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Nazareth tops New Hope-Solebury for spot in PIAA tournament


It was a tough end to the season for the New Hope-Solebury girls soccer team.

But the season certainly had some bright spots.

The Lions lost to District 12 representative Nazareth Academy 7-0 on Saturday in a District One-District 12 Class 2A subregional game held at Holy Family University.

The Pandas received the lone state berth and played District Three runner-up Trinity in the opening round of the PIAA tournament on Tuesday.

Nazareth Academy pressured New Hope early, but it took the Pandas 23 minutes to actually put a ball in the cage. They went into halftime with a 2-0 lead.

Despite New Hope’s best efforts, Nazareth netted five more goals in the second half including one on a penalty kick and another off a corner kick.

“We really were happy to be here, even though we lost like this,” said New Hope junior captain Mia Usatin, who plays attack and center midfield. “It’s not frustrating because we got this far, and we never do that.”

Nazareth had nine corner kicks in the game while not surrendering any to New Hope, and outshot the Lions, 20-1.

New Hope junior Arya Heble was terrific in goal, registering 12 saves.

“She really stepped up,” Usatin said. “She’s a big reason why we got as far as we did, and she’ll be back next year, so that’s great for us. She’s kept us in games.

New Hope, seeded second in District One, reached the game by virtue of a 3-2 come-from-behind victory over top seed MaST Charter on Oct. 25.

“That was a huge win for us,” Usatin said. “We came back from a 2-1 deficit. Usually when we’re behind like that we get down on ourselves but in that game, we really rallied. We haven’t been in a district game like that since about 2011 so it was a big deal for us.”

It was the final game for New Hope senior captain Isha Mukherjee.

“I feel like I’m leaving the team in a good place,” said Mukherjee, the center back who also plays power forward for the New Hope basketball team. “This year our team was a lot closer, even off the field, and as a team I think that helped us play better. It was just a good year for us. We were such a family this year.

“Our wins were our biggest highlights of course, but I think overall it was the little things that made the season special, and those are the memories I’m going to take with me. It was amazing – couldn’t have asked for more.”

New Hope ends the season 4-16 but in the Lions’ defense, they are the only Class 2A team in the Suburban One League Freedom Division.

Additionally, New Hope is a very young squad.

“Our freshman class is really big and they really helped shape this team,” Usatin said. “They’re the reason that we made it this far. We lost a lot of seniors from last year and at the beginning of the season I think we were a little scared because we had to rebuild. We lost basically our whole starting 11, but they just came in and did a great job.

“I think this was a good experience for our team to be here and having the big buildup to this game. Now we know what it’s like. We’ll be better prepared next year. I’m really looking forward to it.”

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