Shock and awe
Northampton boys continue to surprise after upset of Emmaus
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.”
■ 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.)
■ 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.
Emmaus goalie Alexa Ryan helped the Green Hornets battle rival Parkland to 0-0 Monday night.