Freshmen give Northwestern golf a boost
Nancy Scholz/Special to THE TIMES NEWS Nick Vecellio (left) and Cole Miller, two freshmen on the Northwestern Lehigh golf team, head to the tee in a match earlier this week against Bangor.
The best thing the Northwestern golf team got out back from a winless season a year ago was every single golfer.
Things definitely got even better as two incoming freshmen - Cole Miller and Nick Vecellio - have more than played a key role in helping the returning golfers forget about a 0-13 season.
While seniors Tyler Kunsman and Michael Hontz and juniors Stephen Reitz and Michael D'Ancona dealt with last year's dilemma, freshmen Cole Miller and Nick Vecellio have helped the Tigers lick those wounds completely clean this season.
Northwestern has turned things around completely as it has compiled a record breaking number in program wins. The Tigers currently sport an 8-4 overall mark in the Colonial League.
It took this year's squad four tri-meets and two dual meets to tie the record of six wins - which was set in the inaugural season of the team back in 2005 - with a win over Notre Dame of East Stroudsburg back on Sept. 2.
Two days later, the Tigers grabbed their seventh victory of the season with a 390-459 win over Palmerton at Blue Ridge Country Club.
"It's having good players encouraging others players to be better," said Northwestern coach Justin Smith, of Miller and Vecellio's effect on this year's team. "Their performance this year has been very strong and it helped inspire some of the other players to become better golfers."
While Miller (average 75) and Vecellio (72) have added some lower scores than usual on the Tigers' team scorecard, Smith went on to state his upperclassmen have taken it upon themselves to contribute in a whole other way on and off the courses.
"They have done a good job themselves," Smith said. "The upperclassmen have taken on their own leadership roles as well as taking it upon themselves to improve in the off-season. The golf season is about six weeks, so a lot of what needs to be done is during the off-season and everyone was not only committed, but overly committed to get everything done."
In addition, Smith did his best to imbed one true philosophy into the Tigers' competitive mindset with hopes of handling the brunt of the Colonial League competition in dual and tri-meets this season.
"We have been working really hard on the mental game of not only golf, but life and athletics," Smith said. "I think not only somewhat of improvement in performance, but the consistently strong play recently has a lot to do with the contribution to their mental preparation.
"I think if they can stay mentally strong, they're going to be able to play at a higher level that comes about when they are not mentally committed towards making every single shot count."
In the inaugural season, the Tigers averaged a score of 454 among their 13 total matches. The lowest score the Tigers recorded as a team was 400 in its then record-setting sixth win of the season.
This year, the Tigers haven't even carded a score above 454 as a team. They did one better by scoring under 400 three times this season - twice in the last two matches. They came close once back in August with a 447 as a team when they were swept in a tri-meet with Bangor and Saucon Valley.
Since then, the Tigers have consistently been improving on their rounds in each match.
That's the path Smith wants his players to take - adding more wins to their current school record of eight victories.
"This is what we work hard for," Smith said. "No one wants to work hard their whole lives and never reap rewards. It's like life. Sometimes you work hard and it doesn't always work out and sometimes you work hard and it does. But, you just got to be committed to working hard and know that good things will come over time. We're improving and doing well and that's what we're working on."
ONE MEMORABLE DRIVE ... Tamaqua golfer Travis Miller earned himself one memorable drive against Panther Valley back on August 31. Miller carded a hole in one on Hole No. 8 at Villas Crossing.
SEEING EXTRA TIME ... In two of their first four games, the Northwestern boys' soccer team have seen games extend into overtime periods. Fortunately enough, the Tigers captured victories in both. James Hoover scored on a direct kick with 3:44 left in OT last Saturday to notch the 1-0 overtime win over Fleetwood, while Isaiah Danner scored off a rebound of Hoover's initial kick to post a 2-1 double overtime win over defending Colonial League champion Saucon Valley on Sept. 7.