Northwestern blanked by Newport
Northwestern goalie Maxine Hoffman dives to make a save during Tuesday’s state playoff game. Also protecting the Tigers’ cage is Charlotte Horn. NANCY SCHOLZ/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
EMMAUS — After reaching states last season, the Northwestern field hockey team was looking for the next step with a first-round win and a chance to play in the PIAA quarterfinal round.
That shot, however, was cut short by a tough Newport squad that was able to control play and take a 3-0 win on Tuesday — ending the season for the Tigers, who finished with a 17-5-1 record.
From the opening whistle, the Buffaloes (17-5-1) proved to be a tough opponent, and played a more physical game than what Northwestern was used to from District 11 opponents. The Tigers managed just one corner and one shot on goal, while Newport had 10 corners and 14 shots on goal.
“We played a really good team with a very different demeanor than District 11 has in that they were far more physical and stronger over the ball,” said Northwestern head coach Lissa Opolsky. “We did our best to contain that, and we did so for a good 28 minutes heading into the end of the first half, and then they scored off of a corner, which was a breakdown on our part.
“We could never really regain possession and maintain possession for a long period of time after that.”
With the Buffaloes putting so much pressure on the Northwestern defense and getting so many penalty corners, it was only a matter of time until they would be able to connect on something. Despite the loss, Tiger goalkeeper Maxine Hoffman put together a strong game, fending off shots from all angles.
Late in the first half, Newport was awarded a corner and Maria Capozzoli inserted the ball to senior Emily Kline, who worked it closer to the goal and slid a shot past Hoffman in the scrum that resulted in front of her. The goal gave the Buffaloes a 1-0 lead heading into the break, but Opolsky said that her team didn’t allow the goal to demoralize them.
“It didn’t really change the game plan too much,” said Opolsky. “We were trying to contain their goal scorers because they have a few that can score a lot of goals, so we were dropping off on our press and trying to trap them in the corners, almost like a half-court basketball press. That was working for us because they were hitting into us or they didn’t really know what to do with the ball, but once they got into our defensive-25, our luck kind of ran out.”
Midway through the second half, Newport got a goal from Claire Weidenhammer, and Rachel Bohn made it 3-0 with just 37 seconds left to play.
“It was a good lesson for the girls in that if we want to return next year and be here in the state tournament, then this is going to be the level,” Opolsky said. “It’s a challenge to them, but it also adds fuel to their fire to get better because they’re not at the top yet, and they know that. It was good in regards to us learning what we need to do better to win games like this. We fought with a lot of heart and just couldn’t string some things together.”
Opolsky believes that while Newport dominated much of the play, her returning players drew something from the game about the style of play that they will be likely to face in state tournament games and will give them something to refer to in the future. It also gives the team a continuing goal of just where they want to be as a program when all is said and done.
“This really fuels them, and they want to be back in this position,” said Opolsky of the returning players. “There were a lot of highs in the season. To win a district championship for the first time in 15 years is something that nobody can take away from them.
“We have a lot to focus on and to be one of the 16 best in the state is an accomplishment.”
THE SENIOR DUO ... Northwestern features just two seniors – Ally Myers and Mackenzie Mosebach – who Opolsky credits with helping to continue the building of the program and leading by example. The team has a good number of juniors on its roster, giving it reason to believe that it will have a strong team again next season.