Myers’ OT goal gives Tigers title
Northwestern’s Allyson Myers takes a shot during Wednesday’s game against Moravian Academy. Myers scored the winning goal in overtime as the Tigers captured the District 11 Class 1A title. DON HERB/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
WHITEHALL – Lissa Opolsky wanted nothing more than to see Ally Myers score in Northwestern’s regular season finale.
Seven different players put the ball in the back of the cage as the Tigers rolled to a blowout win. Although she collected two assists, Myers wasn’t able to score in the game.
“She doesn’t have a whole lot of goals this season, but she’s a huge distributor,”said the team’s coach. “On her Senior Night, she didn’t get any and my last words were, ‘You’ll get one that matters.’”
Myers did just that on Wednesday, scoring an overtime goal to lift Northwestern to a 2-1 victory over Moravian Academy in the District 11 Class 1A final.
“She works and works and works, and today was her payoff,” said Opolsky, who guided the Tigers to their first district title since 2004.
The moment came after a corner and with 11:25 to play in the first 7-on-7 15-minute overtime period.
“My teammate Lauren (Schellhamer) passed it to me, and I pulled around and shot it and hoped it went in,” said Myers. “I was so happy I could have cried. It was amazing.”
The top-seeded Lions struck first when Emma McWilliams scored with 14:40 to play before the intermission.
But Northwestern — playing in the district championship game for the second year in a row — had an answer. It came off another set piece, this time when Schellhamer scored after a corner with 11:00 to play in the first half to tie it at 1-1.
“I think being able to come back after they scored was really tough to come back from,” said Schellhamer. “But we stuck to it, and we were able to find that pocket and get it in during the corner, which worked really well.”
The second-seeded Tigers had an edge in corners, 13-11, after regulation. But the Lions had generated more scoring opportunities, with 10 shots to Northwestern’s three.
Junior goalie Maxine Hoffman, replacing Taylor Page, who went to Slippery Rock to play field hockey, and Alena Smargiassi, who continued her hockey career at the University of Connecticut, was clutch in the biggest start of her career for the Tigers.
“At the beginning of the season, it was up in the air who was going to play (goalie),” said Opolsky. “We knew that could be a weak spot for us, but Max took that weight on her shoulders, and really was ready to take it to the next level.
“Her teammates trust her, and she trusts herself, and you can just see it on her face with what she does in the goal. She’s aggressive. She’s stepping to balls that she needs to, and she’s really not afraid of what happens.”
Hoffman applied all that she learned from her predecessors on Wednesday.
“It feels amazing,” she said. “I had two great role models (Smargiassi and Page) for the last two years, and it feels awesome.”
Even after allowing the early goal, Hoffman had full confidence in the girls around her to get it back.
“I know that when they have scoring chances, if it does happen, that our team is good enough, and that we won’t back down,” said Hoffman. “We’re good enough to come back, and we understand that we have to, and we understand that we need to, and we all work together as a team.”
That approach carried the Tigers past moments of doubt or thoughts of uncertainty.
After falling to Lehighton in the district final a year ago, Northwestern used the experience from the setback to its advantage to put Moravian away.
“They really, really wanted this,” said Opolsky. “They came in laser-focused, and no matter what happened in the game – we did have ebbs and flows, and highs and lows – they were able to come back from everything, no matter what was thrown at them.
“They just stayed resilient, and ultimately they were able to finish, and we haven’t been able to do that in the past, especially in leagues with Southern Lehigh we had our chances and didn’t finish. So I’m proud of them. I’m proud of them for sticking with it.”
It was Myers who scored after a corner and with no time left on the clock to force overtime against Southern Lehigh in the Colonial League semis.
Where they stumbled against the Spartans, falling in double OT, Myers and the Tigers made sure it didn’t happen against the Lions.
“Just the adrenaline, knowing what was at stake, and we were all just ready, and kept going,” Myers said. “It was a good game for us.
“I think we were just really bummed after last season, and we’ve been working hard to get back here and get the gold.”
WHERE TO? … Both teams qualified for states. Northwestern will play the fifth-place team from District 3 in the first round on Tuesday, Nov. 5. Moravian will face the District 1 champion.
KEEPING IT CLOSE … All three of Northwestern’s wins in the district tournament were decided by one goal. The Tigers topped both Palmerton and Saucon Valley 1-0 in the quarterfinals and semis before edging Moravian.