By Nolan Curran (Class of 2017) and Connor Smith (Class of 2015)
It was a difficult fight to advance to the state finals, and the players of the New Hope-Solebury Lions remembered all too well what happened last year when they fell into the hands of the Mountain View Eagles in a similar situation. The Lions went into Tuesday’s exciting PIAA Class A soccer semifinal at Northern Lehigh High School against Mountsain View with with the thought of redemption. Months of hard work and dedication all led up to one night.
The temperature dropped lower and lower, reaching a few degrees below freezing. As game time came closer, the excitement and determination swelled between the teams. The two teams went into the game knowing one of their seasons would end that night.
The first half was a hard-fought battle between the two teams, with both teams going hard from the start, driving to win. The Lions ended the half with 17 shots on goal. The Eagles had seven, but it was still a 0-0 draw.
An inspirational speech at half time by coach Ollie Hilliker gave the Lions an extra surge of motivation. They went into the second half roaring for a goal, while the Eagles struggled to hold on. The ball was getting moved around by New Hope-Solebury without much pressure from the tired Mountain View team. As the clock wound down, the Lions’ intensity grew.
The Lions tried and tried again to slip past the Eagles’ keeper, but he was impenetrable. The clock finally hit zero, but still a scoreless game. The Lions ended the second half with six shots on goal, a total of 23 in regulation time. The Eagles also had six shots in the second half, and a total of 13 shots in regulation.
The fans roared again at the start of the first overtime. Both teams, tired from the 80 minutes of regulation already played, pushed on with ever-increasing determination. The Lions held possession of the ball for most of the first overtime and made three shots on goal while the Eagles only had one shot.
The intensity rose as the teams entered the final overtime. A goal would have to be scored or the game would be decided through penalty kicks.
The Lions stepped up their game yet again, knowing that one goal would save them from a penalty shoot out. The Lions pushed harder and harder but still could not get past the Mountain View goalkeeper.
After 110 minutes of hard-fought soccer, the two teams found themselves lining up for penalty kicks, which would decide their fate.
Matt Barile, senior from the Lions, took the first kick. His shot soared to the the back of the net and the Lions and their fans erupted with jubilation.
Mountain View quickly tied it up, and then Mountain View’s Zeb Cross, a senior, scored to give the Eagles a 2-1 lead.
New Hope-Solebury senior Jack Natale stepped up and put his shot in the back of the net to get the Lions back into the game. But celebrating proved fleeting as Colby Thomas, senior for the Eagles, placed a remarkable shot in the bottom-right corner of the net, giving the Eagles a 3-2 edge.
Alan Smith, senior for the Lions, made a valiant effort to rejuvenate the Lions’ hopes, but his attempt was stopped by Mountain View’s goalkeeper again. Mountain View sealed New Hope’s fate, sailing a shot right past Lucas Ebeling, making the game 4-2.
Tears trickled down the cheeks of some on the New Hope-Solebury boys’ soccer team as the final whistle sounded at Northern Lehigh High School on Tuesday night. The “L” in the book does not reflect the play during the game, with every player in the game on Tuesday night giving it their best, according to several Lions observers and fans.
Senior Lion Collin Curran tweeted, “You don’t realize how much you love some stuff until it’s over. I’ve loved this team, this family, and every supporter since day one. Thank you.”
and Christian Olivera’s tweet described how everybody felt after the game, when he said, “It’s not easy or fair.”
Head coach Oliver Hilliker agreed, “Sometimes the better team just doesn’t win. That’s soccer. That’s the excitement of the sport.”
The team was sentimental during Hilliker’s post-game speech. “Early in the season, we would have never thought we would have made it this far. You guys worked so hard to get to this point. There’s nothing worse than losing a game in penalty shootouts. You guys completely dominated that game, and that is the best I have seen you guys play,” he reflected.
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