Shock and awe

Northamp­ton boys con­tinue to sur­prise af­ter up­set of Em­maus

The Morning Call - - SPORTS - By Michael Blouse Michael Blouse is a free­lance writer for The Morn­ing Call.

It was a soccer up­set that sent shock­waves through the state. It also had an im­pact na­tion­ally.

Last Fri­day, 6-6 Northamp­ton scored the sur­prise of the sea­son when it pulled out a 1-0 win over pre­vi­ously un­de­feated, state No. 1 and na­tion­ally-ranked Em­maus in a mati­nee at Northamp­ton Area High School.

The game-win­ner, which came with five min­utes re­main­ing in the match, was a work of art. Coach Ryan Brazuk’s Konkrete Kids won two 50-50 balls and Joe Ti­wold gained pos­ses­sion at mid­field. Ti­wold deftly worked his way around and through sev­eral de­fend­ers then slid a pass to the charg­ing Colin Werkheiser, who scored off a one-timer in­side the 18 to the near post.

“We won that match be­cause of the prepa­ra­tion we did and a new mind­set we have achieved over the course of the sea­son,” Brazuk said. “It’s tough for a new coach try­ing to im­ple­ment a new style of play, new cul­ture and a new coach­ing phi­los­o­phy in the first year, which is why we may have ended up 3-6 in the first half of the sea­son.

“I knew we were the un­der­dog go­ing into the [Em­maus] match,” he said. “Maybe we were un­der­es­ti­mated be­cause of our record. I was con­fi­dent we were go­ing to get a re­sult that day be­cause the prep at train­ing the day be­fore was in­cred­i­ble and the hours lead­ing up to the match was all business to my guys. We wanted to match their in­ten­sity and we did.”

The im­prove­ment has been im­me­di­ate. Northamp­ton fol­lowed up its Fri­day vic­tory with a 2-0 tri­umph over a 10-win White­hall squad on Mon­day. The K-Kids en­tered Wed­nes­day’s clash against Park­land with an 8-6 over­all record and a 7-6 mark in East­ern Penn­syl­va­nia Con­fer­ence play.

“We all knew we had to win against White­hall to val­i­date our win over Em­maus,” Brazuk said, “all eyes were on us that night. I stressed to my play­ers that I didn’t want them to play like they did against Em­maus, I wanted more and they went out and earned it.”

The 28-year-old first-year coach at Northamp­ton stressed that the turn­around has been a team ef­fort. He also praised sev­eral play­ers for tak­ing on star­ring roles.

Se­nior goalie Brady Rim­ple is the K-Kids’ “most dom­i­nant player,” ac­cord­ing to Brazuk. He has five shutouts. Ju­nior cen­ter back Nate Horn is “Mr. Con­sis­tency” for Northamp­ton, start­ing and play­ing ev­ery minute of ev­ery match. Ti­wold, a se­nior for­ward, leads the team with seven goals, in­clud­ing the gamewin­ner vs. Allen.

With their re­cent and sud­den suc­cess, Brazuk’s K-Kids will en­ter the post­sea­son with el­e­vated ex­pec­ta­tions.

“We not only want to make it to dis­tricts and the EPC play­offs,” he said, “we want to com­pete for a ti­tle in each.”

Sau­con stop­per: Sau­con Val­ley’s Ste­vie Ochse is a veteran coach of 15 sea­sons.

She rec­og­nized a need in the off­sea­son and sought out the school’s ath­letic trainer, Amy Vir­den, for a brain­storm­ing ses­sion.

“We weren’t sure what our goal­keeper sit­u­a­tion would be for this sea­son,” Ochse said. “We had an in­com­ing fresh­man with ex­pe­ri­ence at the po­si­tion but she de­cided to play volleyball. We had a ju­nior with some ex­pe­ri­ence but she never re­cov­ered from an ACL tear and then de­cided not to play.

“Amy rec­om­mended I ask Jackie [Bar­bera] since she was a good ath­lete and didn’t play a fall sport for the school. So I sought out Jackie and tried to do my best as a re­cruiter.”

Ochse re­cruited well and Bar­bera joined the Pan­thers, who grad­u­ated four-year goalie Zoe Za­harakis from last year’s team, in time for the start of try­outs on Aug. 12.

Bar­bera ex­celled in soccer al­most im­me­di­ately.

Also a soft­ball stand­out, she earned the start­ing spot dur­ing the pre­sea­son and has helped Ochse’s youth­ful squad con­tend in the Colo­nial League. Sau­con Val­ley is 8-5 over­all and 7-3 in the league, with Colo­nial and Dis­trict 11 play­off aspiration­s.

Bar­bera has posted six shutouts among those eight wins.

“Be­ing one of the most phys­i­cally and men­tally chal­leng­ing po­si­tions, it is dif­fi­cult to throw some­one into with lit­tle or no ex­pe­ri­ence,” said Ochse, who cred­ited Pan­thers goalie coach Car­los Coelho with as­sist­ing in Bar­bera’s pro­gres­sion.

“I an­tic­i­pated we would give up more goals than usual but have been pleas­antly sur­prised by how quickly Jackie has pro­gressed. She has good eye-hand co­or­di­na­tion and she’s not afraid to dive, get dirty or take a hit.

“When you have a goal­keeper you can trust in net, your team plays with more con­fi­dence.”

Siz­able show­downs

■ Nazareth at Park­land girls, 5:30 p.m. Fri­day: These Blue Ea­gles are dan­ger­ous with ju­nior Abi­gail James head­lin­ing an ex­plo­sive of­fen­sive at­tack. They haven’t, how­ever, been able to solve pow­er­house Park­land in re­cent years. Nazareth could see the Tro­jans, led by se­nior scor­ing star Ava Schaller, sev­eral times in the play­offs.

■ Free­dom at Sau­con Val­ley girls, 3 p.m. Satur­day: An in­trigu­ing EPC vs. Colo­nial League clash of con­fer­ence/ league play­off hope­fuls. The young Pan­thers must find a way to slow Free­dom stand­out Ha­ley Gschrey. Sau­con Val­ley up­set an elite EPC squad in Nazareth a sea­son ago.

■ Northamp­ton at South­ern Le­high boys, 3:30 p.m. Tues­day: An­other in­trigu­ing EPC vs. Colo­nial League showdown. This is a tough test for the Spar­tans, who are out to prove they can play with an EPC con­tender. South­ern Le­high se­nior Kyle Hoff is one of the area’s top all-around tal­ents.

■ Lib­erty at Free­dom boys, 5:30 p.m. Tues­day: Bat­tle of Beth­le­hem, Part II. The first match-up was a thriller, with the Hur­ri­canes pre­vail­ing on se­nior Chris Schray’s strike in the sec­ond OT. Free­dom is on a five-game win streak since the Lib­erty loss (en­ter­ing play Wed­nes­day), outscor­ing op­po­nents 33-5. A hot ri­valry and ap­peal­ing post­sea­son pre­view.

Rank­ing rum­blings: Em­maus’ boys, with Fri­day’s loss to Northamp­ton, fell from the USA To­day Sports Su­per 25, re­leased on Tues­day. Coach John Cari’s Green Hor­nets (13-2) checked in at No. 3 in the state in the PSCA “Large School” poll, which was up­dated on Sun­day, prior to Mon­day’s 2-0 loss to Park­land.

The Mo­ra­vian Academy boys (13-1) re­main eighth in the “Small School” Top 10.

Pen­nridge’s girls (10-0), at third, and the Park­land girls (14-0-1), at fifth, main­tained their po­si­tions this week in the “Large School” rank­ings.

The North­west­ern girls (13-1) are still ranked No. 3 in the PSCA “Small School” poll.

(Records in­clude Tues­day’s play.)

Short shots

■ Em­maus coach John Cari on his club’s two-match los­ing streak en­ter­ing Wed­nes­day’s ac­tion, af­ter a 13-0 start, “I think we just need some time. Time to rest, time to truly train. We haven’t been at our best but it’s noth­ing we can’t fix. There is a lit­tle time built in be­fore the EPC play­offs start and I’m hop­ing to make the right cor­rec­tions so we can ad­just and move for­ward.”

Cari hopes to have two starters back, Thomas Han­vey and Jake Perry, in time for the play­offs.

■ Pen Ar­gyl’s girls are 7-7 over­all thanks to a four-game win­ning streak. (The Green Knights lost to Sau­con Val­ley 4-1 on Tues­day, snap­ping the streak.) Ju­nior goalie Katya Hoover reg­is­tered two shutouts dur­ing the streak and De­laney Porter scored 12 goals, in­clud­ing three hat tricks. Abby Wall­bil­lich added eight goals dur­ing that stretch.

■ The eight-team EPC tour­na­ments be­gin on Satur­day, Oct. 12 with quarterfin­al round ac­tion. The six-team Colo­nial League tour­na­ments be­gin the same day.

DAVID GAR­RETT/SPE­CIAL TO THE MORN­ING CALL

Em­maus goalie Alexa Ryan helped the Green Hor­nets bat­tle ri­val Park­land to 0-0 Mon­day night.

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