It’s been a road of redemption for the New Hope-Solebury boys soccer team.
The Lions defeated Lewisburg, 2-1, in the PIAA Class 2A semifinals on Tuesday night at Hamburg Area to punch their ticket to their first state final.
“We lost to them two years ago so we knew what they’re capable of and we knew they were probably one of the best 2A programs in Pennsylvania,” said junior back Will Albano, a team captain. “We respected them but I don’t think we were nervous. Coach Bach (David Bachart, head coach) and Coach (Chris) Shank (assistant coach) did a great job of preparing us going into each game. We knew what we had to do to win and we just executed. That’s been our motto, just execute. I’m so proud of everyone.”
New Hope (17-6), the District One champion, got on the board first when Davis Nagg headed the ball into the net with 8:20 remaining in the first half.
Justin Kruse put in what proved to be the game winner with 23:20 remaining in the second half.
Lewisburg made it interesting when James Koconis scored with 3:28 remaining. The Green Dragons were awarded two corner kicks in the final minute of play but could not capitalize.
“The last two games we came from behind so for us to score first was a huge deal,” Albano said. “To score in the first half and take that pressure off was great, and we were able to play with the lead, which hasn’t happened in states so I’m really thankful for that.
“When they scored it was a wake-up call for us. We were starting to sit back and some of us thought we had it won, me being one of them, so we had to put it together for the last couple minutes of the game.”
It was the first loss of the year for District Four champion Lewisburg, which ends the season 21-1-1.
New Hope will play for the state title on Friday at Hersheypark Stadium at 1:30 p.m. against either District Seven champion Quaker Valley or District 10 titlist Mercyhurst Prep.
“This is what you dream of,” Albano said. “You go to the high school soccer games when you’re 10 years old and you think about being on the team and I just never thought in my wildest dreams that I’d be going to Hershey so this is just unbelievable.
“I think if we play our game we could win. I think we could beat anybody since we beat Lewisburg and they were the No. 2 team in the state coming into this game. I think it just proves that New Hope isn’t a joke. A lot of people sleep on us as a program and I think we proved that New Hope is for real.
“No matter what team we play we’re going to have a game plan and we’re going to execute it and play hard. I’m just so proud of everyone. I’m really looking forward to the final. We’ve been preparing for it and we can’t ask for much more than this.”
Albano also plays basketball for the Lions, but Friday’s state final will be his last athletic contest for a while, as he is getting hip surgery.
“This means a lot to me, to have one last game with the boys before the surgery,” he said.
The Lions’ path to the state title game was precarious. In the first round of state play, they defeated District Three champion Fleetwood in penalty kicks (3-2, 5-4 in penalty kicks). In the quarterfinals, they topped District Four runner-up Midd-West, 3-2, in overtime.
New Hope came from behind for both wins.
“Honestly when we played that game against Fleetwood I was nervous because last time (they met in 2017) they put a hurting on us, but we played quality teams all season long so we prepared for that,” Bachart said.
“Not making it to Hershey would have been a disappointment at this point. We were knocking on the door a lot and we needed to get one in and then we finally did and that weight was off their shoulders and they just kept pushing.
“Lewisburg was fighting. Their No. 20 midfielder (Benjamin Liscum) was amazing so they were pushing and we just held the line and the guys did their jobs.
“We’re ready for Hershey. We’ve seen Mercyhurst twice and the last two times we won. I’m not sure I want them a third time but we’ll take who we get and we’ll see.”