Northwestern blanked by New Hope-Solebury
WISSAHICKON — Offensive pressure is key in the game of field hockey.
Whichever team can control the ball in the opposition’s defensive zone throughout that game usually will come away with the victory.
In the first half of the opening-round play of the PIAA 1A state tournament, New Hope-Solebury was able to dominate in that aspect against Northwestern, scoring two goals off that pressure. The two goals were all the Lions would need to advance as they defeated the Tigers 2-0 on Tuesday to move on.
It was evident early on that New Hope’s speed at all positions was going to be tough for Northwestern to deal with. The Lions lived in the Tigers zone throughout the first half, collecting multiple corners and early scoring opportunities.
At the 15-minute mark of the first half, the Lions’ pressure would finally pay off as a shot that would’ve went in was illegally blocked by a Northwestern defender, setting up a penalty shot by Erin Firth. Firth converted to give the Lions a 1-0 lead.
“We played really well in the first half, the girls played well together and they were doing a good job of looking for each other,” said New Hope head coach Gwen Smith. “The key was high pressure and high-tempo offense. We were able to keep the pressure on.”
As a result of that pressure, the Lions would strike again right before the end of the first half. This time, it was a nice put-in by New Hope’s Ella Czarnecki off a rebound with just 50 seconds left, giving the Lions a 2-0 lead at intermission.
“From about 10 minutes in until the end of the first half, they controlled the possession. That’s a really good team and they kept the pressure on us,” said Tigers head coach Lissa Opolsky “They were also able to put in some of their goals and take advantage of that pressure. But in the second half, we were able to change some things up and control possession much better.”
Northwestern was able to make some adjustments in the second half, coming through with some scoring opportunities of its own. The Tigers had a critical opportunity to make the game interesting with a prime scoring chance with around eight minutes remaining. A shot from the left side looked to be heading in, but a diving save from New Hope goalie Elsie Jones kept the ball out of the goal, and Northwestern wasn’t able to get another solid chance in the Lions zone.
Still, the improved effort in the second half showed the fight the Tigers have displayed throughout the postseason, which helped get them to the state tournament.
“Being that we’re still a young team and we’re not very experienced, it takes us a little bit to get going, and in the second half, I think the girls did a better job of taking a breath and just playing hockey,” said Opolsky. “But I’m excited, we can build off this, we gained some valuable experience this season and postseason.”
OFFENSIVE PRESSURE ... The first half pressure by the Lions was the key. New Hope had 11 shots on goal, while Northwestern had zero.
RETURNING ... There is a lot to look forward to for the Tigers next season, as they return eight starters from this season’s District 11 1A runner-up team.
WHAT A RUN ... Entering as the No. 7 seed, the Tigers defeated No. 2 seed Moravian Academy and No. 3 seed Wilson to get to the District 11 1A title game, losing a tough contest to top-seeded Lehighton.