeper over his head. It wasn't a world-beating play, but he did what we asked him to do."
The Spartans had an early lead. James Borelli scored on a Matt Dicker assist with 12:11 left in the first half.
The Tigers evened the score on a Kyle Willis penalty kick four minutes into the second half.
"Coming into it I knew each team had a 50-50 shot," said Northwestern head coach Nate Hunsicker. "It came down to who got the right break at the right time. The cards didn't fall into our favor.
"We came out a little defensively and ended up giving up a goal that probably shouldn't have happened. The second half we came out offensively on fire. Our attack fizzled a little bit as the second half went on. We played well. We had a lot of resolve tonight."
The game was pretty evenly matched, with Southern Lehigh holding a slight edge in shots (15-13) and corners (5-2). That's different than when the two teams met back on Sept. 6 and Northwestern came out on top, 2-1.
It was a low point in the Spartans' season, but it also lit a spark in the team.
"When we lost to them we were 1-2-1," said Evans. "I saw a disappointment on these kids' faces that I have not seen any other time this season. We kept the promise that we would start our season over the next day. And we did. They've come out with a whole new attitude at practice. A whole new attitude of playing. A whole new commitment to what we're doing. It was the wake-up call for us."
The Spartans (13-3-2) have lost just one game since then.
"I feel we're a better team now," said Demmel. "We thought before that game that we were going to run over every team. We realized it wasn't going to be that easy and we started working harder."
The Tigers (14-4-1) went 11-2 in the Colonial League this season, their best league record since going 14-0-2 in 2008.
"Our goal coming into this year was to finish with a medal, be it leagues or districts," said Hunsicker. "We qualified for both. I think we're going to do everything in our power to not come up short of that goal."
The Tigers begin District 11 Class AA play next week.