Can­cer sur­vivor goes for the goal

Lym­phoma sur­vivor, Kutz­town se­nior Nolte goes for the goal in Cougars’ can­cer aware­ness game

The Boyertown Area Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Austin Hertzog

Niki Nolte is no stranger to fac­ing chal­lenges head on.

For most of the Kutz­town se­nior’s life, the goals she strived to­ward were of her own choos­ing.

Over the past year, the chal­lenges were much more un­ex­pected.

Di­ag­nosed with pri­mary me­di­asti­nal B cell non-Hodgkins lym­phoma in April, Nolte pos­i­tively per­se­vered to­ward over­com­ing her can­cer di­ag­no­sis. Af­ter 18 ar­du­ous weeks of chemo­ther­apy, Nolte learned she was can­cer-free and in re­mis­sion on Au­gust 24.

On Sept. 11, the swim­ming stand­out who is a past dis­trict cham­pion and PIAA medal win­ner, found her­self on a soc­cer field of all places par­tic­i­pat­ing in a sport she hadn’t com­peted in for 10 years. Nolte may lack in soc­cer ex­pe­ri­ence, but there’s no doubt she knows how to go for a goal.

Nolte was in the Kutz­town girls soc­cer team’s start­ing lineup for a matchup with Oley Val­ley in their can­cer aware­ness game, an event en­vi­sioned by Kutz­town girls’ coach Dan Stemko over the sum­mer. Stemko mes­saged Oley Val­ley coach An­drew Haas to see if he and his team would like to be in­volved and got a re­sound­ing yes. Along with rais­ing money for pe­di­atric can­cer, it was pre­de­ter­mined Nolte would score the open­ing goal of the game. Oley Val­ley would then get to level the score and the game would pro­ceed from there.

Off the open­ing tip, Nolte jogged down the field along­side Emily Bubben­moyer and other team­mates to the face of goal, re­ceived a pass from her fel­low se­nior and booted it from close range into the Oley Val­ley net to give Kutz­town an open­ing­minute lead.

Team­mates and op­po­nents cir­cled around, each smile big­ger than the next,

to cel­e­brate Nolte and her goal.

“It’s in­cred­i­ble,” Nolte said. “It’s truly amaz­ing to get all the sup­port from the team, the coaches, the school, ad­min­is­tra­tion; it’s been so amaz­ing and it’s helped me get through this process so much.”

A back-and-forth game turned for good when Oley Val­ley’s Ju­lia Mor­timer scored the de­ci­sive goal in over­time of the Lynx’ 4-3 Berks III win. Yet the smil­ing faces on both teams dur­ing their postgame pic­ture to­gether were in­dica­tive of a day where ev­ery­one won.

“We lost, but we didn’t,” Stemko said. “They’re go­ing to re­mem­ber this long af­ter they for­get how to trap a ball. We’re go­ing to re­mem­ber this long af­ter, and that’s re­ally what it’s all about.”

The Kutz­town com­mu­nity came out strong in sup­port for the game with con­ces­sion pro­ceeds and do­na­tions go­ing to­ward the Pe­di­atric Can­cer Foun­da­tion of the Le­high Val­ley.

The vic­to­ries keep com­ing for Nolte: the two-time Dis­trict 3-AA cham­pion in the 100 breast­stroke re­turned to swim­ming train­ing for the first time on Sept. 12.

“It feels amaz­ing (to be back swim­ming),” said Nolte, who com­petes out­side the high school sea­son with the Kutz­town Dol­phins and Boyertown Navy Seals. “I truly ap­pre­ci­ate life more and the sport of swim­ming a lot more hav­ing it taken away from me. I’ve been a swim­mer since I was 7, started tak­ing swim lessons when I was 3. This was the long­est time I’ve been out of the wa­ter my en­tire life. It’s been re­ally hard, so when I go back in to­mor­row I just know that I’ve been through some­thing so much worse that noth­ing can be as hard as that.”

It was a mile­stone day for all in­volved, es­pe­cially Nolte and her par­ents, Melissa and Karl.

“It was over­whelm­ing,” Melissa Nolte said. “You know the date is there, but you don’t feel it un­til it ac­tu­ally hap­pens. I truly haven’t cried over all this the past year — I’ve been the strong mom — and I let go tonight . ... It’s just nice to see your daugh­ter smile.”

The day was a tri­umph for not only Nolte but her com­mu­nity of sup­port.

“I al­ways try to take on chal­lenges and do ev­ery­thing I can. I would not have been able to go through it with­out the sup­port of ev­ery­body. This is some­thing you can’t do alone. It’s some­thing you need sup­port for. I was a very pos­i­tive per­son go­ing into it and I tried to stay pos­i­tive and tried to be my­self through­out it all and I think that helped a lot, as well as my fam­ily, friends, school, ad­min­is­tra­tion, my swim teams, the soc­cer play­ers, ev­ery­one helped so much.”


The Kutz­town and Oley Val­ley girls soc­cer teams come to­gether for a photo af­ter their can­cer aware­ness game on Sept. 11. The game was high­lighted by lym­phoma sur­vivor and Kutz­town se­nior Niki Nolte (35), seated cen­ter, scor­ing the game’s open­ing goal.


Kutz­town se­nior Niki Nolte (35) hugs class­mate Emily Bubben­moyer af­ter scor­ing the open­ing goal dur­ing the team’s can­cer aware­ness game against Oley Val­ley on Sept. 11.


Kutz­town se­nior Niki Nolte (35) shoots and scores the open­ing goal of the Cougars’ can­cer aware­ness game against Oley Val­ley on Sept. 11.


At left, Kutz­town se­nior Niki Nolte, seated cen­ter, is joined by the Cougars’ girls soc­cer se­niors be­fore their can­cer aware­ness game on Sept. 11. Above, the Kutz­town and Oley Val­ley girls soc­cer teams line up for start­ing line­ups. Be­low, Nolte hugs Cougars head coach Dan Stemko as she leaves the field af­ter scor­ing the open­ing goal. Be­low right, play­ers wear­ing green rib­bons as past of the can­cer aware­ness game.

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